Yoga Poses

Challenge Pose: Urdhva Kukkutasana (Upward Rooster Pose)

Set the foundation for a receptive state of mind with Urdhva Kukkatasana. Plus, learn how to find stability, balance, and focus in this pose.

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Rick Cummings

PREVIOUS STEP IN YOGAPEDIA 3 Ways to Prep for Urdhva Kukkutasana
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Urdhva Kukkutasana 
Urdhva = Upward · Kukkuta = Rooster · Asana = Pose

Benefits
Strongly activates the forces of both prana and apana to balance creativity and dissolution in the mind—setting the foundation for an open and receptive state of consciousness; strengthens your shoulders, arms, abdominals, and hips flexors; develops the coiling action of the spine, which is crucial for stability in countless other postures; increases balance, focus, and agility.

See also Challenge Poses: Liz Arch’s Secret to Success in Any Arm Balance

Step 1

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Rick Cummings

Take Padmasana (Lotus Pose).

See also Strong-Arm Tactics

Step 2

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Shift your weight forward onto your knees, and place your hands on the floor in front of you. Spread your fingers, pointing your index fingers straight forward.

See also Seated Forward Bend

Step 3

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Round your upper back as if to press your spine up between your shoulder blades,
spreading them wide. Keep your knees against the backs of your arms, and empty yourself of breath. As you begin an inhalation, draw up with a strong coiling action in your lower spine. Initiate this action from your abdominals, rolling your pubic bone up toward your navel and your navel up toward your solar plexus (the dense tangle of nerves that sits just beneath your diaphragm on the front of your spine). As you ascend, allow your knees to slide up the backs of your arms. It may take several breaths to achieve full height, but keep working with your breath sequentially: Pause as you exhale, and lift as you inhale. 

See also Tips for Camel Pose + Relieving Pain in the Upper Back

Step 4

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Keep your knees level, and resist the temptation to “climb” up your arms by pressing into them with your knees—this will interfere with properly engaging your abdominals. Avoid engaging your hip flexors until your knees are all the way above your elbows. If you cannot get your knees above your elbows, just hold the posture as high as you can. (You will get higher in time.)

See also Anatomy 101: Target the Right Muscles to Protect Knees

Step 5

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Rick Cummings

Once your knees come up to the backs of your shoulders, allow your hips to settle down so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep pulling your feet up into your navel, and sustain a sense of floating. Lift your head, and gaze forward (or down toward the floor for balance). Each time you inhale, sustain the engagement of your abdominals and the coiling action of your spine. Each time you exhale, wrap your Lotus a little tighter, press your hands even more strongly into the floor, and try not to drop weight into your knees. Hold for 5–10 breaths.

To exit the posture, begin exhaling and allow your knees to slide back down your straightened arms. Alternatively, you can bend your elbows a little, push off strongly with your knees on the start of an exhalation, undo the Lotus in the air, straighten your legs, and land in Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) empty of breath. 

See also Calm to Your Core: Floating Stick Pose

See also Challenge Pose: 4 Steps to Lift into Firefly

Stay Safe
One of the risks posed by this posture is falling and injuring yourself. In order to prevent this, keep pressing your hands firmly into the floor with equal pressure at all times. Improve your balance by keeping your gaze fixed firmly at a single point on the floor, just a few feet in front of you; and always be present and focused on your breath. 

About Our Pro
Teacher and model Ty Landrum is director of the Yoga Workshop in Boulder, Colorado. He teaches Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in the contemplative style of his mentors, Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman. With a PhD in philosophy, Ty has a special touch for explaining the theory of yoga with color and creativity. As a teacher, he’s passionate about sharing the brilliance of yoga with anyone willing to learn (for more information, go to tylandrum.com).