The Bow Pose, also known as Dhanurasana, stretches the entire front part of your body while building strength in your back muscles.
The pose is a back bending as well as heart opening yoga pose that promotes your posture and can stimulate your neck and abdominal organs.
Lifting your torso up and back opens the chest and deeply stretches the back. This yoga pose is a great way to deeply stretch the back after hunching all day.
Experts believe that the Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) can provide relief from back pain, constipation, anxiety and respiratory ailments.
Meaning + Mythology
The Dhanurasana is derived from the Sanskrit name which is made up of two words — Dhanu + asana:
- “Dhanu = “bow”
- “asana” = “pose or posture”
The pose is named after the shape of the body that it takes when performing it – bow-shaped. Just as a well stretched bow is an asset to a warrior, a well stretched body helps to keep you flexible with a good posture.
The bow is frequently mentioned in Indian mythology. In the Ramayana, Lord Rama broke the bow of Lord Shiva in Princess Sita’s swayamvara to win his hand in marriage, a feat that no other prince could do, indicating his divinity. In the Mahabharata, some of the greatest duets involved the bow and arrow. Both Prince Arjun and his arch enemy Karna were adept at using the bow and arrow. However, Arjun surpassed all others in archery with his determination and constant practice. It is this determination and consistency that you will find within yourself while moving smoothly in Bow Pose (Dhanurasana).
|Know as:||Dhanurasana, Bow pose|
|Type:||Backbend, Prone, Heart opener|
|Total time:||20-30 sseconds|
On floor, directly under nose
|Chakra:||Vishuddha Chakra, Anahata Chakra, Manipura Chakra, Swadisthana Chakra, Muladhara Chakra|
|Indications:||Backaches, constipation, respiratory illnesses and anxiety|
|Counterposes:||Lying on belly, Balasana (Child’s Pose), Downward Facing Dog Pose|
|Preparatory poses:||Cobra Pose, Locust Pose, Bridge Pose, Upward-Facing Dog Pose, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Reclining Hero Pose, Hero Pose|
|Follow-up poses:||Camel Pose, Bridge Pose, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Fish Pose|
|Contraindications:||Neck injury (keep your gaze on the floor), Knee injury, Back injury, Pregnancy, Migraines, Insomnia, Blood pressure (high or low)|
Benefits of Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
Most back bends yoga pose directly work the abs and back but also benefit the whole body. In Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) too, the whole body is raised above the floor, which benefits not only the back but also the whole body. Some main physical and mental benefits are as follow:
- Physical Benefits:
- Mental Benefits:
- Relieves mild depression and anxiety
- Reduces stress
- Energizes the mind
How To Do Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)?
- Start by lying on your belly with your hands to your side, palms up.
- Exhale, bend your knees, and draw the soles of your feet close to the rear as possible. Grasp the ankles by keeping your knees no more than the width of your hips.
- Inhale and lift the soles of your feet backwards while simultaneously lifting your thighs off the floor. By doing this your head and upper body will naturally lift off the floor. Press your tailbone into the floor and allow your back muscles to maintain their softness. As you lift your thighs and heels, squeeze the shoulder blades into your back to open up your chest and heart. Look forward or on floor, directly under nose.
- Concentrate on breathing into your back, as it will be difficult to breathe with your belly between the ground and your body weight. Don’t forget to breathe. Stay in this position for 20-30 seconds.
- To release yourself from this posture, exhale as you lower your head and feet to the floor. Relax for several deep breaths.
Step-by-step Anatomy Engaging Techniques
Step-1: Engage the Gluteus Maximus
- Engage your gluteus maximus to extend your hips.
- In the initial phase of this asana, use your hamstrings to bring your ankles within range of your hands so that you can hold them. Deepen the pose by activating your quadriceps to straighten your knees. Then co-activate your hamstrings and gluteus maximus to roll your pelvis back and down. The tilting force of your pelvis also helps to lift your back.
- Note that extending your hips with the gluteus maximus separates the knees due to the external rotation component of this muscle.
- Contract your adductor magnus to draw your knees together and coordinate to extend your femur.
- Additionally, while internally rotating the thighs, press the outsides of the ankles against the hands to engage the tensor fascia latae and gluteus medius muscles.
Step-2: Engage the Rhomboids
- Engage your rhomboids to draw your shoulder blades toward the midline.
- Extend your upper arm bones (humeri) up and back, away from your trunk. This activates your posterior part of the deltoids.
- Before going into the pose, raise your one arm behind you and then reach around from the front with your other hand; You can feel your posterior deltoid contract on the back of your shoulder.
- Activate this muscle on both sides while in the posture of raising your arms. Engage your triceps to straighten your elbows. Notice how the actions of the rhomboids, posterior deltoids, and triceps combine to raise your legs and deepen the stretch.
Step-3: Expand the vertebral column
- Extend your vertebral column by connecting your erector spinae and quadratus lumborum.
- Draw your shoulders away from your neck with the lower trapezius. When you extend your back, your spine curves more, loosening the bow strings (your arms grasping your ankles).
- Activate your quadriceps to extend your knees. This re-tightens the bow string while maintaining the extension of your spine.
Step-4: Engage the Tibialis Anterior
- Engage your tibialis anterior and extensor hallucis and digitorum longus to dorsiflex your ankles; Contract your peroneus longus and brevis muscles on the sides of your lower legs to evert them.
- These actions create a lock for your hands to grip your ankles more firmly.
Step-5: Shrinking the Biceps and Brachialis
- Once your spine is fully extended, bend your elbows while contracting your biceps and brachialis muscles, engaging your quadriceps to straighten the knees.
- These opposing forces form a bandha.
Modifying Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- Floor Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) for Beginners: Beginners should start slowly – it will take some time to reach the potential with this yoga pose. When you first enter this pose, avoid bending the elbows and pulling with the hands. Focus on keeping the weight balanced in the center of the stomach and try not to move back and forth.
- Advanced Bow Pose (Dhanurasana): Once you have mastered the basics of this pose, focus on relaxing the neck and dropping the head back to deepen the pose.
- You can place a folded blanket under the pelvis and core for added support.
- Use a yoga strap to help you hold the posture if you can’t hold the ankles. Wrap the strap in front of the ankles and then grasp the strap to hold the pose.
- Keep the arms completely strong while holding the asana. You can also deepen the pose by touching the thighs, calves and inner legs.
Just as any yoga practice has benefits, there are also some precautions and contraindications. There are also some non-doing things or contraindications in Bow Pose (Dhanurasana), some of them are mentioned below:
- Since this yoga pose has a profound effect on the abdominal region, pregnant women should avoid it.
- Individuals suffering from low or high blood pressure should avoid this yoga pose as it brings a lot of pressure to the abdominal region, thus causing slight difficulty in breathing which can block the flow of blood to your brain.
- Any type of neck injury, including a person suffering from spondylitis.
- Someone has severe back pain or a back injury.
- There is a lot of pressure on the abdominal region as the whole body is in balance, so individual suffering from stomach ulcers or hernias should avoid this yoga pose.