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Bow Pose (dhanurasana)

Back bend that stretches your abdominals, hips, shoulders and thighs.
 

Bow Pose (dhanurasana) - Yoga Posture
Bow Pose (or dhanurasana) is an advanced back bend that increases the strength and flexibility of your back and spine. In addition, Bow Pose stretches your abdominals, hips and the front of your shoulders and thighs. This invigorating pose also opens your chest, which can help improve your breathing.
 
Since this pose is an advanced back bend, you should gain experience with easier back bends, such as Bridge Pose, before you attempt Bow Pose.
 
In Bow Pose, stretching your legs away from your body helps to lift your head, chest and thighs off the floor. As your upper body lifts off the floor, keep your shoulders broad as you concentrate on lengthening your spine and using your entire spine to bend backward. If your lower back feels compressed, release your body down a bit or come out of the pose.
 
Always take caution when performing Bow Pose. You should avoid Bow Pose if you have back problems or high blood pressure.
 
Steps:
Lie flat on the floor with your forehead resting on the floor.
Bend your knees as you reach back with your hands and clasp your ankles or the top of your feet. Your knees and feet should be hip width apart.
Exhale as you gently press your pubic bone into the floor.
Inhale as you lift your head, chest and thighs off the floor.
Stretch your legs away from your body and press your feet into your hands to further lift your head, chest and thighs off the floor.
(Make sure your arms are straight, but your elbows are not locked.)
Point the crown of your head toward the ceiling and gaze straight ahead.
(Visualize your body forming a graceful bow with your arms as the string.)
Hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds and then exhale as you come out of the pose.
(After performing Bow Pose, you should perform a forward bend, such as Child's Pose, to release your lower back.)
 
Modification:
You can modify Bow Pose to add movement to the pose and massage your abdominal organs. Perform Bow Pose and then rock your body forward and backward three to five times before holding the pose. This modification is known as Rocking Bow.
 
I cannot clasp my ankles or feet in Bow Pose. What can I do?
You can loop a strap around the top of each foot and then grasp the ends of each strap in either hand. Keep the straps taut, but do not use the straps to pull yourself into the back bend. If you only have one strap, you can loop the strap around both of your feet. Remember to keep your knees and feet hip width apart when using straps.
 
How can I gain the flexibility needed to perform Bow Pose?
In addition to practicing easier back bends, you can perform Bow Pose holding only one leg at a time. Perform the pose as described in the steps above, except bend one knee and clasp your ankle or the top of your foot, as you keep your other leg straight and flat on the floor. Hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds and then repeat the modification holding your other leg. Once you have gained more flexibility, you can try performing Bow Pose holding both legs.
 
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