Upward Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) is an intense yoga backbend that stretches the whole body. This variation, with one leg lifted, adds an additional balancing challenge. The Sanskrit name for this pose, "Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana" (EK-uh PAHD-uh OORD-vuh DAHN-yoor-AHS-uh-nuh), comes from five words:
- "Eka" — meaning "one"
- "Pada" — meaning "foot" or "leg"
- "Urdhva" — meaning "upward"
- "Dhanu" — meaning "bow"
- "Asana" — meaning "pose"
Only try this variation when you are comfortable enough in Upward Bow to hold the pose for at least 10 breaths with straight arms. Adding variety by lifting your leg is fun, but if your alignment is off, you can injure yourself quickly! Be sure to practice this pose with both legs to retain the full-body balance achieved in Upward Bow Pose.
Benefits of One-Legged Upward Bow Pose
One-Legged Upward Bow Pose has all of the benefits of Upward Bow Pose, including:
- Full-body stretching
- Strengthened arms, wrists, spine, legs, and abdomen
- Opened lungs
- Stimulated thyroid and pituitary glands
- Increased energy
- Relief from asthma and mild depression
This variation also challenges your balance by creating an asymmetrical foundation. One-Legged Upward Bow is an invigorating and energizing pose that creates vitality in the body, mind, and spirit.
Do not practice this pose if you are currently experiencing high or low blood pressure, headaches, diarrhea, or heart problems. Also avoid this pose if you have a back injury or carpal tunnel syndrome.
It's sneaky this yoga, it's so sneaky. It goes in and it transforms every part of your life.
One-Legged Upward Bow requires significant strength and flexibility to be performed correctly. Do not attempt to practice this pose if you can't do Upward Bow with correct alignment.
Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin by lying flat on your back with your arms at your sides. Bend your knees, keeping your feet parallel and aligned with your hips. Draw your heels close to the edges of your buttocks.
- Reach your arms up overhead, then bend your elbows to place your palms on the floor at either side of your head. Inhale as you lift your hips upward toward the ceiling. Bring the crown of your head to the mat.
- On an exhalation, straighten your arms and lift your head completely off the floor. Press the weight of your hands equally through your index fingers. Straighten your arms and lift your chest. This is Upward Bow Pose.
- Shift your weight onto your left foot. On an exhalation, bend your right knee and draw it toward the center of your torso. On an inhalation, reach through the ball of your right foot and extend your leg up toward the ceiling as though you were trying to touch it, or as vertical as possible.
- Continue to lift your hips and chest as high as you can. Keep the heads of your upper arm bones nestled deeply in your shoulder sockets. Lengthen your entire spine as you lift your foot higher.
- Hold for up to 10 seconds. Then, on an exhalation, lower your right foot to the floor. Repeat with the left leg for the same amount of time.
- Release the pose by first bringing the crown of your head to the mat, and then your whole body. Rest on your back with your knees bent and dropped together. Perform a reclined spinal twist (such as Supta Matsyendrasana) to help neutralize the effects of this deep backbend.
Modifications & Variations
One-Legged Upward Bow Pose is already a powerful alternative to Upward Bow! For an even greater challenge, lift the opposite arm of the leg that is raised. If your right leg is lifting, reach your left arm up toward the ceiling. Extend your fingertips straight up, while maintaining the alignment of Upward Bow. You can also rest your raised hand on the thigh of your grounded leg. This very advanced variation is called One-Handed One-Legged Upward Bow Pose (Eka Hasta Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana).
One-Legged Upward Bow Pose will strengthen and stretch the entire body when it's done correctly. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Since Upward Bow Pose is the foundation for One-Legged Upward Bow, it's important to understand the correct alignment in Upward Bow. Thoroughly review the information in the iSport guide, How to Do Upward Bow Pose in Yoga, before trying this variation!
- Come into at least one Upward Bow before the variation, and do another after you have practiced the one-legged variation on both sides.
- Keep your shoulders and shoulder blades strong and stable throughout the pose.
- Keep the backbend distributed evenly throughout your entire spine.
- Your breath will become shallower as you go deeper into the pose, but make sure it remains smooth and steady.
Up & Away
One-Legged Upward Bow can be an intensely uplifting and freeing pose. Balancing asymmetrically while reaching upward with your toes demands mental and physical strength, flexibility, and vigor. When you are ready for this variation, remember to stay present and aware of the moment. As you open your heart and stretch your toes upward, allow all of your power to shine forth!