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.