Yoga Journal - - Practice Well -

Dhanus = bow · asana = pose Bow Pose

BEN­E­FITS Strength­ens your back; opens your shoul­ders and chest; sta­bi­lizes your legs; im­proves hip-flexor func­tion; stim­u­lates di­ges­tion and en­ergy flow in your in­ter­nal or­gans IN­STRUC­TION

1 Be­gin by ly­ing on your belly with your arms in a cac­tus po­si­tion on the floor. As you in­hale, gen­tly squeeze your shoul­der blades back to­ward each other. Then, progress by lift­ing your chest, your head, and the top of your ribs off the floor. Exhale, and on your next in­hala­tion, lift your legs off the floor. Press your feet to­gether and keep your legs ac­tive and en­gaged. Bend your el­bows as if squeez­ing them to­ward each other be­hind you.

2 While main­tain­ing the lift in your chest and legs, bend your knees and bring your heels to­ward your head un­til your toes are ver­ti­cal above your an­kles. Keep your hands open with palms fac­ing the floor, and squeeze the skin be­hind your shoul­der blades to en­gage the mus­cles in your up­per back. Press your big toes and in­ner heels to­gether. Take 5–10 breaths. Slowly re­lease to the floor, and then re­peat at least one more time be­fore pro­ceed­ing to step 3.

3 With your legs and arms lifted off the ground, pre­pare to move into a low-en­ergy Dha­nurasana. Reach your hands back to­ward your an­kles, and with your palms fac­ing in, gen­tly catch them from the out­side. Stay here for 3–5 breaths, and try to keep your feet and an­kles touch­ing. Re­lease your grip on your an­kles and slowly lower to the floor. Lie on your belly with your head cra­dled in your hands for 3 breaths.

4 Re­peat steps 1–3, but this time, hold the grip on your an­kles. In­crease the en­ergy in your legs by rais­ing them slightly higher, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously pulling them to­ward the wall be­hind you. In this pose, you will re­sem­ble the dy­nam­ics of a bow; for the ar­row to fly, it must cre­ate ten­sion with the bow. Your legs are the strong­est part of your body, and when you ac­ti­vate their strength, you sta­bi­lize your pelvis and cre­ate a safe en­vi­ron­ment for your spine to bend. If your legs do not pull back, your up­per body can­not open. How­ever, if you do lift your legs higher, you’ll no­tice the en­tire front of your chest and shoul­der area open­ing. Re­lax your belly mus­cles here, let­ting them stretch. Hold for 5–10 breaths, then slowly re­lease to the floor. Re­peat up to 3 times. This pose is the ex­pres­sion of sthira and

sukha in prac­tice. Sthira is steadi­ness and strength, which is nec­es­sary to sup­port sukha, the full ex­pres­sion of hap­pi­ness, joy, and free­dom—in this case, the open­ing of the heart cen­ter.

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