The Dhanurasana or the bow yoga pose is an intermediate posture that is similar to a backbend. In this article, you can learn about the correct way to do this asana, its benefits, and its contraindications.
What Is the Bow Pose in Yoga?
The bow pose or Dhanurasana (pronounced as Dha-nur-AAH-suh-na) is a yoga asana that involves bending the back. It’s named this because of the shape that your body takes when you do the pose.
“Dhanur” in Sanskrit means bow, and “asana” means pose or posture. This asana improves the flexibility and strength of the spine. Balance and strength in your core muscles are important when doing this asana.
There is a deep connection between this pose and Indian mythology, which has several mentions of the bow as part of the armor. Just as a strong bow is an asset to a warrior, this asana calls for determination and strength as you ease into this posture.
Preparing for the Bow Pose
Doing the bow pose at a well-chosen time when you’re in proper physical shape gives the optimum benefit.
There are a few things to keep in mind before doing this pose:
- It would be best to wait to do this pose until at least four to five hours after a meal.
- The best time to do this pose is in the early morning. But you can do it in the evening as well if your morning involves other activities.
- Make sure that you’re properly warmed up for this pose. You can do Shalabhasana (locust pose) and Bhujangasana (cobra pose) as preparatory poses to help you warm up before you do the bow pose.
How To Do the Bow Pose
Once you’re properly warmed up, you can ease into the bow pose by following these steps.
Step 1. To begin the bow pose, lie down on your stomach. You can either lie down on the floor or use a yoga mat. Place your feet apart, about the width of your hips.
Step 2. Bend your legs upward so that the soles of your feet face towards your head.
Step 3. Take your hands behind you on either side and hold your ankles. At this point, your left hand is holding your left ankle while your right hand is holding your right ankle.
Step 4. As you breathe in, lift your chest off the floor, and with the help of your hands, pull your legs up in the air as well. At this point, with your chest and knees in the air, your body forms a bow shape. Your body is curved, stretched, and taut with your chest and knees at the same level.
Step 5. Look straight ahead and keep a gentle smile on your face. Take a few deep breaths while holding this position. Breathing while holding the perfect bow pose may need more practice, but your breath should be as long and deep as possible.
Step 6. Bend only as far as you can without overdoing the stretch. A good way to understand your limit is to bend till you feel at ease with your balance while you’re still maintaining the pose. Continue to take long, deep breaths.
Step 7. After holding the pose for 15 to 20 seconds, bring your chest and knees to the ground as you breathe out. Remove your hands from your ankles and place your arms and legs on the floor.
If you’re a beginner, you should focus on your breath while you hold your pose. Breathe in as you enter the bow pose and breathe out as you come out of it.
Benefits of Bow Pose
Regular practice of the bow pose has physical as well as mental health benefits:
- Stretches and strengthens your core and abdominal muscles
- Strengthens the muscles in the back when you contract to complete the pose
- Tones your neck muscles when you hold the pose
- Unlocks the muscles in your chest, neck, and shoulders
- Conditions the muscles in your arms and legs as you stretch backward and hold on to your feet with your arms
- Enhances your spine flexibility
- Eases any discomfort related to menstruation, especially menstrual cramps
- Aids the elimination process of the body and soothes constipation
- Strengthens the muscles in your lower body, especially the quadriceps
- Expands the muscles in your rib cage, which improves your lung capacity and aids the respiratory process
- Improves balance, awareness, and willpower
- Activates the solar plexus, which in turn stimulates your abdominal organs and the sympathetic nervous system
- Strengthens your digestive organs
- Improves your overall body posture
- Enhances the movement of your shoulder joints
- Compresses your spine and stabilizes your intervertebral discs
Contraindications for Bow Pose
While doing the bow pose does have many health benefits, there are some conditions under which doing this pose is not recommended. These include:
Variations of the Bow Pose
The bow pose becomes easier with practice. Your ability to bend and hold your ankles also improves with time. Although there aren’t any strict variations to the bow pose, you can stretch further if it's comfortable for you.
If you’re unable to bend enough to hold your ankles with your arms, you can use a strap to connect your ankles to your hands. You can follow the bow pose with Ustrasana (camel pose) and Chakrasana (wheel pose).