Instructor: Sarah N.
Sarah has completed an intensive yoga teacher training program in Pune, India at the BKS Iyengar Yoga Institute. She has been inspired to continue practicing yoga for life.

Bow Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions


Bring more elasticity into your back and help prevent slipped discs with the Bow Pose, also known as “Dhanurasana”. By bending back into the shape of an archer's bow, your energy will rise as you feel like a weapon: locked, loaded and ready to shoot an arrow.

Step by Step Pose Information Benefits Variations

Dhanurasana

(Pronounced as "don-your-AHS-anna")

The Sanskrit word dhanu means "a large bow" like those used by warriors in ancient times. When you perform this posture, your torso and legs represent the crescent-shaped frame of the bow's body, and your arms become tight and straight like the bowstring.

How to do Bow Pose

Step One

Lie down on your stomach on the yoga mat. Take a deep breath as you lift your head and chest up slightly from the floor. Then when you exhale, bend your knees, reach your arms behind you and grab your ankles. The right hand grabs hold of the right ankle, and the left hand holds the left ankle. Keep your knees in line with your hips. Do not spread your knees further apart than that.

Take two full breaths in this position.

Step Two

Take one deep inhalation. Now when you exhale, tighten your thighs and raise your knees higher above the floor, pulling your chest up off the floor at the same time.

Rotate your shoulders back, tucking in your shoulder blades as you lift your head up to look at the ceiling. Keep pushing your knees back and up as you raise both your ribs and your pelvis up from the floor. Shift your body weight onto your abdomen. You may rock your body slight back and forth as needed until you can feel that only your abdomen is pressing into the floor.

Keep tucking your tailbone in while lifting your heels and your chest.

Step Three

As you hold the pose, your speed of your breathing will naturally increase somewhat. However, let it be that way and do not worry about it. Do not hold your breath, and visualize breathing into your back muscles also.

Step Four

Try to hold this posture for 20 seconds, and you can gradually increase the time up to one minute over time as you practice it regularly. Exhale as you come out of the pose. Lie flat on your belly to catch your breath. Then you can try it again as you like.

*Do not do any forward bends after this posture unless this is the last backbend of your practice today.

Beginner's Tip:

When you first perform Bow Pose, you may find it difficult to lift your pelvis from the floor and raise your thighs. You can train your muscles to learn these actions by rolling up a yoga blanket and placing it under your upper thighs while you practice this posture.

Bow Pose Information

Sanskrit Name:

Dhanurasana

Pose Level:

Level 1

Contraindications and Cautions:

  • Heart problems and irregular blood pressure
  • Abnormal bowel movements like constipation or diarrhea
  • Intense headaches
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Menstruation
  • Recent lower-back or neck injuries where you still have lots of inflammation

Modifications and Props:

If you cannot quite reach your ankles behind you, then place a yoga belt around the fronts of your ankles. Then hold both ends of the belt in your hands instead while keeping your arms straight to get the same effect.

Deepen the Pose:

If you feel comfortable grabbing your ankles and stretching up in Dhanurasana, then go deeper into it by extending your knees and head up as high as possible with your knees apart. Then after you reach your maximum height, bring your legs and feet together.

Therapeutic Applications:

  • Improves blood flow to the heart
  • Helps expand the lungs
  • Realigns spinal discs with a tendency to slip out of place
  • Alleviates PMS

Bow Pose Benefits:

  • In Bow Pose, the whole front side of your body from your ankles to your throat gets a deep stretch. Even the deep-hip flexors, or psoas muscles, can open and release.
  • You build strength in your back muscles.
  • You tone your abdominal organs.
  • The posture of your whole body improves.
  • It stimulates circulation to all the organs in your abdomen and neck.

Bow Pose Variations

In Parshva Dhanurasana, you practice doing the Bow Pose on your side. The Sanskrit word Parshva means "flank or side." To do this variation, first you perform Dhanurasana as you normally would. Then after you reach your full extension, exhale as you shift your weight to your right side and lift your left leg higher to tip yourself over, rolling onto your right side. Keep a good grip on your ankles and lean your whole body weight into it.

If this roll is very difficult, then you can practice rolling without grabbing your ankles so that you can use your hands to push over into it.

Stay on each side for 20 seconds or longer. Take a deep breath and exhale as you roll back up and over to the other side. Remain on each side for the same amount of time. This pose gives a deeper massage to all of your abdominal organs and helps you deepen your stretch.

Partnering:

Ask a partner to help your muscles learn the proper curve and extension of your back in this posture. They need to stand behind you. Ask them to put one foot on top of your tailbone. Their foot should only give light pressure; they should not press the foot down with much weight.

Then as you grip your ankles behind you, have them grab your wrists and pull them back and slightly up. This movement will give you extra lift as your spine adjusts. Then try to hold this lifted position on your own after they release your wrists and remove their foot.

Next Pose:

Bridge Pose

9 styles | 152 poses

Beginner Yoga Poses

Bharadvaja's Twist Pose
Big Toe Pose
Boat Pose
Bound Angle Pose
Bow Pose
Bridge Pose
Camel Pose
Cat Pose
Chair Pose
Child's Pose
Cobra Pose
Corpse Pose
Cow Pose
Cow Face Pose
Crow Pose
Dolphin Plank Pose
Downward Dog Pose
Eagle Pose
Eight Angle Pose
Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose
Extended Puppy Pose
Extended Side Angle Pose
Firefly Pose
Fish Pose
Garland Pose
Half Frog Pose
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Half Moon Pose
Yoga Handstand
Happy Baby Pose
Head To Knee Pose
High Lunge Pose
Legs Up The Wall Pose
Locust Pose
Lotus Pose
Shoulder Pressing Pose
Low Lunge Pose
Monkey Pose
Mountain Pose
Noose Pose
Plank Pose
Plow Pose
Sage Koundinya I Pose
Sage Marichi's Pose
Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
Revolved Triangle Pose
Revolved Head to Knee Pose
Reclining Hero Pose
Scale Pose
Side Reclining Leg Lift Pose
Peacock Pose
Pyramid Pose
Crescent Lunge Pose
Heron Pose
Hero Pose
Feathered Peacock Pose
Staff Pose
Seated Forward Bend Pose
Four Limbed Staff Pose
Revolved Side Angle Pose
Wild Thing Pose
Side Crow Pose
Side Plank Pose
Sphinx Pose
Supported Headstand (Sirsasana)
Tree Pose
Standing Split
Supported Shoulderstand
Standing Half Forward Bend
Triangle Pose
Upward Plank Pose
Upward Facing Two Foot Staff Pose
Wheel Pose
Upward Salute Pose
Upward Facing Dog Pose
Warrior I Pose
Warrior II Pose
Warrior III Pose
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
Easy Pose
Gate Pose
Wide Legged Forward Fold
Dancer Pose
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose II
Marichi's Pose
Fire Log Pose
Standing Forward Bend
Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II

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