The Bow pose (Dhanurasana) is a backbend yoga posture that involves lying on the stomach and using the strength of the back and legs to lift the chest off the ground. The pose gets its name from how the body forms an archer’s bow shape when the arms and legs are extended.
The posture stretches the entire front of the body, including the chest, abdomen, and thighs. It can also help to strengthen the back muscles and improve spinal flexibility.
|Sanskrit Name and Pronunciation||Dhanurasana (dhon-oor-AH-sah-nah)|
How to Do the Bow Pose
- Start by lying on the floor on your stomach with your arms by your sides and your forehead resting on the ground.
- Use your right arm to grab your right knee and bring your heels to your butt.
- Reach back and take hold of your outer ankles with your hands.
- Inhale and lift your chest off the ground, pulling your heels towards your buttocks as you do so.
- Hold the pose for a few breaths, focusing on lifting your chest.
- Slowly exhale, release your ankles, and lower your chest and legs back to the ground.
It’s important to keep your shoulder blades relaxed and not tense while doing this pose. You can also place a blanket or block under your pelvis to help lift your chest off the ground.
|Upper Back (Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius, Rhomboids)|
|Glutes (Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius)|
|Legs (Quadriceps, Hamstrings)|
While there are many research-backed mental and physical benefits of practicing yoga, there are few (if any) official studies on the Bow pose. However, it’s generally believed that practicing the wind-relieving pose provides several health benefits.
Strengthens Back Muscles
This pose helps strengthen the back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids, which can improve posture and alignment.
The Bow pose helps to stretch and lengthen the muscles in the front of the body, including the hip flexors and chest and can increase flexibility in the spine.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Like many yoga poses, the Bow pose can help to calm the mind and reduce stress and anxiety.
It can also help to stimulate the digestive system and improve digestion.
Relieves Back Pain
By stretching and strengthening the muscles in the back, the Bow pose can help to alleviate tension and stiffness in the back and reduce back pain.
Drawbacks and Risks
As with any physical activity, certain risks are associated with practicing the Bow Yoga Pose. Some potential risks to be aware of include:
- Back Strain: If the pose is not performed correctly, it can strain back muscles and lead to injury. Engaging the core muscles and keeping a neutral spine to support the back is important.
- Falling: The Bow pose requires balance, so you risk falling if you lose your balance. To minimize this risk, practice on a stable, non-slip surface, and use a block or blanket for added support if needed.
- Headache: Some people may experience a headache after practicing the Bow Yoga Pose due to the increased blood flow to the head. To minimize this risk, take breaks as needed and practice in a well-ventilated space.
- Wrist Strain: The pose puts a lot of weight on the wrists, leading to wrist strain or injury if the wrists are not properly aligned. To avoid wrist strain, keep your wrists under your shoulders and use a blanket or block under your hands for added support if needed.
- Not keeping the feet hip-width apart. It’s important to keep your feet hip-width apart in the bow pose, as this helps maintain balance and stability.
- Not keeping the arms straight: As you lift your chest off the ground, keep your arms straight and resist the temptation to bend them. This will help you to maintain proper alignment in the pose.
- Not using the hands to lift the chest: Using your hands to lift your chest off the ground in the bow pose is important rather than relying on your head or neck to do the work.
- Not engaging the core: Engaging your core muscles can support your back and stabilize you in the bow pose. Be sure to draw your navel towards your spine as you lift your chest off the ground.
- Not keeping the gaze forward: Looking down or back towards your feet as you hold the bow pose can be tempting. However, it’s important to keep your gaze forward to maintain proper alignment in the neck and spine.
- Not warming up. Make sure you have warmed up your spine before trying deeper backends like the Bow pose.
As with any yoga pose, it’s important to listen to your body and practice cautiously, taking breaks as needed and modifying the pose to suit your individual needs and abilities.
If you’re having trouble lifting your chest off the ground, you can use props such as blocks or blankets to support your body. Place the props under your pelvis to help lift your chest higher.
Modify Your Grip
Instead of holding onto your ankles, you can try holding a yoga strap or towel around your ankles. This can help to make the pose more accessible if you have difficulty reaching your ankles.
Practice with a Partner
You can also practice the bow pose with a partner who can help support your body and lift your chest off the ground.
Try an Easier Pose
If the Bow pose isn’t suitable for your current fitness level or if you are experiencing any injuries or limitations, several alternative poses can help you to build strength and flexibility in the back and legs, including:
- Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
- Upward-Facing Dog pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
- Child’s pose (Balasana)
- Downward-Facing Dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Variations and Alternatives
There are several variations of the Bow pose that you can try to challenge yourself and add variety to your yoga practice.
Half Bow Pose
The Half Bow pose involves lifting the chest and one leg off the ground while the other remains on the ground. This pose can be a good way to build strength and flexibility in the back and legs and improve balance and stability.
Supported Bow Pose
In the supported bow pose, you lie on your stomach with your arms by your sides and your forehead resting on the ground.
Lift your chest off the ground, and then have your partner hold onto your ankles and gently lift your legs off the ground. This can help to build strength and flexibility in the back and legs.
Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
This pose can be more challenging than the bow pose, requiring more upper-body strength.
Instead of lying on your stomach, you start by lying on your back with your arms by your sides. Then, you lift your chest off the ground and reach back to grab your ankles, lifting your legs off the ground as you do so.
Meagan Morris is the editor in chief of Celebribody. She's veteran health and wellness editor with over 15 years of experience. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Yahoo Health, Cosmopolitan, SELF, and Women's Health, among others. She spends most of her time writing, but her favorite part of the day is spent under a barbell doing squats.