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Benefits of Urdhva Dhanurasana and How to Do it By Dr. Himani Bisht

By Dr. Himani Bisht +2 more

Introduction: 

Yoga, which originates in ancient India, has many subtypes, divided into asanas (physical postures), pranayamas (controlled breathing), and meditation and deep relaxation techniques.1 As there are many sub-types to choose from; it becomes easy to find one that suits your needs. The Bhagavad Gita defines yoga as a state of equilibrium and tranquillity.2 “Free from illness, and a path to wellness” is the path of yoga.  Some people do yoga for the physical benefits, while others find that it helps them to relax and de-stress.  

Yoga often sees the practice of asanas, one of which is Urdhva dhanurasana, which is also referred to as Chakrasana in hatha yoga Let us look at some exciting features and benefits of Urdhva dhanurasana. 

Urdhva dhanurasana

What is Urdhva dhanurasana? 

Urdhva dhanurasana is also known as the wheel pose or upward-facing bow pose. The name “Urdhva dhanurasana” is derived from Sanskrit words, “Urdhva” meaning upwards, “dhanur” meaning bow and “asana” meaning posture or pose. This, in English, translates to an upward-facing bow pose.3 

Urdhva dhanurasana in Hatha yoga tradition is known as Chakrasana. In Ashtanga vinyasa, it is referred to as Urdhva dhanurasana. Hatha yoga begins with physical postures followed by meditation, whereas Ashtanga vinyasa first focuses on the self and is followed by physical postures and meditation.4 

How to do it? 

Urdhva dhanurasana must be done properly for maximum health benefits. The best time to practice Yogasanas is the “Brahmamuhurta”; a Sanskrit word that refers to the time of the day from two hours before and including sunrise. It is always advised to practice any asana on an empty stomach. Avoid performing any asana until three-four hours have lapsed after meals. One may perform Urdhva dhanurasana in the following manner: 

  • First, lie flat on your back on a mat. 
  • Bend and raise your elbows over your head and place your palms under your shoulders. Ensure your fingers are pointing towards your feet. 
  • Next, bend and raise your knees while bringing the feet nearer until they touch the hips. 
  • While resting the crown/top of your head on the floor, raise the trunk. 
  • Next, lift the trunk and head so that the back is arched and the weight of the body is now on the palms and soles. 
  • Stretch your arms until the elbows are straight. 
  • For a better stretch, breathe out and try lifting the heels off the ground. 
  • With normal breathing, try to hold this position for about 30-60 seconds or however, is long is comfortable. 
  • Breathe out, return to the original position and relax your body.3 

Did you know that Urdhva Dhanurasana is also referred to as the back bridge pose? This pose is often known as the back bridge when included in gymnastic or acrobat routines, showcasing the body’s flexibility and strength.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Do you know? 

The ‘bow’ referred to inUrdhva Dhanurasana(upward-facing bow) belongs to Arjuna, the main protagonist in the Hindu scripture, “Bhagavad Gita”.This sacred text describes a mythical battle in Kurukshetra between the Pandavasand the Kauravas. Arjuna was in a dilemma about whether to raise a war against his own family to gain back a valuable kingdom. Arjuna was a great warrior and archer, and this life-changing battle is known to be the biggest battle of his life. However, Arjuna decided to cast down his weapons as shedding his family’s blood isn’t a potential victory. It is then said that Lord Krishna guided Arjuna to aim with his bow and arrow to stay true to his duty. In Urdhva dhanurasana, drawing back through the arms and legs relates to drawing back the bowstring to load the arrow of purpose or intention, ready to shoot out into the world to serve.  

Based on my experience, practising Urdhva Dhanurasana can provide various benefits to our body, particularly for the abdominal area. This asana may help in expanding the chest and increasing the intake of oxygen into the lungs, leading to improved lung function and better oxygenation of the body.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Benefits of Urdhva dhanurasana:  

Some benefits of this pose are as follows: 

Benefit of Urdhva dhanurasana on core strength and spinal flexibility 

Ageing and a sedentary lifestyle can result in compression of the spine. Yogasanas may help improve flexibility, physical fitness and the functioning of various organs.  The practice of Urdhva dhanurasana may help strengthen and lengthen the spine and may improve spinal flexibility. However, there is no study available yet which supports these claims. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a doctor for proper treatment and not rely on this asana alone. Additionally, it is recommended to practice this asana under the guidance of a qualified trainer.5  

Benefit of Urdhva dhanurasana for managing anxiety and depression 

Yogasanas and meditation are said to help improve anxiety and depression. Ashish et al. presented a literature review in 2021 on the effect of yoga on anxiety and depression. A systematic review showed that the regular practice of Urdhva dhanurasana may help improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, there are no studies that support these claims. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a doctor for proper treatment of anxiety and depression and not rely on this asana alone. Additionally, it is advised to perform this asana under the guidance of a qualified trainer.6 

Benefit of Urdhva dhanurasana for managing eating disorders 

Eating disorders are characterized by disturbances in eating behaviour because of excessive concern about one’s body weight. Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa (obsession to maintain a below-normal weight by either exercising too much or starvation), binge eating disorder (wherein the eating pattern is out of control) and bulimia nervosa (life-threatening eating disorder). Nicole et al. conducted a study in 2022 to assess the effect of yoga on women with disordered eating. The yoga intervention included several asanas, one of which was Urdhva dhanurasana. Eight weeks of yoga intervention showed improvements in eating disorder symptoms. Therefore, the practice of Urdhva dhanurasana may provide symptomatic relief from eating disorders. However, studies supporting these claims are limited. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a doctor for proper treatment and not rely on this asana alone. Additionally, one should perform this asana under the guidance of a qualified trainer.7 

Benefit of Urdhva dhanurasana for managing lumbar lordosis   

Lordosis is C-shaped curvature of the lower spinal region (above the buttocks). The shortening of the quadratus lumborum muscle (QL, a muscle which is part of the upper and lower limbs) increases lumbar lordosis and results in permanent stiffness of the lower back. Consistent practice of Urdhva dhanurasana may help extend the lumbar spine. Rathore et al. conducted a literature review in 2017, the summary estimates of the review support the practice of Urdhva dhanurasana for improving lumbar lordosis, but there is no study done yet to support these claims. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a doctor for proper treatment of lumbar lordosis. This asana should not be considered an alternative to modern medicine. Additionally, it is recommended to practice this asana under the guidance of a qualified trainer.8 

In my experience, practising Urdhva Dhanurasana may have potential benefits for women in rectifying uterine and menstrual problems. This asana involves stretching and opening the abdomen, which can help improve blood flow to the pelvic region and promote hormonal balance. By regularly engaging in this pose, it may support the health of the uterus and contribute to coping with menstrual irregularities and discomfort.

Dr. Smita Barode, BAMS

Other benefits of Urdhva dhanurasana: 

  • It may help in stretching the core of the body (shoulders, thighs, hips, arms and abdomen). 
  • It may help in increasing lung capacity and may help in providing symptomatic relief for asthma. 
  • It might aid the digestion process. 
  • This asana may help in building stamina and strength. 
  • This pose may possibly improve bone strength. 
  • It helps in modulating the cardiac vagal tone and possibly increases the vagal tone.811 

Note- The above-mentioned benefits of Urdhva dhanurasana are not proven in any human study yet, and are completely based on a literature search.  

Yoga practice may help develop the mind and body; however, it is still not an alternative to modern medicine. Therefore, you must not rely on Yoga alone to treat any condition. Instead, please consult a qualified doctor who will be able to assess your condition correctly and advise accordingly. Moreover, it is necessary to practice and learn Yoga under the supervision of a trained yoga teacher to avoid any injuries. 

Risks of Urdhva dhanurasana 

Conditions, where Urdhva dhanurasana should be performed with caution are: 

  • In people who have had shoulder injury; this asana puts pressure on the shoulder and can cause discomfort. 
  • People with back pain (especially lower back pain).8 

Conditions, where Urdhva dhanurasana is contraindicated include: 

  • People with spinal surgery.  
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (which causes weakness, numbness and tingling in the hands). 
  • Pregnancy 
  • People with high or low blood pressure.9,10 

Conclusion 

Urdhva dhanurasana is also known as the wheel pose or upward-facing bow pose. The name “Urdhva dhanurasana” is derived from Sanskrit words, “Urdhva” meaning upwards, “dhanur” meaning bow and “asana” meaning pose. Urdhva dhanurasana is referred to as chakrasana in Hatha yoga, and the former name is used in Ashtanga yoga. Regular practice of Urdhva dhanurasana may help in increasing flexibility of the spine, and managing anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Additionally, this asana may help in stretching the core of the body (shoulders, thighs, hips, arms and abdomen), may help increase vagal tone, lung capacity and, may help in providing symptomatic relief in asthma, and might aid the digestion process.4-9 

Frequently Asked Questions 

1) Which is the upward-facing bow pose in yoga? 

Urdhva dhanurasana is also known as the upward-facing bow pose. The name “Urdhva dhanurasana” is derived from Sanskrit words, “Urdhva” meaning upwards, “dhanur” meaning bow and “asana” meaning posture or pose. This, in English, translates to upward-facing bow pose.3 

2) For how long should a person remain in the wheel pose? 

One may continue to stay in the wheel pose for about 30-60 seconds or as long as comfortable.3 

3) What are the steps of Urdhva dhanurasana? 

First, lie flat on your back on a mat. Next, bend and raise your elbows over your head and place your palms under your shoulders. Ensure your fingers are pointing towards your feet. Next, bend and raise your knees bringing the feet nearer until they touch the hips. While resting the crown/top of your head on the floor, raise the trunk. Now, lift the trunk and head so that the back is arched and the weight of the body is now on the palms and soles. Stretch your arms until the elbows are straight. For a better stretch, breathe out and try lifting the heels off the ground. With normal breathing, try to hold this position for about 30-60 seconds, if possible. Breathe out, return to the original position and relax your body.3 

4) What are the contraindications of Urdhva dhanurasana? 

Pregnant women, people with low or high blood pressure and people who have back injury or carpal tunnel syndrome should avoid doing this asana.9,10 

5) What is the difference between Chakrasana and Urdhva dhanurasana? 

Chakrasana and Urdhva dhanurasana are both the same yogic postures. In hatha yoga, the wheel pose is referred to as Chakrasana whereas in Ashtanga yoga, it is referred to as Urdhva dhanurasana.4 

References: 

1. Balasubramaniam M, Telles S, Doraiswamy PM. Yoga on our minds: a systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatric disorders. Front Psychiatry. 2013 Jan 25;3:117. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2012.00117. PMID: 23355825; PMCID: PMC3555015. Available at: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3555015/

2. 21 June INTERNATIONAL DAY OF YOGA INTERNATIONAL DAY OF YOGA Common Yoga Protocol, Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) [Internet] 4th Revised Edition, May 2019. [Cited: 2022 Sep 10] Available from: https://mea.gov.in/images/pdf/common-yoga-protocol-english.pdf 

3. B.K.S. Iyengar. Light on Yoga. The bible of Modern Yoga-Its Philosophy and practice-by the world London: Thorsons.1966;108-109. Available at:   

https://mantrayogameditation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Light-on-Yoga_-The-Bible-of-Modern-Yoga-PDFDrive.com-.pdf

4. Mantra. What is the difference between hatha and ashtanga yoga [Internet]. Mantra Yoga & Meditation School. 2018 [cited 2022Nov14]. Available from: https://mantrayogameditation.org/hatha-vs-ashtanga-yoga/ 

5. The top 8 health benefits of Urdhva Dhanurasana [Internet]. Rishikul Yogshala. 2019 [cited 2022Nov14]. Available from:  www.rishikulyogshala.org/the-top-8-health-benefits-of-urdhva-dhanurasana/

6. The Bele A, Qureshi M, Ghogare A, Singh N, Jethwani D, Gachake A. Impact of exercises, yoga, and meditation on anxiety and depression during COVID 19 lockdown. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ 2021;16:219-21. Available at: www.journaldmims.com/article.asp?issn=09743901;year=2021;volume=16;issue=1;spage=219;epage=221;aulast=Bele  

7. Dignard, Nicole A., “Embodied and Empowered: Evidence for Ashtanga Yoga as a Novel Intervention for Women with Disordered Eating” (2022). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 8712. 

Available at:  https://scholar.uwindsor.ca/etd/8712 

8. Rathore M, Trivedi S, Abraham J, Sinha MB. Anatomical correlation of core muscle activation in different yogic postures. Int J Yoga [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Nov 10]; 10:59-66. Available from: https://www.ijoy.org.in/text.asp?2017/10/2/59/205515 

9. Chakrasana: Wheel pose: Urdhva Dhanurasana: How to do: Benefits [Internet]. Art of Living (India). [cited 2022Nov14]. Available from: https://www.artofliving.org/in-en/chakrasana-wheel-pose-or-urdhva-dhanurasana 

10. Delahunty R. Urdhva Dhanurasana – upward bow or wheel [Internet]. YOGARU. YOGARU; 2022 [cited 2022Nov14]. Available from: https://www.yogaru.ie/pause/urdhva-dhanurasana-upward-bow-or-wheel  

11. Urdhva Dhanurasana/ Chakrasana – wheel pose [Internet]. Prana Yoga. 2022 [cited 2022Nov14]. Available from: https://pranayoga.co.in/asana/urdhva-dhanurasana-upward-bow-posture-chakrasana-wheel-posture/ 

12. Khattab, Kerstin et al. “Iyengar yoga increases cardiac parasympathetic nervous modulation among healthy yoga practitioners.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM vol. 4,4 (2007): 511-7. doi:10.1093/ecam/nem087. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2176143/ 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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