(Dhanurasana): Techniques, Benefits, Variations
Bow Pose Prep & Practice
Beginning in prone position (on belly), placing a folded blanket under hips and lower abdomen. Forehead rests on mat, arms by sides palms up, legs and tops of feet extended onto mat. On an exhalation, bend knees bringing heels toward buttocks. Arms reach back, hands take hold of outside of ankles, flex feet.
Shoulder blades draw slightly in toward spine and down back (away from ears). Thighs are energized, knees hip-width apart. Buttocks are firm, but not clenched.
On an inhalation, lift thighs and torso away from mat, heels move away from buttocks, low abs firm up and in, sides of waist lengthen evenly from hips to the ribcage, shoulders move away from ears as chest broadens and heart shines forward.
Gaze can be forward or slightly down. Relax jaw and face. Breath is steady. Soften the tops the shoulders away from the ears, inner thighs lift slightly, outer thighs roll down, knees remain hip-width apart.
To come out of the pose, on an exhalation, release down and relax the entire body in prone position.
- Block between the thighs to activate legs and maintain hip-distance in knees
- Unable to reach ankles, use strap around outside of ankles holding on to either end, finding the right length to maintain extension in arms, being mindful not to strain shoulders
- Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
- One-legged Bow (Ardha Dhanurasana) with or without strap
Physical, Mental and Emotional Benefits
- Strengthens all major muscles in the back body, stretches entire front body
- Expands the chest, opening the diaphragm and shoulder joints
- Stimulates abdominal organs, aiding digestion
- Opens the breath, improving respiratory conditions, reducing anxiety and fatigue
- Heart Opening
- Serious Spinal Injury
- Knee injury
- Unable to Lie in Prone (pregnancy or digestive issues)
- High or Low Blood Pressure
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), inhaling to lift, exhaling to lower 5 times. Locust Pose (Salabhasana) inhaling to lift, exhaling to lower 5 times, hold pose 3-5 breaths, exhaling to release. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) or repeat Locust (Salabhasana), hold 3-5 breaths, exhaling to release and rest in prone. Mindfully roll onto back, Reclined Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana), Wind Relieving Pose (Pavanamuktasana), Corpse Pose (Savasana)
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A Few Notes
Bow posture is a beautiful heart opener that also strengthens the upper torso. This yoga asana can increase spinal flexibility and open space between the shoulder blades and neck. If you work this posture into your regular yoga practice, you’ll also notice that it strengthens your arm muscles and leg muscles too. It will feel like a major workout as you use your buttock to lift your quadriceps off of the ground, pulling your inner thighs toward one another. This posture is a workout for the entire body!
That being said, it can be quite a challenge for some. The pressure on the abdominal organs may be uncomfortable for some people. Those with injuries in the shoulder blades, neck, or spine may also find this posture to be uncomfortable. In this case, you can use a yoga strap to connect your hands with your feet or try half bow pose.
To try half bow pose, lie flat on the ground and come into a soft cobra pose. Firmly place your elbows beneath your shoulders and open your chest. Lift your left foot so that it is perpendicular to the ground, pressing your upper thighs into the ground as you do. Reach back with your right arm and grab hold of your left foot with your right hand. If this is too difficult for you, you can use a yoga strap. Repeat on the other side when you’re ready.
You can try this modification at home or in your next yoga class. To strengthen your entire body for this posture, try practicing these yoga poses at home:
- cobra pose
- locust pose
- bridge pose
- wheel pose (if you’re able)
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