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Yoga Poses

3 Ways to Prep for Bow Pose

Strengthen core muscles, ease lower back pain, and open your shoulders and chest with these prep poses for Dhanurasana.

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Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Locust Pose

Benefits 
Strengthens back muscles; stretches your shoulders and chest; improves posture

Instruction
Begin lying on your belly with your arms at your sides, forehead on your mat, palms facing up. Take a full cycle of breath, and as you complete the exhalation, gently squeeze your legs together and press the backs of your hands and fingernails into the ground. As you inhale, lift your upper and lower body simultaneously, keeping your feet and heels together and your legs straight. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades back toward each other, and then lift your chest higher off the ground. To open your shoulders more fully, reach your hands toward each other and, keeping your elbows straight, clench your hands together and lift your arms. (This deepest version of the pose will help to open your chest and shoulders in preparation for our peak pose.) Keep your gaze on the tip of your nose and imagine lengthening your entire body from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head. Hold here for 8–10 breaths. If there is any pinching in your lower back, slightly lower your chest and legs, or put your hands back on the floor. Feel for the sweet spot where you’re able to breathe comfortably but are working with full concentration.

See also Learn to Backbend Better: Locust Pose

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Bridge Pose

Benefits 
Strengthens your legs and back to support deeper backbends; helps open your shoulders and neck

Instruction 
Lie on your back with your arms at your sides and your feet on the floor, knees bent, with feet directly below your knees. On your next inhalation, lift your hips off the floor. As your hips rise, reach your hands toward each other and interlace your fingers—or place your palms flat on the floor until your shoulders become more mobile. Breathe deeply and begin to generate strong energy in your legs. Ground your feet, and lift your hips. Squeeze your shoulders back toward each other, and use your legs to aim your sternum toward your chin. This motion should relieve stiffness in the back of your neck and shoulders. Keep your head completely relaxed, and hold for 8–10 breaths.  

See also Upward-Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose

Eka Pada Dhanurasana (One-Legged Bow Pose)

One-legged Bow Pose

Benefits 
Strengthens your legs and back; lengthens your hip flexors and creates balance; helps increase energy and stamina

Instruction 
Begin by lying on your belly with both of your arms at your sides, palms facing up. On an inhalation, squeeze your shoulder blades back, and begin to lift your chest and head off the ground. On your next exhalation, press your left leg into the floor as you bend your right knee, lifting the entire right leg off the floor. Reach both hands toward your right ankle and grab it firmly. As you breathe and hold the pose, start intensifying the energy in your bent leg by lifting it higher or by using it to pull your chest and shoulders farther open by moving toward straightening your bent leg. Take 5–10 breaths here, and then put your right leg down. With your arms, make a cradle to rest under your head, then repeat on the other side.

See also Half Frog Pose

About Our Pro
Model and teacher Jodi Blumstein has been a devoted student of Ashtanga Yoga since 1994. In 1998, she opened the first Ashtanga Yoga school in Chicago, and for the past 11 years, she has been teaching the practice at YogaWorks Center for Yoga in Los Angeles. To learn more, visit jodiblumstein.com or check out her classes at yogaglo.com.