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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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