Chakrasana, also known as Urdhva Dhanurasana or the Upward Bow Pose, is one of the fundamental backbending asanas in yoga. It is an inversion asana that opens up the front body and strengthens the back. Practicing chakrasana regularly can provide several health benefits. Here are some of the main benefits of practicing chakrasana:
Improves Flexibility in the Back
Chakrasana is an excellent asana for improving flexibility in the back, especially in the thoracic spine. The backward bending movement stretches the entire front body uniformly – the abdomen, chest, throat and front hips. It helps open up the chest and shoulders. With regular practice, it makes the spine supple and improves its range of motion. This helps correct postural defects that arise from prolonged sitting and slouching.
Strengthens Back Muscles
When moving into chakrasana, the core back muscles have to work intensely to arch the spine backwards and maintain the posture. The erector spinae muscles that run alongside the spine have to contract eccentrically to bend back. The latissimus dorsi muscles connecting the arms to the back are also engaged. As you hold the pose, the back muscles isometrically contract to support the posture. This strengthens and tones the back muscles.
Tones the Arms and Legs
As an inversion asana, chakrasana engages several muscle groups in the arms and legs. Lifting the torso up puts pressure on the straight arms and elbows, toning the muscles of the arms, forearms and shoulders. The legs have to be firm as they provide the foundation, working the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves. Regular practice can add strength and definition to the arms and legs.
Stimulates Abdominal Organs
The backward bend causes compression and massage of the abdominal organs. This stimulation improves blood circulation to the organs, improving their functioning. The asana is especially beneficial for the digestive organs like the intestines and stomach. It can help relieve constipation and improve digestion.
Expands Lung Capacity
As you arch back into chakrasana, the chest expands and the lungs open up. This allows for deeper breathing and increased oxygen uptake. Regular practice can slowly increase lung capacity and volume. Deep breathing also ventilates the lungs fully, removing stale air from its bottommost portions. This helps prevent lung infections and respiratory problems.
Chakrasana is an intense backbend that requires effort to hold the posture. This raises the metabolic rate as the body uses more energy and oxygen. It helps burn fat and calories faster. Regular practice can help manage weight and prevent accumulation of fat around the abdomen. The asana’s ability to stimulate abdominal organs also boosts metabolism.
Chakrasana strengthens the back muscles that are key to maintaining correct posture. It opens up the chest and shoulders. The backward bending movement stretches tight chest and abdominal muscles that pull the body forward. This counteracts poor posture resulting from prolonged sitting, driving or computer use. Improved posture prevents back pain and restrictions in movement.
The process of concentrating on the posture and synchronizing breath requires focus and quietens the mind. As you hold the pose, the calming, rhythmic breathing relaxes the body. The inversion helps circulate fresh oxygenated blood to the brain, rejuvenating it. These effects help lower stress and anxiety levels. The asana is also energizing and can help elevate mood.
Boosts Blood Circulation
The inversion and backbend stimulate circulation in the upper body. Blood flow to the heart and brain increases. By expanding the chest cavity, the pose facilitates deeper breathing. This allows for improved oxygenation of blood, providing energizing effects. Regular practice is beneficial for heart health and can help prevent issues like high blood pressure.
Stretches the Front Body
Chakrasana deeply stretches the entire front of the body – the abdomen, chest, neck and quadriceps. It helps open up tight hip flexors that can restrict mobility. The abdomen and intercostal muscles between the ribs are stretched. Tightness in these muscle groups can cause poor posture and back pain. Their flexibility is essential for optimal functioning of organs.
Stimulates the Endocrine System
The backward bending asana stimulates the thyroid, parathyroid and thymus glands in the neck and chest. Massaging these endocrine glands improves their functioning and hormone balance. The solar plexus chakra at the upper abdomen is also stimulated. This can boost energy levels in the body and mind.
Increases Spine Flexibility
Chakrasana deeply bends the spine backwards, increasing its range of motion. The cartilaginous discs between vertebrae are nourished and become more flexible. Congestion in the spinal nerves from poor posture is cleared. With regular practice, the entire spine from neck to lower back becomes more flexible and supple. This can help prevent spinal problems later in life.
Improves Sense of Balance
Maintaining chakrasana requires significant balance, coordination and proprioception. The arms, core and legs have to work in synergy to hold the posture without toppling over. Mastering the asana improves overall body awareness and control. This translates into better balance and stability in day-to-day movements and activities.
For most beginners, chakrasana appears challenging and even intimidating. But continual practice slowly builds strength,improving your ability to get into the pose and hold it. As your competence in the asana grows, it creates a sense of confidence in your practice. It demonstrates your progress over time, keeping you motivated. This confidence extends to other areas of life too.
Chakrasana offers therapeutic benefits for certain health conditions when done under guidance. It can help strengthen the back and improve posture in cases of hunchback, scoliosis or kyphosis. For anxiety and mild depression, holding the energizing backbend till fatigue helps elevate mood. The pose is also used to treat digestive problems like dyspepsia by stimulating abdominal organs.
It is important to prepare the body adequately before attempting chakrasana, especially for beginners. Here are some good preparatory asanas:
- Setu Bandhasana (Bridge pose) to warm up the backbend
- Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) to strengthen the back
- Dhanurasana (Bow pose) to open the chest and shoulders
- Ustrasana (Camel pose) to stretch abdomen and thighs
- Halasana (Plow pose) to increase shoulder flexibility
The preparatory poses help open up the front body and build strength in the back muscles required for chakrasana. They should be held for a few breaths before moving to the main asana. Avoid chakrasana if you have any neck, back or shoulder injuries, high or low blood pressure, vertigo or heart problems. Pregnant women should also not attempt this pose. Have an empty stomach when practicing the asana. Chakrasana should be learned under the guidance of a trained yoga teacher. With its myriad benefits for body and mind, practicing chakrasana regularly can boost your health, flexibility and confidence.