Many yoga poses are named after animals and other things in the natural world that they…
Dhanurasana, or Bow Pose, is a yoga asana in which your whole body is arched like a bow. It’s a deep backbend that also stretches out the entire front half of your body, especially your chest, core and quads.
This pose can easily be adapted to any level of yoga practitioner. It can either be made more challenging using simple variations or less challenging using yoga props for added support.
To fully understand how this asana works so that you may safely add it to your regular yoga practice, please be sure to read our entire guide to Bow Pose.
Benefits and Contraindications
Backbend poses are highly beneficial to our bodies, especially considering all of the modern-day activities we do that require us to sit in a chair hunched over a keyboard or with our shoulders rotated inwards as we look down at our mobile phones.
Bow Pose helps increase flexibility in your spine while at the same time opening up the entire front of your body. It also helps strengthen your core, arms and legs, as well as improves your focus and discipline.
Don’t practice this pose if you’re pregnant. You may also want to avoid this one if you’ve recently undergone surgery or have had stitches around the area of your abdomen.
Despite being beneficial regarding health issues such as slipped discs or inwardly rotated shoulder cuffs, this pose should be avoided if you’ve suffered shoulder or back injuries in the past.
Be sure to consult your general practitioner before incorporating any new asanas or movements into your practice, especially if you suffer from pre-existing conditions that might be aggravated rather than helped by the practice.
Asana to Warm up for Bow Pose
Always make sure to warm up your body with other asanas before going into a deep backbend like Dhanurasana. These additional yoga poses will gently prepare your body for Bow Pose by easing your chest, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs into a more flexible state.
Cat-Cows with Leg Extensions
Cat and Cow vinyasa introduces movement and flexion in your spine while you move according to the flow of your breath. Adding leg extensions into the mix will help deepen the backbend as well as give your arms and legs a good stretch.
After a few rounds of Cat-Cows, bring your spine to a neutral position. Inhale and bend your right knee. With your right hand, reach for your right ankle, then exhale and raise your leg up behind you. Feel the stretch in both your arm and leg.
After a few breaths on this side, release and repeat on your other side.
Equestrian Pose is a hip opener that also creates a gentle backbend and stretches your quads.
As you practice this pose, continue to push your hips forward while you roll back your shoulders.
Sphynx Pose is a more passive backbend that allows you to relax your back, buttocks, and legs.
Place your elbows and forearms on the ground to hold yourself up in a comfortable position. Take in long, deep breaths and stay in this pose for three minutes or longer.
Locust Pose is a more active backbend that engages your whole body.
Practice a variation of this pose and either keep your hands at your sides or interlace them behind you as you reach for your toes. For a more strengthening version, bring both of your arms forward and lift up your chest and legs.
How to Get into Bow Pose
Once you’ve warmed up your body with a few additional poses, you’re ready to start practicing Dhanurasana.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get into Bow Pose:
- To start, lay down on your belly. Place your chin on your mat and hold your gaze out in front of you.
- Bring your feet hip width apart.
- Bend your knees and either grab a hold of the outside of our feet or hold on to your ankles from the outside.
- To get a good grip, activate and flex your feet.
- On an inhale, kick your feet back and lift your chest up.
- Allow your body to roll onto the soft part of your belly.
- Rest your gaze on a spot that’s about three feet in front of you or look upwards without compressing your cervical spine.
- Squeeze your knees together as you continue to kick back your feet and deepen the backbend.
- If you’re able to maintain your grip in this position, you may also want to point your toes.
- While holding the pose, take deep, long and steady breaths.
- On an exhale, carefully release the pose and bring your body down to the mat to rest on your belly with your arms by your sides. Allow your body to completely relax as you take a few moments recover.
Easy Bow Pose for Beginners
Yoga novices may start with practicing Easy Bow Pose instead of the full Dhanurasana. The set-up is the same but instead of kicking your legs back and up, keep your thighs on the ground as you bend your knees and focus on pulling with your arms while at the same time pushing your chest forward to keep your upper body above the ground.
As you work on becoming more flexible in order to later incorporate the lower body into the pose, this variation helps strengthen your arms while stretching both your upper back and the front half of your body.
Bow Pose Variations with Yoga Props
Yoga props are your friend no matter how long you’ve been practicing yoga. Props help you focus on other areas of a pose while you work on increasing your strength and flexibility. In addition, props make poses more accessible to all levels of yoga practitioners.
Here are some suggestions on how you can use props for added support in Dhanurasana.
- Place a yoga block between your knees and squeeze them together to keep your legs active as you kick them up behind you.
- Create a loop with your yoga strap and place it around your legs to prevent your knees from opening up too wide while holding the pose.
- Use both of these props simultaneously.
- Wrap a strap around your feet and hold on to both ends of the strap instead of your ankles.
- Place a folded or rolled up towel under the soft part of your belly to help you hold the pose. Make sure that the towel doesn’t exert pressure on your floating ribs. When you release the pose, completely relax your belly on the towel.
Dhandasana Variations for Intermediate Yoga Practitioners
Intermediate yoga practitioners may want to practice other variations of this pose to add other dynamics to Bow Pose.
The first variation would be to hold your ankles from the inside of your legs instead of from the outside. This will expand your chest even more and is also a great way to open up tight rotator shoulder cuffs.
Another variation would be to release one hand while continuing to hold the pose. If you start by releasing your left hand, continue to hold your right ankle with your right hand and extend your left arm out in front of you.
Make sure that your legs are still level with each other.
Bring the tips of your forefinger and thumb together to create a circle and form a mudra.
After bringing your left hand back to your left ankle, repeat the above steps on your right side for balance.
Bow Pose is a deep backbend yoga pose that can be made accessible to anyone with the help of a few simple steps or by practicing some variations of the pose. Practicing this asana after a warm-up is a great way to increase the flexibility of your spine while at the same time stretching out the entire front half of your body. It’s a great pose for supporting your digestion and opening up your heart and chest.