Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Dhanus = bow · asana = pose
Strengthens your back; opens your shoulders and chest; stabilizes your legs; improves hip-flexor function; stimulates digestion and energy flow in your internal organs.
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.
See also Poses for Your Heart
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.
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.
See also Bridge Pose
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.
See also Upward-Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose
Dhanurasana should feel like a deep stretch in the front torso, reaching from your pubic bone to your throat. In your back body, your spine should be in full extension, and your pelvis should tilt forward so
that your tailbone is free to lift as the top of your sacrum moves toward the floor. (This is important to avoid low-back strain.) However, if you feel any pinching or compression in the low back, lower the pose until you feel comfortable. Don’t forget to always start slowly and listen to your body as you progress.
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.