[Pose Of the Week] Stretch It All with Upward Couch Pose (Intermediate)

Stretch from head to toe as you recline in Upward Couch Pose… It’s not as easy as it sounds!

Upward Couch Pose (Urdhva Paryankasana) – also known as Couch Pose, Bed Pose, or High Fish Pose – may sound like a lazy pose, but it’s harder than it sounds!

This reclining back-bend is a heart-opening pose that provides a great back stretch, as well as stretching the legs from ankles to quads, and expanding the chest and lungs. This intermediate pose may also help to improve digestion, clear the throat, relieve PMS or menstrual symptoms, and reduce stress. It is also believed to be a good pose for those with low blood pressure.

To modify the pose, you may wish to place a bolster under your spine for support. You can also rest your upper back and neck on yoga blocks. A yoga strap may also be placed around the thighs to help the hips release further into the pose.

Those with ankle or knee issues, back pain, neck injuries, or sciatica should avoid this pose. You should also skip this one if you are in the second or third trimesters of pregnancy.

How to Do Upward Couch Pose:

  1. Begin the practice by sitting at the center of the mat with the legs stretched out in front of you in Dandasana. Take a few breaths here and sit up tall and strong.
  2. Inhale and stretch the arms above your head and as you exhale, bend forward and bring your forehead to the knees, while grabbing your feet for support, in Paschimottanasana. Remain here for about 6 breaths to open up the lower back and the legs.
  3. Release from Paschimottanasana and bring the spine straight and upwards. Now fold your legs, bending at the knees, and sit in Vajrasana. As you sit on your knees and shins, take a few breaths here and feel the stretch at the ankles and the knees. If you feel the ankles are not open yet, you can release from the pose and do a few ankle rotations while seated in Paschimottanasana.
  4. Moving from Vajrasana, release the hips from the heels and as you lift the body a bit, move the left leg out and place the folded leg close to the floor near the left hip. And now moving the hips towards the left side slowly release the right folded leg and place it on the floor close to the right side of the hip. Now the body should be seated like in Virasana or Hero Pose.
  5. Adjusting your body a bit at the hips, make sure the hips are centered, while placing the sit bones on the floor, and the spine straight. Move the knees close to each other if possible and keep the feet close to the hips.
  6. Take a few breaths here to get comfortable with the stretch at the ankles and the knees. For some, you may also feel an intense stretch in the thighs.
  7. Now turning the torso towards the left side, slowly place the left elbow on the floor behind you, and then bring the right elbow on the floor too, behind you. One could also place both the palms on the floor behind you, leaning the torso back, and then slowly place the elbows on the floor and balance the body carefully.
  8. Once the elbows are placed on the floor raise the chest up and reach for the floor with the crown of the head, stretching the neck backwards.
  9. Once the crown of the head is on the floor, release the elbows and take the arms above your head and interlocking the elbows, place them on the floor behind your head.
  10. While placing the head on the floor, watch for the stretch at the neck, shoulders, chest, ankles and the entire abdomen. Make sure you go into the pose very slowly and carefully.
  11. When your are comfortable with the head on the floor, slowly work on bringing the thighs and the knees together to get a deeper stretch at the thighs and the entire back.
  12. Make sure the chest is opened upwards and your neck is relaxed back.
  13. Remain in this pose, feeling any sensations in the body with slow deep breathing. Open the chest to the maximum when inhaling.
  14. Remain here for about 6 breaths or more as desired. With every inhalation, go deeper into the pose, stretching the arms and the chest.
  15. To release from the pose, inhale and release the arms first, placing the elbows back on the floor beside you and releasing the head by lifting it and placing it on the floor comfortably.
  16. Remain here for a few breaths making sure the neck and head are feeling alright, and then slowly, with the support of the elbows, raise the shoulders away from the floor and lift the entire torso and sit back up in Virasana.
  17. Slowly release the legs and stretch them out, and sit in Dandasana. Gently rotate and move your feet and ankles from side to side and back and forth to loosen any stiffness.
  18. Take a few breaths here and then repeat the pose if desired.
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