Dhanurasana, or Bow Pose, is an impressive-looking yoga move that does wonders for the body as a whole. Is a backbend that deeply opens the chest and the front of the body. 

As the back folds in on itself, strength is created by keeping the upper body poised on the powerful core. As we reach our arms back to grasp onto our ankles we can feel our shoulders opening, our chest pushing forward, and our back stretching. A pull is felt in our quadriceps as we lift our feet as high as we are able. The entire body comes to mirror an archer’s bow. 

The name comes from the Sanskrit dhanu, meaning “bow,” and asana, meaning “pose.” 

Dhanurasana can be used to replace cobra pose during Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskar, as a way to add variety and challenge to our yoga practice. Whether new to yoga or simply needing a boost in our confidence, Bow Pose helps reassure us of our abilities and reminds us of the strength we already have in our bodies.

Benefits of Dhanurasana or Bow Pose:

Physical Benefits

- This asana tones and strengthens the muscles around the hamstrings, calves and quadriceps.

- Provides a deep stretch for the chest and shoulder muscles, by practicing it often you will say goodbye to your sagging shoulders.

- Dhanurasana improves your back-bending technique. The muscles around the Spinal Cord and the Neck are strengthened, helping to correct the alignment of the spine and bringing that much needed flexibility.

General and Mental Benefits

- Bow Pose does wonders for your self-esteem as the head is raised high and the pose engages the entire body.

- Helps to treat menstrual disorders and tones female organs.

- Stimulates the nervous system bringing balance.

- The Bow Pose helps abdominal organs to function better, improving the health of the stomach, liver, intestines, kidneys, spleen and pancreas.

- Brings balance in the inner body by improving the secretion by the various glands.

Chakras involved in Dhanurasana

As you lift both your upper and lower bodies, you remain connected to the Earth through your Manipura or solar plexus chakra

This chakra has to do with self-confidence and self-assurance, and so using this pose is putting your faith back into yourself. The mantra for Manipura is “Ram”, which can either be chanted or focused on during this pose to acknowledge the opening of the solar plexus chakra.

How to do Bow Pose or Dhanurasana:

  1. Begin this pose by lying flat on your stomach and your legs about hip-width distance apart. If using any props, ensure they are easily accessible.
  2. Bend both legs so your thighs remain planted on the Earth, and your feet are pointing towards the sky.
  3. When you feel ready, reach your arms back to grab onto the outside edge of your foot or your ankles – whatever feels the most comfortable. There is no need to strain as we reach, as this can lead to pulling a muscle in our necks or shoulders.
  4. Begin to slowly lift your legs up by tightening your grip on your feet or ankles and bending the lower part of the back in an upwards motion. While doing this, the head and neck also lift off the ground. This may be enough for you, or you may feel you can continue to lift the upper half of your body until your chest is also off the ground.
  5. Take a deep breath and notice the expansion of your chest, and how the breath aids in stretching the middle back. You may also feel different sensations throughout your body; explore these emotions and where they are being held in the body.
  6. To exit out of Bow Pose, lower the upper and lower half of the body until it resembles what it felt like in step three. Once the legs can no longer be lowered you can let go of and slowly place them back down on the mat.
  7. To complement this pose, consider a pose that will curve the spine the opposite way, or bring it back to a neutral position. Child’s Pose, or Balasana, is a gentle resting pose that can always be entered after or before a more challenging pose.

Tips for Beginners

  1. Keep a bolster or stack of pillows available to help keep the upper half of the body raised. This will help take away some of the strain and strength we need for this pose if the body is not quite ready.
  2. If reaching both feet in this pose feels difficult, try focusing on one side of the body at a time, following the same steps as above, but instead of raising both legs, do it one at a time.
  3. Other poses that help increase back flexibility and strength can be used in preparation for this pose. Bhujangasana, or Cobra Pose, increases strength in the upper body but also helps prepare for more challenging backbends.

Optional Props to help you practice Bow Pose or Dhanurasana

  1. A bolster, or stack of blankets or pillows, can be placed in front of the body to help keep the body elevated.
  2. For more advanced users, a rope or band can be secured around the feet. Once properly secured, rather than grabbing the ankles, you can grab each end of a rope with both hands and lightly begin to pull for a deeper backbend. The use of this prop is not meant to cause extra strain for the back, but to support the back when it can already do, so be mindful and use this prop safely.

When to Avoid the practice of Dhanurasana

It is best to avoid doing Bow Pose if there is a history of neck, back, or shoulder injury. 

- Avoid the bow pose if you have severe back pain or back injury .

- Pregnant women should avoid this asana, as the pose has a strong impact on the abdominal area. 

- If you suffer from either High or Low pressure this pose is not recommended.

- People suffering from ulcers in the stomach or Hernias should avoid this pose.

- Any kind of neck injury including someone suffering from spondylitis.

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