Chest and Biceps
Psoas and hip flexors
|Quadriceps and Glutes
Deltoids and Triceps
|Myofascial Meridian||Traditional Meridian||Emotions|
|Superficial and deep front
Anterior ablique functional line
Back Arm Lines
Front Arm Lines
|Openness and caring
Guilt and worry
Love and compassion
Urdhva Dhanurasana, backbend is mostly about trust, I know this for sure. I’ve assisted thousands of people for their first time in this pose. I can see they have the range of motion for it, and I know they have the strength but every class they shy away. When I put my hands under their shoulders to assist them, nine out of ten people lift straight up first go, without any actual input from me. I’m touching them so they know I’m there but not actually lifting, it was all them. They all thank me, thinking it was me lifting them but in reality all I did was give them the confidence. They trust me but not themselves, it’s a process convincing them otherwise. This is why Urdhva Dhanurasana is such an important pose to work towards, self trust is key to everything else!
For many people Urdhva Dhanurasana is intense due to the many different elements of strength and flexibility it requires. When it’s back bend time in an Ashtanga class, suddenly the room becomes a cacophony of huffing, puffing and groaning. It makes me giggle every time, but there is good reason for the obvious intensity everyone is feeling. In fact it actually raises the blood pressure more than other poses due to the difficulty. We need strength in the arms and legs, and this changes if there is no range of motion in the wrists, arms, shoulders, hip flexors and the spine. The less mobility we have the more strength we need to get into our version of it, hence the huffing and puffing. Let’s look at all the elements, including the intense emotional element to the pose. It does require a certain level of trust to offer up the heart space in this way.
The body weight is supported by the grounded hands and feet. The heels and toes connect to the earth evenly as do all fingers, thumbs and the heels of the hands. For many people the wrists give them issues due to weakness or lack of mobility. All poses like down dog strengthen the wrists in preparation and slowly the mobility improves. We can also do wrist mobilising exercise and, practicing with a bolster under the hands will help ease the wrists.
More pressure is placed on the wrists when the shoulders lack range of motion. We need great external rotation with length through the Latissimus Dorsi, Triceps, Pecs and even Biceps muscles. Any tightness anywhere in that chain will cause extra pull on the other structures. We also need to factor in the structure of the shoulder joint. For some people the Humerus will come up against the Acromion Process early in the lift of the arms, this means the person will try to move around that joint go wider with the elbows. This again changes the mechanics up and down stream.
Backbend is intense extension of the spine and most of the movement will come from the lumbar spine. We have a natural Lordosis here and it is more mobile than the higher Thoracic spine due to ribs connecting. We also have a natural Kyphosis or curve forward here. Eventually we can access this area more and ease the compression in the Lumbar vertebrae. We are stretching the front of the body and the range will therefore also be impacted by the flexibility of the hip flexors.
The front of the body or Superficial Front Line corresponds to the Stomach Meridian. This meridian governs digestion, also our openness and caring, guilt and anxiety. There can be a lot of tension here. Through the necessity of involving arms and shoulders we also access the arm myofascial lines. This means we are working the heart and pericardium meridians, our joy and laughter, or depression, heart and lung disorders. For many of us this is a very sensitive area, we get very protective of our hearts and the backbend is pushing our comfort zones. Again, the trust thing comes up.
The emotional benefits are huge, as are the physical benefits of opening the chest and shoulders. This is an excellent way to open up a body that has been hunching forward at a desk all day, or curled in due to anxiety. If the full pose is not available there are plenty of variations and supported versions so keep going with it. It will aid digestion, it will increase physical and emotional strength and improve posture.
You can use blocks or a fit ball to support the backbend