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Breaking down Urdhva Dhanurasana

Posted on February 17 2014

When choosing the path of becoming a yoga instructor, there are many factors to consider: what kind of style do you want to teach, are you prepared to teach to each student’s needs, where will you teach, what is the program format and location? Choosing to become a yoga instructor is a life-changing experience not just for your career and day-to-day life, but it is also an opportunity to expand your own practice and inspire others to reach greatness. As as a teacher you are not only imparting knowledge about the body and the philosophy of yoga, but you are also sharing your love, light and joy with those around you. Before you move to this next level, you must truly understand the dynamics of each pose. We love YogaWorks’ Teacher Training Posture Labs, which are great previews for what you will learn during Teacher Training. Learn how to break down Urdhva Dhanurasana, or Upward Bow. In this video, and in YogaWorks Teacher Trainings, we like to show students and trainees how to set this posture up using the wall because it’s a great feedback mechanism that helps students figure out where they are in space. What’s also helpful is to teach the pose first coming onto the crown of the head and then practicing a couple of key actions before the student comes all the way up. Natasha Rizopoulos, YogaWorks master trainer, will demonstrate step by step how to properly set up the foundation of the pose. She will also provide options with props and modifications for those who need other variations (due to contraindications or range of motion limitations) and explains the benefits of this pose when done safely. Set-up Lie on your back with knees bent and hip width apart. Knees are directly over the ankle bones. Have the student take their hands to the wall, with their hands flat and their wrists placed directly at the wall, fingertips facing forward and elbows are directly over their wrists. Elbows are also shoulder distance apart. Have them take an inhale and on an exhale come to the crown of their head. Once they are on the crown of their head ensure their face stays pretty close to the wall. Key actions Once on the crown of the head there are a couple of really important action points to cover to get the full posture. The first is to engage the triceps and pin the elbows into the midline. Draw the elbows away from the wall, which pulls the arm bones into their sockets. Then lift the chest toward the wall which brings more backbend into the mid upper back. Once you have done all of those things, on an inhale press straight up. The idea is to have an evenly distributed curve in Urdhva Dhanurasana. Once the student is up, it’s also important to teach the actions of the legs. Spin the inner thighs to the floor to rotate the femur bones into a neutral position and lengthen the flesh of the buttocks to the backs of the knees which lengthens the lower back. Use the weight in the arms and the legs equally to have an equally distributed upward bow and create spaciousness. The shins and the forearms remain parallel to one another. To come out of the pose, take an inhale and on the exhale have the students tuck their chin toward their chest and come all the way down keeping their head close to the wall. Modifications For students who have elbows that splay wider than the shoulders, you can offer them a strap to place above their elbows and teach the actions of firming into the midline by trying to make the strap loose. The other modification is to place a block in between the student’s knees to teach them not to externally rotate but to draw Risks The things to look for in this pose are the neck and the lower back. When the elbows splay wider than shoulder distance apart there is a lot of congestion that can accumulates around the neck. Another area of the body to pay close attention to is the lower back when the legs and feet splay apart. If the legs aren’t in a neutral position then there is a narrowing in the lower back instead of a widening which can compress the lumbar spine. Benefits Urdhva Dhanurasana is incredibly stimulating, awakening and energizing. It’s also an incredible stretch for the front of the body—the hip flexors, the abdominals and the shoulders.

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