For this month’s posture, I have chosen urdhva dhanurasana/ Upward facing bow pose. A strong backbend, this asana physically represents an open heart, and a willingness to give and receive. Backbends are heady, energetic, and deeply expressive, which I believe sums up June’s themes well. In order to express gratitude and indulge in celebration, we must first cultivate a sense of abundance within ourselves. From that place of full heartedness, we are able to recognise the gifts that are inherently ours, and in turn express gratitude for them and celebrate by passing them on to others. The gifts I am talking about are those of creativity, compassion, and generosity, which all reside within us. A strong backbend like urdhva dhanurasana helps to open up the heart center releasing trapped anxiety, fear, and self doubt which all hamper our ability to express our true nature and inhibits the gifts mentioned above.
Please note: This is a strong pose, and the body should be warm and open before attempting it, if at any point you experience pain or severe discomfort, it is important to come down slowly and rest. Listen carefully to your body and its needs rather than forcing yourself into the posture.
- Warm up well with several rounds of surya namaskar, paying special attention to, and spending time in, upward facing dog and cobra to prepare the body. It is also wise to soften and stretch the hip flexors in poses such as anjaneyasana, which are crucial to creating the space in the body that this backbend requires.
- Lie on your back with the soles of the feet on the floor, feet hip distance apart and close to the buttocks, knees pointing up at the sky. As you inhale, begin to life the hips into the air, wiggle the upper arms towards each other underneath you, clasp the hands underneath the body, and encourage the chest to move gently towards the chin. Draw the tailbone towards the knees and do not allow the lower back to ‘sag’. Hold for five breaths and then gently release back down to the floor. This is the preparatory pose of setu bandhasana/ Bridge Pose
- Allow the back to settle on the floor for a few breaths, but avoid hugging the knees in to the chest at this stage.
- Next, bring the hands either side of the ears, palms facing down, fingertips pointing towards the toes, and elbows reaching for the sky.
- Inhale and exhale deeply to prepare.
- On the next inhale push into the hands and the feet to lift the hips towards the sky, and to come to the crown of the head (do not load weight on the head and neck).
- Then continue the journey upwards by straightening the arms, lifting the head off the floor, and squeezing the shoulder blades gently towards each other and down the back so that the chest is broad and open.
- Draw the navel gently towards the spine to stabilise the lower spine, and imagine the tailbone lengthening towards the knees. Activate your quadriceps to stabilise the posture.
- If it feels safe and comfortable to do so, lengthen and straighten the legs to take you into the deepest expression of the posture. Just allow the head to hang, do not crank the neck back.
- Hold for 5 breaths, or as long as is comfortable, focusing on breathing into the broadness in your heart center, and taking care to distribute the effort of the pose along the whole body.
- To come down, tuck the chin slowly towards the chest, bending the elbows to lower the back of the head gently to the floor, and roll down slowly using the core muscles to slow and stabilise the movement.
- Allow yourself five breaths when you reach the floor to settle the back, and then you can begin to hug the knees gently into towards the body and rock from side to side, massaging the spine.
By Jasmine Pradhan from stretchandthecity.co.uk
Jasmine teaches Hatha yoga (sometimes dynamic, sometimes slower) with an open heart and an open mind. She believes that every individual already has the tools they need to achieve true happiness and wellbeing, and that sometimes they just need a little help discovering them. She truly believes that a dedicated yoga practice can be the key to that toolbox, and aims to facilitate that discovery for her students.
Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor before starting any new physical activity. Always practice under the supervision of a qualified teacher.