Wheel Bend Posture - Urdhva Dhanurasana

Urdhva Dhanurasana 
(Wheel Bend), 
also known as Chakrasana

(OORD-vah don-your-AHS-anna) 
urdhva = upward 
dhanu = bow

This backbend strengthens the arms, legs, and core, giving suppleness and energy to the spine. The energy and perseverance of the heart opens and strengthens with this posture.


Benefits


Stretches the chest and lungs 

Strengthens the arms and wrists, legs, buttocks, abdomen, and spine 

Stimulates the thyroid and pituitary 

Increases energy and counteracts depression 

Therapeutic for asthma, back pain, infertility, and osteoporosis 

Contraindications/Cautions


Back injury 

Carpal tunnel syndrome 

Diarrhea 

Headache 

Heart problems 

High or low blood pressure 

Performing the Asana


Lie supine on the floor. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your head, forearms relatively perpendicular to the floor, fingers pointing toward your shoulders. 

Pressing your inner feet actively into the floor, exhale and push your tailbone up toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) the buttocks, and lift the buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Take 2 or 3 breaths. Then firmly press the inner hands into the floor and your shoulder blades against the back and lift up onto the crown of your head. Keep your arms parallel. Take 2 or 3 breaths. 

Press your feet and hands into the floor, tailbone and shoulder blades against your back, and with an exhalation, lift your head off the floor and straighten your arms. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward and firm the outer thighs. Narrow the hip points and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees, lifting the pubis toward the navel. 

Turn the upper arms outward but keep the weight on the bases of the index fingers. Spread the shoulder blades across the back and let the head hang, or lift it slightly to look down at the floor. 

Stay in the pose anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds or more, breathing easily. Repeat anywhere from 3 to 10 times. 

Modify Your Practice


Often the armpits and/or groins are tight and restrict full movement into this pose. You can support either your hands or feet on a pair of blocks to help yourself realize the full backbend. Be sure to brace the blocks against a wall, and if you like, cover them with a sticky mat to keep the hands or feet from slipping. 

Variations


Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana (pronounced ACHE-ah POD-ah, eka = one, pada = foot or leg)

Perform Urdhva Dhanurasana. Shift your weight onto the left foot and, with an exhalation, bend your right knee and draw it into your torso. Then inhale and extend the right leg at about a 45 degree angle relative to the floor. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, exhale, bend the knee and return the foot to the floor. Repeat with the left leg for the same length of time. 

Complimentary Yoga Poses


Bhujangasana - Cobra Pose 
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana - Bridge Asana 
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana - Upwards Facing Dog 
Virasana - Hero Pose 

Tips for Beginners


The knees and feet tend to splay as you lift into this pose, which compresses the lower back. In the beginning position, loop and secure a strap around your thighs, just above the knees, to hold the thighs at hip width and parallel to each other. To keep the feet from turning out, place a block between them, with the bases of the big toes pressing the ends of the block. As you go up, press the feet into the block. 

Deepen the Pose


Once in the pose, lift your heels away from the floor and press your tailbone toward the ceiling. Walk the feet a little closer to the hands. Then, from the height of the tailbone, press the heels into the floor again. This will increase the depth of the backbend. 

Partner Practice


A partner can help you learn about the work in the shoulders in this pose. Have your partner stand at your head, facing you. Perform the pose. Your partner can bring his/her hands around the sides of your torso so that his/her palms cover the shoulder blades and encourage them to widen away from the spine.