Urdhva Dhanurasana / Upward Bow is simply devine for the spine and more. It took me a long time to get here but now I am, I love it.
Why is this so deliciously good? Physically this asana stretches the chest and lungs making it great for asthmatics (me) meaning the capacity to breathe is improved; and strengthens the arms, legs, spine and abdomen. Fab.
On an Ayurvedic level, for Vata dosha, there are many benefits - improving stability physically strengthening their bones and muscles and energetically keeping their feet on the ground; stimulating the pituitary gland (third eye chakra) which helps Vatas connect with their intuition and stimulating the sacral chakra through stretching the reproductive organs and root chakra through compressing the lumbar spine. Both of these elements help Vata feel grounded. Short holds of just a few breaths, 2-3 repetitions and fluid movement work best for Vatas working with Urdhva Dhanurasana.
For Kapha, all backbends are amazing for increasing the energy and lifting depression but Urdhva Dhanurasana especially so since Kaphas are naturally strong this pose helps promote feelings of empowerment. In this pose the thyroid glad is stimulated helping to control body functions and weight. As with all backbends, this opens the chest helping to drain the lymphatic system removing phlegm. For Kapha, holding for up to 20 breaths helps create energy.
For Pitta this pose presents a positive challenge which appeals to Pittas competitive nature. This pose energetically expands the heart and the heart chakra - increasing the love vibes - helping Pitta soften and accept more love and self care. It is advised that Pitta only holds for a few breaths and practice just once as it stimulates the abdomen - building heat within will over heat fiery Pitta.
How do you practice this Tri-doshic pose?
1 - This is an challenging pose so make sure you've warmed up properly with a few rounds Surya Namaskar A & B and backbend, leg strengthening, shoulder strengthening and chest opening work in your practice. Then when you're ready for Urdhva Dhanurasana, lay on your back in a semi supine position.
2 - Take your feet wider than your hips and turn them outwards at a slight angle.
3 - Stretch your arms up and then turn your palms to the ceiling. Draw your arms over head and then place your palms under your shoulder blades.
4 - Engage you're abs. Press into your feet, power up your legs by squeezing your thighs and begin to lift your hips as if coming into Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge).
5 - Press into your hands and lift your chest. You may just lift enough take the crown of your head to the floor - this is a start. Be mindful of your neck and don't put your weight on your head - try to lift and not collapse. Stay for 2 - 3 breaths and come back down to rest.
6 - If you can go further, lift the chest towards the back of the room - as if you're going to put your chest on the wall. Stay engaged in your body, especially your legs.
7 - To come down, gently bend your arms and then roll your spine down on to the mat. Once your body is back in semi supine, bring your arms back beside your body and rest.
8 - After a few moments bring your knees to your chest and rock from side to side.
If you're a beginner at this pose I would suggest getting a teacher to help you first. Then when strong enough to practice at home, place some blocks against a wall and rest your hands there as if your hands were under your shoulders. This will help you lift. Take your time and practice, practice, practice (always with safety in mind!)