2 Upward Bow Pose Variations to Expand Your Heart Space

Sideways shot of slim active young woman holds big fitness ball which is a great yoga prop especially for backbending in yoga and for Upward Bow Pose.

While there are many benefits to Upward Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana), the pose itself can be extremely challenging. Whether it’s range of motion or confidence that limits you, supported backbends are an excellent way to ease into this yoga pose.

Fit Ball-Supported Upward Bow Pose

Back stretching with fitness ball. Heart Opening, backbends, Upward Bow Pose Variation with the help of a Fitness Ball.

This variation of an Upward Bow Pose utilizes a medium or large fit ball to support the body while in a backbend. The whole back of the head and torso rest on the ball. Its soft support allows your body to experience the shape and sensation of the backbend without the strain on wrists and knees. 


  • Builds strength
  • Builds confidence
  • Increases range of motion
  • Easy on the wrists
  • Allows for shifting the focus of the backbend into different areas of the spine
  • Supports the head and neck
  • Counteracts the effects of sitting all day
  • Stretches the chest, shoulders, and abdomen

How to Practice Fit Ball-Supported Upward Bow Pose:

  1. Start with the fit ball behind you at the top of the mat.  
  2. Sit on the very edge of the ball, more with the sacrum or lower back than the bottom.
  3. Make sure your feet are grounded.
  4. Bend your knees to lower the body, and lean back on the ball.
  5. Once most of your body is supported by the ball, press your feet into the earth and extend your legs.
  6. The ball should roll with you and allow the supported backbend.
  7. Keep your arms by your sides, resting on the fit ball, or reach the arms overhead.
  8. If you like, extend the legs further, allowing your hands to touch the ground overhead.
  9. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then slowly bend your knees, shifting the body weight forward once more.
  10. Slowly and carefully sit up.

Practice Tips:

  • Be careful coming into and out of the pose; do so slowly.
  • A bigger fit ball will give a more gentle backbend.
  • Be mindful of your knees. If coming into and out of the pose as suggested above doesn’t work for your body, please use another method that does.
  • Keep the ball near the wall if you prefer, so hands reaching overhead can touch the wall rather than go all the way to the floor.

Bolster-Supported Urdhva Dhanurasana

Upward Bow Pose or Urdhva Dhanurasana with blocks or could be bolster for extra support in the backbending pose.
(Image is with blocks, not bolster)

This variation of backbend pose is stronger as it requires you to lift yourself into the pose. The bolster reduces the range of motion needed at the wrists and shoulders and allows you to practice the strength-building quality of the pose as you lift yourself up.


  • Gentle on wrists
  • Builds confidence
  • Promotes strength
  • Counteracts the effects of sitting all day
  • Stretches the chest, shoulders, and abdomen

How to Bolster Your Supported Upward Bow Pose

  1. Place your mat on the floor, perpendicular to a wall. Place the bolster’s long edge against the wall.
  2. Lie down on your back on the mat with your head touching the bolster.
  3. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the mat. Move them slightly further toward the front of the mat than directly under your knees.
  4. Reach your arms overhead and place your hands on the edge of the bolster, fingers pointing toward your shoulders.
  5. Take a full breath in and a full breath out.
  6. Press into your hands and feet on the next inhalation and lift your body into the backbend.
  7. Hold for 5 breaths, then slowly lower down.

Practice Tips:

  • Make sure the bolster sits against the wall.
  • A firm and bigger bolster will give more range and support.
  • Be sure to use your legs as well as your arms to lift up.
Upward Bow Pose or Urdhva Dhanurasana varaition . Yoga backbends with props, Upward Bow Pose variations,
(With many props including chair and bolster)

Erin Bourne (RYT500, YACEP) is a yoga teacher and yoga teacher trainer based in Seventeen Seventy (yes, the real town name) in Australia. She also teaches Pilates and other movement modalities; having come to yoga from an Exercise Science and education background, she is obsessed with learning and sharing about the body and movement. Erin shares her experience and knowledge through regular classes, teacher trainings, online courses, and writing. Her course offerings include 3D Anatomy and Resistance Yoga. Her writing includes the book A Yogi’s Guide to Fascia and numerous print and online published articles. You can find Erin’s creations through her website http://www.erinlbourne.com/

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