Upward Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose
Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana
Step by Step
Begin by preparing as you would for Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose). Lie on your back, feet on the floor, heels under the knees, and step your feet a little wider than your hips. Bend your arms and place your palms on the floor by your ears, fingertips facing the shoulders, shoulder-width apart. Pause for a moment to focus and tune in to your breathing.
As you exhale, press your knees away from your torso and lift your hips, shoulders, and head from the floor as you straighten your arms. Widen and draw your shoulder blades toward your tail bone to lift your shoulders and lighten the load on your arms.
Bend your arms and place the crown of your head on the floor between your hands and feet, keeping your elbows shoulder-width apart and directly over your wrists. To ensure that your neck does not become compressed, exhale, press your hands into the floor, and again draw your shoulder blades toward your tail bone. Keep your chest open and lifted.
On your next exhalation, slide one hand past your ear to cup the back of your head, bringing your weight onto your forearm. Repeat the same action with the other arm, interlacing your fingers behind your head (you may be more successful in these arm movements if you lift onto your tiptoes).
With a powerful exhalation, press down through your inner elbows and wrists and lift your chest to raise your head off the floor. As your head lifts, press your inner heels down. Of course, your head may seem glued to the floor; if that's the case, continue to hold the pose where you are.
If you do manage to lift your head, the pose may actually become easier, since this movement allows your upper arms to directly support your weight, easing the demand on your muscles. But be careful not to strain the shoulder joints by pushing them beyond your elbows. Avoid this over extension by keeping your weight evenly distributed between your elbows and wrists, and by not allowing your elbows to slide more than shoulder-width apart. It is absolutely fine to remain in this position, with your head raised and your heels directly below your knees.
In the full pose, however, you walk the feet away from your hands until your legs are nearly straight; then plant your inner feet and exhale as you stretch down through your calves and push to straighten the legs completely.
Place the crown of your head back on the floor inside the cup of your hands, press your elbows into the floor and draw your shoulder blades toward your tail bone to help your shoulders stay lifted. Your middle back will be asked to extend more deeply.
Come out of this asana with great attention. First, walk your feet back under your knees. Remain on your crown and return your palms to the floor next to your ears. Again check to make sure your hands are directly under your elbows. Push with your hands to lift the head and tuck your chin and tail bone in as you roll your spine back down to the floor, tail bone touching last. Consciously slow your breathing down until you are once again at rest and can feel the powerful calm that is the product of balanced backbends.
- Stretches the entire front body and opens the chest
Contraindications and Cautions
- Wrist, shoulder, low back or neck injuries