Props rule. Blocks, belts, blankets; I love them all. I started practicing in the ashtanga tradition where props were shunned so it took me a while to come around to their wondrousness.
I teach urdhva dhanurasana in almost every class and it took me a long while to figure out that students didn’t always know that their feet were turning out when they went up into urdhva dhanurasana.
It was amazing to me to realize that many people don’t feel what their bodies are doing unless they are actually looking at themselves. Teaching class I would be mildly annoyed as I repeated over and over not to move the feet, while looking at a particular set of feet that couldn’t stop moving while going up into urdhva dhanurasana.
I finally asked a number of students. “Do you know that your feet are turning out as you go up into urdhva dhanurasana?”
“No” was the answer each time, and so I learned. Tactile feeling can work better than sensing so I started putting blocks between student’s feet with the big toes touching the blocks and the instruction not to let the feet move.
Not everybody can do that and I asked those that couldn’t, to wait to go up into the full pose until their feet were stable and unmoving (and here a video of an alternate prep pose). While this might not be easy I promise that it is a worthwhile endeavor.
When it comes to putting a block between the thighs in urdhva dhanurasana, I was my first guinea pig. When I first started using a block between my inner thighs, I am loathe to admit, my inner thighs were so weak that the block shot upwards towards the ceiling. It still isn’t the easiest of actions for me though these days I can keep the block from launching up and out. The ideal action is to be able to engage the inner thighs into the block and roll it down towards the floor.
As an addendum, it is intense for me to look the pictures I take of myself sometimes. I wasn’t warmed at all for these pictures, and I set up quickly, so I will excuse myself but… My left foot sets up about a half an inch behind the right, and in the second picture where I am up my elbows are way wider than I want them to be (a post on that is coming up soon) and my right foot is engaging while my left toes fail to ground into the floor.