Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Urdhva Vrikshasana

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Covid-19
English name(s)  Upward Tree Position
Asana type  Standing Asanas
Stretches  Intercostal muscle
Pronunciation  [uːrd̪ʱʋɐʋr̩kʂɑːsɐnɐ]
Strengthens  Leg, Abdomen
Also known as  Upward tree position
Urdhva Vrikshasana mediayogajournalcomwpcontentuploadsHP269FN
Sanskrit  ऊर्ध्व वृक्षासन / Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana
Meaning  ūrdhva: "upwards" vṛkṣa: "tree" āsana: "posture"
dṛṣṭi (eye focus)  अङ्गूष्ठमध्ये दृष्टि / Aṅguṣṭhamadhye dṛṣṭi (to thumbs)
Note  Consult a doctor before beginning an exercise regime
Similar  Dandasana, Urdhvamukha shvanasana, Uttanasana, Tadasana, Dhanurasana

Urdhva Vrikshasana ([uːrd̪ʱʋɐʋr̩kʂɑːsɐnɐ]; Sanskrit: ऊर्ध्व वृक्षासन; IAST: Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana) is an asana. An English translation for this asana is "Upward Tree Position". In Ashtanga Yoga it is the first asana of Surya Namaskara. In some instances this asana may also be called Tadasana, depending on the practitioner's yoga style and lineage.

Contents

This asana or its variations may also be known a Urdhva Hastasana (IAST: Ūrdhva Hāstāsana; Sanskrit: ऊर्ध्व हास्तासन; IPA: [uːrdʰʋɐ hɐːstɐːsɐna]), meaning "Upward Hands Pose".

Etymology

This compound noun phrase comes from Sanskrit: urdhva (Sanskrit: ऊर्ध्व, Sanskrit: ūrdhva) meaning "up, upwards"; vriksha (Sanskrit: वृक्ष, Sanskrit: vṛkṣa) meaning "tree, especially with visible blossoms or fruits"; and asana (Sanskrit: आसन, Sanskrit: Āsana) meaning "pose".

This asana or variations of it may also be called Ūrdhva Hāstāsana. From Sanskrit: urdhva (Sanskrit: ऊर्ध्व, Sanskrit: ūrdhva) meaning "up, upwards"; hasta (Sanskrit: हास्त, Sanskrit: hāsta) meaning "formed with the hands"; asana (Sanskrit: आसन, Sanskrit: Āsana) meaning "pose".

In some instances this asana may also be called Tadasana (meaning "mountain pose"), depending on the practitioner's yoga style and lineage.

Description

Samasthitiḥ serves as a base for Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana. The legs remain unchanged, however the arms and gaze are upward.

Drishti

In yoga, the dṛṣṭi the location of the gaze.

The dṛṣṭi for Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana is the Aṅguṣṭhamadhye dṛṣṭi (thumbs).

Bandhas

Mūla Bandha and Uḍḍiyāna Bandha are active. As the head is raised, the Jālandhara bandha is not engaged.

Variations

In some instances this asana may also be called Tadasana (meaning "mountain pose"), depending on the practitioner's yoga style and lineage.

The vanilla Vrikshasana has many similarities as well.

Urdhva Hastasana

Ūrdhva Hāstāsana (also known as "upwards hands pose" or "upward salute") is a similar asana wherein the hands are not touching and the gaze is forward. .

It can also be performed with the thumbs interlocked.

Props

A belt can be used to improve the stretch. A loop is made that is around shoulder width (or slightly less) and the arms are raised to press outward on the belt. The pressure is initiated with the arms at shoulder height, then the shoulders are "softened" and brought downward, back into position, before raising the arms up above the head to the full asana. This is usually performed with the hands apart, as the pressure exerted by the arms is outward. This technique can be especially helpful for raised arm inversions.

Yoga styles and context

In some styles of yoga leaning backward may be considered a variation of Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana and be substituted for it in Surya Namaskara vinyasas.

Surya Namaskara

In Surya Namaskara, Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana is an important part of many styles of yoga, particularly Ashtanga Yoga, and is the first vinyasa of the series (following the starting asana, samasthitih).

Ashtanga Yoga

In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana appears as part of full vinyasas throughout the practice.

Vinyasa Krama Yoga

In Vinyasa Krama Yoga, Tāḍāsana is performed on the toes with the arms raised, and is similar to Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana, except that the gaze is not raised, and the hands interlock. Various standing vinyasas from Vinyasa Krama Yoga also include flat footed standing position with the arms raised and fingers interlocked (Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana).

Key aspects

As with most asanas, when entering into Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana, distal body parts are best arranged first, progressively adjusting in-wards and putting proximal body parts in place last.

Given that Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana uses Samasthitiḥ as its base, some key aspects are similar, while others differ.

Key aspects in common with Samasthitiḥ

  • Feet are together or if apart, then the heels and big toes are in one line pointing straight forward.
  • Feet are stretched on the floor, including metatarsals and each individual toe.
  • Feet "ground" primarily through the three points which make up the foot's three arches: the calcaneal tuberosity (heel), the base of the first metatarsal (the big toe "knuckle"), and the base of the fifth metatarsal (little toe "knuckle"). The weight is not placed on the inside edge of the feet (which would negatively affect posture throughout the body.)
  • Knees are tightened (in effect, the knee caps pulled up) and facing forward.
  • Keeping the balls of the feet grounded, and activating muscles to separate the soles of the feet (which are not allowed to move because of friction with the mat), may help internally rotate the thighs, turn the femurs inward and keep the kneecaps facing forward.
  • Hips and buttocks (upper thigh muscles) are contracted (upwards).
  • Weight is distributed evenly between heels and toes, with the pelvis centered and body in-line. The pelvis is centered when the tendons which connect the sartorius and rectus femoris muscles to the pelvis is halfway between being pulled tight, and relaxed.
  • Weight is distributed evenly between the two hips (equally between the two legs/feet), making the left and right hips level with each other.
  • Pelvis exhibits neutral tilt (neither tilted forward nor backwards). Usually this means the pubic symphysis and anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) are in one vertical plane, neither in front of the other.
  • There is a moderate inward curve the lower back due to the neutral pelvic tilt.
  • The chest is broad.
  • The shoulders are rolled back (with the head of the humerus centered in the joint), and shoulder blades pulled down the back and inwards (not "winging, but not "pinched" together). The shoulders may be "looped" (lifted slightly, then brought back and down) to achieve this.
  • Key aspects for asanas with arms raised

  • Mūla Bandha and Uḍḍiyāna Bandha are active, but Jālandhara bandha is not.
  • The gaze is toward the Aṅguṣṭhamadhye dṛṣṭi (thumbs).
  • An additional downward engagement and external rotation of the shoulders (anatomically external) is maintained from before the initial arm raise throughout the asana (to prevent a rotator cuff injury). This is accomplished by "keeping the armpits down, while the arms rise", and "broadening the shoulder blades".
  • The hands are rotated thumbs to the outside before raising the arms to prevent shoulder injury.
  • Although looking upward, the head is not "thrown back" allowing the neck to collapse, but rather the chin is raised and neck supported and extended.
  • Effects

    Given that Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana uses Samasthitiḥ as its base, some effects are similar. For instance:

  • The asana strengthens the abdomen and the legs.
  • It may help relieve sciatica and reduce flat feet.
  • It helps plantar fasciitis and heel spurs by improving the strength of deeper foot muscles which support your foot, and reducing the load on the less suited plantar fascia.
  • Given the upward position of the arms and neck, there are additional effects:

  • The thoracic cavity and rib structures including the intercostal muscles are stretched and the thoracic cavity expanded increasing lung capacity.
  • Raising the arms in standing asanas like Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana and its variations “increases the heat created by the asanas, and is beneficial for [reducing excess] kapha”
  • Raising the arms makes diaphragmatic breathing come more naturally, restricting thoracic significantly, and abdominal breathing only slightly.
  • Cautions

    Given that Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana uses Samasthitiḥ as its base, some cautions are similar including:

  • Due to the effects of standing, prolonged practice of a standing asana like Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana should be done with caution by those who suffer from headaches, insomnia, or low blood pressure.
  • It is advised to maintain a degree of muscle tension in this asana. Moderate tension in the thighs and hips can help develop positive habits and can increase the musculature in those areas which can help prevent injury. Additionally maintaining a degree of tension requires awareness, which can help prevent injury itself. This habit can be beneficial throughout yoga practice.
  • Hyper extension of the knee can compresses the knee joint and can strain the medial meniscus, causing knee problems.
  • Since the feet serve as a foundation for the rest of the body in this and other standing asanas, the position of the feet is of high importance. One change in the position of your feet affects posture throughout your body.
  • Scapulo-humeral rhythm of arm raising

    Given the commonality of raising the arms, the complexity of the motion may be overlooked. In fact, the scapulo-humeral rhythm of the motion is important to avoid a repetitive motion induced shoulder injury.

    If the humerus is in the neutral position (unrotated) when the supraspinatus muscle contracts, the supraspinatus tendon can be sandwiched between the acromion (bone) and greater tubricle of the humerus (bone) leading to a common rotator cuff injury: an inflamed, frayed, or torn supraspinatus tendon. Prevention is simply a matter of:

    1. Initiating the movement with an external rotation of the arm (thumb moving outward). This movement is performed primarily by the infraspinatus and teres minor.
    2. "Cinching down" the humerus to create space between the acromion and humerus. The cinching action can be aided by the subscapularis muscle, though its relaxation is required to accomplish the arms initial outward rotation.

    While the critical time to initiation these forces is before the arm raise begins, both the rotation and the downward engagement are engaged for the duration of the arm raise.

    Spinal extension

    The role of the latimus dorsi is subtle, as "tight latissimus dorsi can pull the spine into too much of a lumbar curve". Further, "if the latissimus dorsi are used to do the spinal extension [...], they will interfere with the lifting and lateral rotation of the arms".

    Anatomy

    Thought there are differences between individuals, this is a general anatomical description of the body in Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana.

    As an upright standing asana:

  • The curves of the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical exhibit mild axial extension.
  • The erector spinae and quadratus lumborum lift and straighten the spine.
  • A downward release exists in the following parts of the body: the shoulder blades (supported by the rib cage), the tailbone, and in the foot at the heel (Calcaneus), and the first and fifth metatarsals (the three of which serve as primary contact points with the ground). The shoulders should not be thrown back, but simply relaxed neutrally.
  • Given that Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana uses Samasthitiḥ as its base, some anatomy points are similar. The following apply primarily to the lower portion of the body being similar in position in Samasthitiḥ:

  • The ankle and hip joints are neutral, halfway between flexion and extension, This means the feet are flat and parallel. (in a distal position).
  • The knees are straight, but not hyper-extended. Further, the kneecaps are lifted by the quadriceps femoris and the ischial tuberosites maintain tension via the hamstrings.
  • The abductor muscles hold the thighs together.
  • Activating the tensor fasciae latae and gluteus medius will help internally rotate the thighs, turn the femurs inward and keep the kneecaps facing forward.
  • The following points through the body are lifted upward: the arches of the feet, the pelvic floor, the lower abdomen, the rib cage, cervical spine, and the top of the head. In this position, akin to standing "smartly", the action of standing erect should do most of the lifting without much special effort from the subject.
  • Anatomical states for asanas with arms raised above the head

    The following anatomical description applies to asanas which have the arms raised above the head:

  • The head is tilted back on the C1 vertebrae, allowing the chin to move upwards, but keeping the neck supported and lengthened. This both lengthens and/or works the following anterior neck muscles: rectus capitis, longus capitis, longus colli, verticalis, scalenes (worked [eccentrically]).
  • The spine is extended working the spinal extensors and rectus abdominis (eccentrically), but ideally not the latissimus dorsi. The rectus abdominis is simultaneously lengthened in this action, along with the external obliques and latissimus dorsi.
  • The shoulder flexion of the arm raise engages the serratus anterior, anterior and middle deltoids, upper trapezius, infraspinatus (used to externally rotate the arms), and pectoralis major and minor. The tricepts also play a hand in rotating the scapula.
  • The middle trapezius and rhomboids engage to open the chest and keep the shoulders wide and back. The lower trapezius also brings the shoulders downward, away from the ears.
  • The tricepts extend the elbows. Since the extensors in the arms are being worked while flexors are only playing their role as antagonists, the antagonists often limit the extensors; for instance, the practitioner may be unable to fully extend the elbow joint, or raise the arms fully.
  • As the hands are raised over the head, the thoracic cavity and rib structures including the intercostal muscles are stretched and the thoracic cavity expanded increasing lung capacity. A slight back bend could be included to accentuate the effect and stretch the front of the body, chest and ribs more, and in fact some styles of yoga include this aspect in their Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana.
  • References

    Urdhva Vrikshasana Wikipedia


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