I have described this practice as a Mobius strip wrapped in a helix—it intertwines, loops back on it self, don’t know which end is up or where it stops and ends. 500 words or so is not enough to exhaust a topic, especially an ongoing one, so I present Nemesis II: Attack of the Sequel!!!!!
Swami Sivananda counsels (and Dharma Mittra actively teaches) that there is a chamber in the right side of the heart which houses the seed of the Divine. Read that again. There is an actual physical space in our bodies which houses our direct connection to the Divine. As Dr. Nathan Mhyrvold, author of Modernist Cusine, stated to 1200 students, faculty, and staff at The CIA, when he disproved a cooking practice which is taught as gospel: “Sorry. You don’t have to like it, but that’s the way it is.”
In our physical practice, we are often told to roll the shoulders away from the ears and bring the heart forward. Physically, this helps to utilize the bone structure, rather than the rotator cuff muscles, to support the weight of the body, especially when the arms are weight bearing. Physically, this allows us to have maximum expansion of the chest creating more space for the lungs to expand yielding a fuller breath. Both very good things.
This action also energetically lifts and opens this chamber in the heart. Physically, symbolically, and energetically we are leading with the heart. Which brings us to, you guessed it, Urdhva Dhanurasana.
Why is this important? What if students run when you mention the Divine? Well, this is a spiritual practice. In the Jivamukti Yoga, David Life and Sharon Gannon state “In the West…most yoga teachers are thought of as personal trainers rather than spiritual guides. This is the fault of the teachers, not the students.”(73) There are many, many ways to keep this practice spiritual without subscribing to a particular religion or imagery which may be offensive.
Here is how David Life led Urdhva Dhanurasa. The workshop opened with a discussion of Yoga Sutras II.1. In the asana practice, UD was to be done 3 times. The first time, we were told to think of someone we love, and send our heart (the energy of the pose) to that person. The second, think of someone we had no opinion of, perhaps a stranger in the room. Send the energy to that person. On the third, we were told to focus on someone we hate, loath, despise. David paused so we could really get worked up about this person. Then we entered the pose, dedicating all the energy of the pose to them.
Not one word about the placement of the hands. Not one word about L1 or the psoas. Or explicitly the Divine. He (and Sharon) created a deeply devotional practice in a way which was accessible to all. For 5 breaths, we were given the opportunity to change our minds.