Jessica Stickler has been teaching Jivamukti-style yoga for more than seven years—a vinyassa technique that blends ancient scriptures, meditation, movement, and music. Here she shares three variations of bow pose, which is not her personal best.
YogaCity NYC: What pose did you chose and why do you like it?
Jessica Stickler: I chose Urdhva (upward) Dhanurasana (bow pose). For me, backbending is challenging physically and emotionally. If all I ever worked on were the poses that came easy to me, where is the growth? Similarly, if we only ever did what came easily to us, where is the evolution in that? Yoga practice is about overriding the personal preferences that say "I like this pose" or "I'm good at this one." Sometimes the only
way to expand one's sense of self is to dive deeper into the ones that you think you don't like.
YCNYC: Describe the anatomy of the first pose and the body parts engaged.
JS: Many people think that backbending is about having back flexibility. In fact, backbending requires a lot of strength from the muscles on the backside of the body—hamstrings, glutteus, erector spinae, etc.—and requires flexibility on the front side of the body—quadriceps, psoas, abdominals, and shoulder flexors.
YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?
JS: To remove any one base of support, the remaining three have to take the rest of the load, so when you lift a hand off the ground, the legs and opposite arm have to work harder to compensate for the missing limb of support. It also makes the pose asymmetrical, which is a challenge to one's balance and equilibrium.
YCNYC: What is the overall effect of the third pose on the body, and what does this one add to the understanding of the pose and mind?
JS: Bringing the forearms to the floor increases the challenge to the shoulders. It requires more flexibility from the shoulders and the upper part of the spine. I've always had tight shoulders, so it was quite a surprise to be able to work up to this one. Also, backbending is very invigorating to the body and the mind; it increases heart rate and circulation. Great for a cloudy—or lethargic—day!