top of page
  • Writer's pictureChristina V. Mills

How to Dropback/Standup in Ashtanga Yoga

Dropback/standup is an asana in Ashtanga yoga practice where you drop into a backbend from standing, and rise back up with control.

Backbends are arguably the most important asana within the Ashtanga yoga method because they are so healing for the spine, engage the entire body, and open the front of the body, which is closed throughout most of our day and lives. As we all know, the spine houses our spinal cord, which gives nerve signals throughout the body.

Backbending is healing because it moves the spine back and forth, allowing to clear stagnation, blockages, and unused pathways to all the nerves in the body. Dropback/standup increases the depth of the backbend, the deepest part of which is during the standup part of the movement. You'll hear a lot of popping in the spine and maybe even in the front of the chest.

Dropback/standup is an act of overcoming your fears and on some levels is an act of faith. Backbending is also front opening - opening the shoulders, chest, belly, and groin. Most mammals have the tendency to conceal their soft belly, which is where all the soft, unprotected organs are located. On an animal level, backbending and dropback/standup violate this desire to protect ourselves and may invoke a lot of feelings, including fear and nausea, but part of the point of yoga is that we can override these instincts.

This video shows people at two stages of learning dropback/standup. Cindy, on the left, had been practicing this movement for awhile, while Bridget was just learning the movement.

I love teaching beginners, which is most of my yoga teaching at this point, but it's always fun being with with more experienced students because we get to do things like this. They were rocking it!

When to Try Dropback/Standup

If you practice at a shala with an Ashtanga teacher, your teacher may begin teaching you dropback/standup after you become comfortable with Urdhva Dhanurasana,

If you are practicing Ashtanga yoga at home, you may want to begin dropback/standup when you can comfortably lift up into Urdhva Dhanurasana 5 times for 5 breaths each, going down to the top of the head in between, and when you can transfer the weight forward and back between your hands and feet.

How to Do It

The first key to dropback/standup (and all of Ashtanga yoga) is to coordinate breath to movement. Exhale down. Inhale up.

Second, is to ground through the feet and legs. The hips have to move forward, while the chest moves upward. The arms extend up and back. You'll know that you can drop back to the floor when you can hang back in your standing backbend with straight or slightly bent legs and spot the floor, where your hands would go. At this point, bend the knees (it may help to lift the heels if the feet are splaying way out) to get the hands to the floor.

When you're learning to stand back up, when in Urdhva Dhanurasana, begin to shift the weight forward and backward between the hands and feet. Eventually, you will shift the weight forward enough that you can stand up. As you get comfortable with the movement, use your breath to help you and let the breath both initiate the movement and carry the movement to the end. Exhale down. Inhale up. Exhale down. Inhale up.

Dropping back is much easier than coming back up, but you must remain in control the whole time. The point is not to fall down and flail back up but to use muscular awareness and control to slow the movement and move intentionally.

As you are learning at an Ashtanga shala, you can use blocks or bolsters to drop back onto that you can lower as you get more comfortable with the movement. A teacher may also support your hips as you drop backward, helping at first to get you comfortable with the movement, and later helping to bring your hands in for your deepest backbends, maybe even catching the legs.

Wherever you're practicing, the journey is the fun part! Overcome your fears and learn to ground through the feet and legs in this dynamic and fun movement.


Image by Matt Flores
Image by Juno Jo
Image by Julianna Corbett
Image by Erik Brolin
bottom of page