How to Do Upward Bow (Wheel) Pose in Yoga (Guide to Urdva Dhanurasana)

Upward Bow Pose, also known as Wheel Pose, is a combination of a deep backbend and an inversion. It is an intense asana that requires some practice and preparation to execute it properly and avoid any potential injuries. Although finding your way to Wheel Pose might not be easy, you will certainly feel empowered when you get there.

“The real trick to Upward Bow is to focus on opening the chest,” says Yoga Answered contributor Cat Harvey. “Otherwise, you may end up with a lot of pressure in the lumbar spine and risk an injury.”

Upward Bow (Wheel) Pose Quick Look

Sanskrit Name: Urdva Dhanurasana
Pose Type: Chest-Opening Yoga Poses, Strengthening Yoga Poses, Yoga Backbend Poses
Difficulty Level: Intermediate pose
Targets: Thighs, glutes, back, shoulders, chest, and spine.
Benefits: Wheel Pose is known for the deep backbend it provides, which comes with increased shoulder mobility and thoracic spine flexibility. It strengthens muscles across the back of the body, including the calves, thighs, glutes, back, shoulder blades, and arms. At the same time, it stretches the front of the body and challenges the wrists. Furthermore, this asana is an inversion, which can have a soothing effect on the mind.
Preparatory Poses: Upward Salute Pose, Bridge Pose, Puppy Pose, Bow Pose

How to Do Upward Bow (Wheel) Pose Step-By-Step

  1. Start in a supine position. Bend your knees and plant your feet hip-width apart, as close as possible to your sit bones.
  2. Plant your palms either side of your head, with the fingertips pointing at the shoulders, and the heels of the palm firmly on the ground.
  3. Inhale and tuck the tailbone slightly under. Exhale and lift your lower back off the ground, reaching towards the sky with the hips. At the same time, push into your palms, lifting the upper back and resting the crown of the head on your mat.
  4. Take another breath in as you compose yourself. On the exhale, push into the palms and lift your head off the floor. Push your hips, belly, and chest up. Engage the glutes to protect your lower back and aim to create an even curve across your spine.
  5. Let your head hang down, turning the gaze to the space between your hands. Stay here for up to 5 breaths, then carefully land your head back down, and release your back to the floor one vertebrae at a time.

Beginner’s Tip

A common misconception is that Wheel Pose is entirely about creating a deep backbend. However, the part many people struggle with is sufficient shoulder mobility, even if they have a flexible back. To increase mobility in your shoulders, practice poses such as Upward Salute, Puppy Pose, Downward Facing Dog pose, and Dolphin Pose. To work on your backbend, incorporate poses such as Lord of the Dance pose, Pigeon pose, and Bow pose into your practice. To build up strength in your back and glutes, work on your Bridge Pose, Reverse Tabletop, and Plank Pose. It’s also a good idea to work on strength and flexibility in your wrists to sustain the body’s weight in Upward Bow Pose. Once you’re strong enough to lift into the pose, you can wrap a yoga strap around your knees to stop them from riding apart.

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