Dhanurasana or the Bow gives a complete activation of the whole spine, helping maintain both its suppleness and strength and also of the hips. It is an amazing backward bend, which opens the chest and stretches the pecs and the quads. In the final stage the bow gives a gentle massage to the abdominal organs, obviously aiding digestion.
In this posture the Manipura chakra (the solar centre) and Vishuddhi chakra (the throat centre) are activated. As a result, we find that on a mental and emotional level this posture helps you to express yourself. The bow is a very powerful posture for helping us to train the mind. In the practice of archery it is said that the concentrated focus on a target helps the subject and the object to become one.
If you are suffering from heart problems, high blood pressure or have had recent abdominal surgery please avoid this posture. Women who are pregnant or are menstruating should also avoid this posture.
It is really important to prepare the body for the stretches this posture brings. Use the quadriceps stretch (stand on one leg and hold the other foot close to the buttocks – keeping the knees close together and the sternum lifted), the iliopsoas stretch and the pectoralis stretch (take a yoga strap and hold onto it with your arms about 1m apart – then lift up and over your head, so your arms are stretched out behind you).
How to do this posture?
A blanket can be used to cushion the hip bones. You may also find that you need to use straps to perform the individual stages of this posture. If your hands don’t reach your feet easily then please take care not to over-stretch – use a strap or a sash hooked around the ankle. It is important to gain the benefits of the posture without any pain.
Stage 1 (preparing the knees and thighs)
Then bring the left hand also to the right foot. Breathe in and as you exhale raise the right thigh by pushing the front of the right foot into your palms and moving your heel away from your buttock. At the same time lift your head and chest off the ground. Hold for a few seconds, breathing normally. Breath out and lower your head and chest to the ground and release hold of your right foot. Make sure you release hands and feet gently back to the floor.
Rest in Makarasana for a few moments before repeating with the left leg.
Stage 2 (full posture)
Your arms are like the bow-string which tenses to bring the body back into the shape of the bow.
It is important to follow this posture with some forward bending postures. Either the knee-to-head posture (Janu Sirsasana) or the sitting forward bend (Paschimottanasana) would be good.