HOW TO PRACTICE Bow Pose IN YOGA (Dhanurasana)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Bow Pose
The bow and arrow are a metaphor for the concept of accessing potential by first moving in opposition to your intended goal. An arrow must first be pulled back in order to fly forward. This metaphor fits Bow Pose (Sanskrit name: Dhanurasana). A powerhouse of a backbend yoga posture, Bow Pose promotes strength and vitality.
Bow Pose earns its name for its resemblance to an archer’s bow. The body forms the arced bow and the arms are the strings that create tension between the two ends. This powerful backbend pose generates energy and prepares you to launch into your day, just like the archer’s feathered arrow.
Benefits of Bow Pose
Like all backbend yoga poses, Dhanurasana can awaken the body and clear the mind, dissipating dullness and sluggishness. The asana strengthens the entire back body, from the ankles all the way up through the spine. It engages the muscles that support healthy posture, such as the rhomboids.
Bow Pose is a full-body endeavor: The entire front body—including the shins, quadriceps, abdomen, psoas, pectoralis, and shoulder—lengthen. In the back, the spinal extensors, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and adductor magnus are strengthened. Pressing your feet into your hands creates expansion across the front body, including the chest and shoulders, although care should be taken to refrain from overreliance on the shoulder joints. Instead, focus should be placed on mobilizing the shoulder blades, another benefit of the posture.
The bound angle of holding the feet in a full backbend may not be suitable for all bodies. Luckily, many variations of the yoga pose mean that everyone can enjoy the energizing, strengthening and lengthening benefits of Bow Pose without risk of injury. Check out the Yoga 2.0 tab to find a version that works with your body.
Basic Bow Pose
It’s important to warm up your spine and low back before attempting Bow Pose. Practicing a few less intense prone backbends beforehand, such as Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose) and Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), as well as a quadriceps- and iliopsoas-stretching pose such as Anjaneyasana (Lunge Pose), will help make Bow Pose more accessible.
- Lie face down with your legs outstretched on the floor.
- Bend your knees, moving your heels toward your ischial tuberosities (sit bones). Then grab ahold of the insides of your feet or ankles. Where you make contact will vary depending on your flexibility.
- Hug your inner thighs toward one another, keeping your knees hips-width apart. Then, if you are holding onto your ankles, flex your ankles and spread your toes wide.
- With your forehead on the floor, inhale and lengthen the sides of your body from your hips to your armpits, drawing your shoulder blades toward each other and expanding your chest.
- Holding firmly onto your feet or ankles, ground your thighs and move your feet away from your shoulders as you inhale, using the leverage of your legs to pull your upper torso and head off the floor. Lengthen the back of your neck by extending the base of your skull away from your shoulders. Your neck should follow the trajectory of the rest of your spine: Make sure you do not arch your head backward.
- Continue to press your feet or ankles into your hands, and lengthen your spine forward and upward out of your pelvis, extending through the crown of your head.
- Optional: Lift your thighs off the floor for an even deeper backbend. As you lift your chest and legs upward, remember to extend your tailbone toward your knees and keep your core muscles engaged to protect your lower back.
- Hold the yoga pose for up to 5 deep breaths. If your breathing becomes shallow, lower your body a bit.
- Slowly release your body to the floor on an exhalation.