February Asana: Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel)


Each month we choose a pose to focus on in each class through strong attention to alignment, variations, and/or modifications as a way to grow and expand our yogic horizons. This month, it’s Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow or Wheel Pose). According to Light on Yoga, mastery of backbend poses tones the spine by stretching it fully and keeps the body alert and supple.

Preeminent Iyengar yoga teacher John Schumacher, in his eloquently written column for Yoga Journal, reminds us that, although Urdhva Dhanurasana and the other backbending asanas strengthen and stretch your muscles and create mobility in the spine and the hip and shoulder joints, the real power of the poses is more subtle. Mr. Schumacher writes:

“The physical presence of your bones and muscles is evident. Your nervous system, however, is essentially unseen—like the back of your body. Since both your back and your nervous system cannot be seen, they must be perceived from within, sensed rather than thought about. And since most of the actions of the backbends occur in the unseeable back of your body, developing the power to perceive what is happening and what to do draws you from the front of your brain and your externally oriented organs of perception into the deep recesses of the back brain and the unknown corners of the intuitive mind. The flow of awareness in the practice of yoga is from the external toward the internal, from the periphery to the core, from the objective to the subjective. You must depart eventually from the familiarity and solidity of the known and embark on the great, perennial adventure into the unknown. As with the practice of Urdhva Dhanurasana, effort is required on this journey; mistakes are inevitable; obstacles will arise. As with the practice of Urdhva Dhanurasana, you must persist. If the words of the sages are true, when your spiritual travels bring you to that mysterious place where you embrace and transcend the duality of the known and unknown, you will find your Self waiting there.” [Yoga Journal, online edition, “Asana Column: Urdhva Dhanurasana (Backbend)”]


Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow or Wheel Pose):

Urdhva = upward

Dhanu = bow



  • 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



  • Back injury
  • Carpal Tunnel syndrome
  • Heart condition
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Headache


Preparatory Poses:

  • Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog)
  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
  • Virasana (Hero’s Pose)


Song that Most Comes to Mind While Moving into the Posture:

The Corrs’ cover of: “Heart Like a Wheel

One thought on “February Asana: Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel)

  1. » Founder’s Muse

    February 3, 2015 at 11:24am

    […] join me in making February a month of heart opening through attention to mindful self-care, our asana of the month, and connection to all beings. Lokah Samastah Sukhino […]

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