How To Avoid Low Back Pain In Urdhva Dhanurasana

July 6, 2021

Transcript below of: How to avoid low back pain in urdhva dhanurasana

Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. If you’ve got a question that you’d like me to answer, go to I’ll do my best to answer it on video for you. This month’s question comes from Cat. She asks how to avoid low back pain in urdhva dhanurasana, specifically at the thoracic-lumbar hinge.

The Question:

“Hi David, thanks for taking the time to read my question. So recently I have been experiencing low back pain in urdhva dhanurasana. As far as I can tell it seems to be where the lumbar spine meets the thoracic spine. So I’m assuming it’s a case of overuse in the lumbar and not enough opening through the thoracic. The problem is I can’t tell whilst I’m in the pose. It’s only once I’m out that I notice the compression sensation in my lower back. I’m finding it hard to be aware of the sensations of lengthening my lower back when I’m in the pose. Is there any advice you may have for opening the thoracic more effectively whilst in the pose?
Thanks so much,

The Answer:

So there are a few things kind of mixed in here. Generally speaking, what I’m going to say to you is, you’re looking for the pressure to move out of the lower back and into the mid to upper back. That’s from a developmental point of view of urdhva dhanurasana. Most people overdo their low back at first. And that is a result of tight hip flexors. That’s why most people have compression in their lower back and low back pain in urdhva dhanurasana.

I’ve done this a million times and lots of Anatomy of Backbending workshops. I get people to open their hip flexors and then do their backbend. And the majority of people find that there is no more pressure in their low back or low back pain in urdhva dhanurasana after doing those preparation poses. So for something like backbend, open the tissues that need to open right before you do it. I do those preps right before backbending.

How to open the hip flexors

There is this little sequence that I have. It’s essentially a virasana, not exactly, but it’s active where you lift the hips up from virasana to stretch the front of the quadriceps. This is because rectus femoris in my mind and theory is the single most important muscle that holds the pelvis in a direction that creates a lot of that compression in the low back and low back pain in urdhva dhanurasana.

Joint shape

So, yes it can be overuse as well. You have to keep in mind that, when you get to the top of the lumbar, L1, where it meets T12, the last thoracic vertebra, that’s a place where the bottom of that L1 is a backbending joint creation. The direction of the way the joints come together lend themselves to backbending and forward bending. The top of L1 as it meets T12 is sitting at a different angle that does not lend itself to backbending.

It moves still. It doesn’t mean that it’s like oh, it’s a critical point. So this is a common place where you end up with pressure being felt and potentially low back pain in urdhva dhanurasana. This is because as the force and pressure builds up in the low back, it naturally gets up against that last L1-T12 connection to put pressure on it. So that might be why you’re feeling it there.

Open the hip flexors to avoid overdoing the lumbar spine

So my sense is your intuition is generally right here. You’re overdoing the lumbar or there’s too much pressure in the lumbar. So, you feel that pressure afterwards. This could be because, you know, let’s say — I’m going a little far and I’m making up a story — but let’s say you’re inflaming that joint area where T12 meets L1. That would kind of make sense. So, in order to get the pressure out of there and move it further up into the thoracic spine, open the hip flexors first. Open the hip flexors first. That’s going to allow the hips to go higher and it’s going to move the force further up into the thoracic spine.

Alright! I hope that helps. Anybody else, if you have a question that you want me to answer, go to