Pose of the Week: Urdhva Dhanurasana

Sunday, 28 July 2019 14:05

The pose of the week is Urdhva Dhanurasana. Urdhva means upwards, Dhanu means bow and Asana means posture or pose. So it’s Upward Bow pose.


Backbends such as Urdhva Dhanurasana directly address issues related to ageing. And let’s face it we are all ageing, whether or not we’d like to acknowledge it. We are not as young as we used to be! 
Mira Mehta says in Yoga - the Iyengar Way:  “In normal life the spine degenerates with age. The body becomes shortened and lacks vitality. Bending backwards counteracts this process. The spine remains long and pliable and the inner organs open and stretch. The brain is energised through being inverted. The mind remains alert and cheerful.” (p.139)
BKS Iyengar in Urdhva Dhanurasana (Light on Yoga, 1966)
What are the effects of ageing?
Loss of taste and smell
Periodontal bone loss (that’s your teeth)
Declining Gastro-Intestinal function
Loss of visual and auditory sensitivity
Muscle loss and fat gain
Decrease of bone strength and density
Mental impairment
Decreasing ability to metabolise drugs
Increase in chronic disease
Degradation of neuromuscular response
Urinary incontinence 
Decreasing liver and kidney function
Decrease in heart and lung fitness
Loss of skeletal and mental flexibility and range
Increasing depression.
(Mel Robin in A Physiological Handbook for Teachers of Yogasana summarises D.C Nieman’s effects of ageing p.500)
Healthy lifestyle factors, such as eating nutritious vegetarian food, maintaining regular sleep patterns, not smoking, only occasionally consuming alcohol and exercising regularly, assist in longevity. But you already knew that, actually included in that list was also no snacking and eating breakfast daily. I’m sure your mother told you that!
These healthy habits are compatible with the yoga lifestyle. In fact, you may have found, if you’ve been practicing for a while, your lifestyle patterns actually start to slowly change.
Yoga asana practice changes the way you approach your life. It also directly addresses many of the physiological issues listed above.
M.P. Schatz’s article in the May/June 1990 edition of Yoga Journal identities the following yogasana benefits:
Heightened senses of taste and smell
Can reduce TMJ syndrome (jaw pain)
Normalises bowel function, improves digestion
Correct refractive errors in vision, reduces visual headaches, sharpens hearing
Promotes muscle strength, endurance and flexibility
Bone strength, bone density and structural integrity of joints increase
Increased ability to respond positively to stress
Increased mental acuity
Improved sensitivity to insulin; healthy metabolism of lipids and cholesterol
Increased immune function
Increase of neuromuscular coordination
Increase in liver and kidney function
Increases in circulation and respiration efficiencies; increased tolerance to exercise
Striking increases in flexibility and range of motion 
Decreasing depression.
Yes, it’s good for you :)
Nicole demonstrating how to access Urdhva Dhanurasana to the Wednesday night Intro Level 1 class.
The lumbar spine (ie. your lower back) changes its range of motion as we get older. When we are under 13 years extension and lateral bending of the lumbar is at 64° at 50-64 it is almost half that at 33° and at 65-77 years only 24°. (Kapandji I.A, The Physiology of the joints. The Trunk and the Vertrebral Column, 1974) This is the ‘average’ and luckily for those who practice asana we can expect to do much better than average in this regard. 
‘This loss of spinal flexibility is important, for it will limit severely which physical activities can be enjoyed in the latter years. This loss of spinal flexibility with age is due to the fact that the inter-vertebral discs dry out and shrink with age, encouraging the vertebrae to move toward one another and then to fuse.’ (Robin, M. A Physiological Handbook for Teachers of Yogasana, p.497)
So it’s not just important to practice backbends like Urdhva Dhanurasana it is vital to slow down, if not stop, this loss of spinal flexibility.
Learn how to work with ropes to assist with backbends and other asanas in a Special Workshop - Rope Kurunta  - literally ‘fun with ropes’. Sunday 11 August 2-4pm. Includes afternoon tea. Book your place: https://yogapath.punchpass.com/passes/64254
See you on the mat :)
Nicole Schroeter
Certified Iyengar Teacher JI3
Yoga Path
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