Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana

Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana

Where to Induce Strength

back line strength


There’s no doubt that back-line strength (more specifically, strength from the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and erector spinae) is a requirement to elevate your hips off of your yoga mat in Urdhva Dhanurasana. Moreover, when the element of the lifted leg in Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana is added, the awareness of where to distribute your strength becomes heightened—you need to consider the strength to elevate your hips, and there’s a requirement to induce strength from the quadriceps and hip flexors in the lifted leg. The demand from the back line increases because you are relying on sustaining the elevation from one side of your body. In today’s video, you’ll see how Matt and his wife Rebecca Rasmussen (@dancinbecca) demonstrate exactly where and how to maximize your body’s ability to cultivate strength for this masterful posture.

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In the top leg, the hip flexor muscles involved in pulling your leg towards your chest include the rectus femoris, sartorius, iliacus, psoas major, pectineus, and TFL. It’s important to understand the relationship between the strength of these muscles and how they oppose the tension of the glutes and hamstrings in the same leg. This tension will reveal itself even more when you attempt to straighten your leg, which also activates the quadriceps. Along with the weight of gravity, the tension will attempt to pull your leg away from your chest. Matt advises you to prioritize strengthening your hip flexors to draw the leg closer to your chest, rather than attempting to straighten your leg and allowing it to drift away. Opting to prioritize your hip flexors here simply means that you are stepping into the opportunity to increase strength rather than chasing the aesthetic.




As always, Matt’s Chromatic approach helps to pattern and prepare your body for each progression. In Bridge Pose, you’ll see the importance of generating strength from your feet: In order to light up the power in your glutes, you press down through your inner heels and the “three points of your feet” (big toe, pinky toe, and heel). With your glutes, hamstrings, and adductor magnus activated, you’ll have enough strength to lift your hips up. Another of Matt’s tips is to feel as though you are pushing your feet away from you on the diagonal. This will help to activate your quadriceps, which translates to even more hip height. Once you’ve explored here, you can layer on the lifted leg in Bridge Pose. This variation allows you to practice taking your top leg closer to your chest in a more controlled position.

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As you progress towards Wheel Pose, you carry the same patterning you cultivated in Bridge (e.g., pressing through your heels). In Wheel, however, more awareness of the positioning of your hands, shoulder blades, and spine become vital. Before you even lift off of the ground, it’s important to create more extension in your spine, which you can initiate with an anterior tilt of your pelvis. In today’s video, Rebecca demonstrates the Wheel Pose setup as Matt cues specific articulations. With her hands wider than shoulder width, she presses up onto her head first, in order to draw her shoulder blades in closer before elevating even further. Drawing your shoulder blades closer towards one another will open the chest further, allowing you to press your chest in the direction of your fingertips and thus create a deeper heart opener. 

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Beyond understanding where to push into your hands and feet for elevation, you can encourage a push into an imaginary wall for the foot of your top leg. Pushing into the sky offers a completely transformative experience in Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana. If you are working with someone (like Matt and Rebecca are in the video), you can utilize the resistance of your partner pushing into the foot or thigh of your top leg to fire up your hip flexors. If increasing strength is your goal, incorporating these actions will get you there sooner. Additionally, when you have a deeper understanding of the anatomy, it’s easier to know where to induce strength.  

Sign up for Matt’s Yoga Anatomy Course Waitlist and build a closer relationship with yourself and your body via anatomy and your yoga practice.

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Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Anatomy of the Heart

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