A Question from Lauren Cahn: More Technical Information On Urdhva Dhanurasana
This was a comment that I thought brought up some great information to explore about Urdhva Dhanurasana. There other variations of the posture shown here as well. Thank you Lauren for your dedication as a practitioner and your inquisitive mind.
Hi Carl, I have a question about the form demonstrated in your UD shown in the pic. First of all, I think you look very nice and comfortable and at ease. Ok, that out of the way... I notice that a lot of your weight appears to be on your hands and that your legs are stretched out. I personally LOVE this way of practicing UD for myself, as opposed to when I walk my feet in closer to my hands. Is there an advantage to practicing the way you show it, as opposed to bringing the feet closer to the hands? Lauren
As always, you ask such great questions.
In the picture you are asking about I am using my legs to lengthen my lower back so my chest expands more and there is less of the back bend in my lower back. I can understand how it might seem that my arms are bearing more of the weight. There would also be nothing wrong with the hands bearing more of the weight, especially if you were getting ready to start lifting up into a handstand from the posture (just as you can drop back and then come up to standing from Urdhva Dhanurasana, you can come up to handstand or drop back from handstand into the pose). But what I am doing is extending my knees a little, and pressing my feet into the ground, and I am using that to try and help me lengthen my lower back and move more of the back bend into my upper back so that I can expand my chest as much as possible.
The benefits of this variation is that it might enable you to keep the lower back safer while you are deeper in the thoracic spine and are opening the ribcage more. If you notice in the posture in question how much of the emphasis is on my chest and ribcage expanding. You can even go all out with this variation and have the feet a little farther away from the hands and the legs fully straightened so the legs look like they are in a version of an upside down plank while the upper body is in Full Wheel. I looked to see if I had a photo of what I am talking about but don’t. I guess I will have to see about taking one because it does end up looking really nice when you do it that way.
That being said, the more traditional, or perhaps more commonly used variation, where the feet are a little closer to the hands and the idea is to try and get your abdomen to basically be the apex of the arc, is quite beneficial as well. In the end, being able to do as many variations of a posture as possible is an indication that your body is open and flexible enough to get a variety of different kinds of work. The one that is more commonly used allows you to get more arch in your lower back and for some people it lets you off the hook in your upper back and ribcage. It might make it so that a person does not have to have as much expansion there because the lower back being farther away from the ground has to be where more of the curve in the spine is. That being said, it really depends on the person’s body. I have photos of practitioners where their feet and hands are almost touching and they have an amazing amount of expansion in the chest and ribcage and I also have photos where someone is doing the variation I was describing above where the legs are moving towards straight and working to lengthen the lower back and there is very little expansion in the chest and ribcage most of the arch is still coming from the lower back. Our bodies are all so unique it is great to explore the effects of different variations. And most people’s bodies are really able to do a variety of kinds of work in any single variation of a posture.
Probably the best piece of information I could give is to try and explore both variations and feel them; compare them. See what is working in each and what is getting opened. Compare the things that are different and you will end up knowing how each of them is useful to your body and ways in which each might be less useful than the other. Since they do slightly different things they will each be better for certain things and they will not work or open other areas as effectively. When you have taken a while to explore each I would love to hear what you have to say.
It is really good hearing from you.