How to Do Bow Pose in Yoga (Guide to Dhanurasana)

Bow pose is named as such because that’s exactly what it looks like – a beautiful bow. Although it’s not always straightforward to achieve this pose, there are many variations that can help us get there.

As well as engaging the entire back body in a deep stretch, we lengthen the front body and are forced to connect to an awareness of our breath.

“Bow pose is a quick way to feel powerful and strong,” says Yoga Answered contributor Keira Shepherd. “As we move towards balancing on the abdomen, we treat the body and brain to a position that requires focus, alignment, and balance.”

Bow Pose Quick Look

Sanskrit Name: Dhanurasana
Pose Type: Yoga Backbend Poses, Hip-Opening Yoga Poses, Seated Yoga Poses
Difficulty Level: Beginner pose
Targets: Shoulders, neck, back, arms, core, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, chest, hips, knees
Benefits: Bow pose stretches the entire front body while engaging the entire back body. The pose also encourages the spine into correct alignment and calms the nervous system.
Preparatory Poses: Locust pose, upward-facing dog pose, low lunge pose

How to Do Bow Pose Step-By-Step

  1. Lay on your belly on your mat.
  2. Inhale to bend your knees and bring your feet towards your glutes.
  3. As you exhale, reach backward with your arms to catch the outside of your feet.
  4. Lift your head and gaze forwards.
  5. Straighten your knees, kick your feet into your hands, and lift your chest to move deeper into the stretch.
  6. Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears.

Beginner’s Tip

Place a towel or folded blanket underneath the hips and pelvis to make this pose more comfortable.

Once you’re able to hold onto both of your feet, kick your feet into your hands to lift your quads further from the floor and move deeper into the pose.

Although it can feel a little difficult to breathe in this pose, try to relax into it. Direct your breath into your chest and relax your shoulders.

Contraindications

  • Avoid this pose if you are pregnant or have given birth in the past 6 weeks.
  • Don’t practice this pose if you suffer from high or low blood pressure – the pressure in the abdomen can make your breathing shallow and reduce the flow of blood to the brain.
  • Avoid if you have any pain or injury in the back.
  • Avoid if you have stomach ulcers or a hernia.

Variation

To work your way up to this pose, begin by practicing half-bow pose.

Start by laying on your belly on the floor with your left arm reaching out in front of you. From here, bend the right knee as you sweep the right arm back to catch your foot. Keep the right knee on the floor or kick into your foot to lift the knee away from the floor. To switch up your variation, try grabbing your foot with the opposite hand.

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