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Yoga Poses

Challenge Pose: Akarna Dhanurasana I (Archer Pose I)

Follow these 5 steps to master Akarna Dhanurasana I, or Archer Pose I.

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PREVIOUS STEP IN YOGAPEDIA 3 Ways to Prep for Akarna Dhanurasana I (Archer Pose I)

Akarna Dhanurasana I
A = Near, toward · Karna = Ear · Dhanu = Bow · Asana = Pose

Archer Pose I

Increases flexibility and suppleness of your legs and hips; massages your abdominal organs; improves digestion; builds concentration, strength, and agility

Step 1


Begin seated with the soles of your feet together in Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose). Release from your inner groins to your inner knees, and draw your outer thighs gently back toward your outer hips. Take your hands or fingertips behind your hips, pressing them down to lift your buttocks slightly off the floor. Bring your buttocks closer to your heels and then back to the floor. Wrap your hands around your toes, and draw your shoulder blades closer to your spine. Sit upright, and look forward. Inhale into the sides of your chest, and exhale all the way down to the lower regions of your pelvic floor. After a few breaths, keep your spine straight, and exhale, tilting your torso and pelvis a little bit forward (anterior rotation). Take a few more breaths, and focus on the release of your groins and inner legs.

See also Seated Yoga Poses

Step 2


Use your hands to lift up your outer knees, and stretch your legs out in front of you. Bend your left leg, and grip the outer edge of your left foot with your left hand. Place your right hand against your left heel. Keep your left foot at armpit height, and press your hands against your foot to rhythmically pump your left leg straight back and forth 10–15 times. This dynamic pumping brings your thigh bone deeper into the back of your hip socket and breaks up some of the stiffness in the surrounding hip and leg muscles. Focus more on the activation and less on the alignment. Change legs, and repeat on the other side.

See also Not ALL Hips Need Opening: 3 Moves for Hip Stability

Step 3


Extend both legs in front of you to return to Dandasana. On an inhalation, lift your arms overhead, then hook your thumbs to get a good lift throughout your torso. Maintain a lift in your trunk, and reach forward to hold your big toes in Padangustha Mudra. Take a breath. Press your big toes into your fingers, extending your legs. Press the backs of your legs down as you lift your inner arms up toward the ceiling. Extend your trunk forward and lengthen your spine, pulling it toward your back body. Broaden your chest by spreading your collarbones. Gaze forward like you’re an archer looking at a target, and hold for 3–6 breaths.

See also 4 Ways to Build Hip Stability + Prevent Injury

Step 4


Lift your left foot off the floor, and bend your knee and elbow backward—as if lifting the bow without yet adding tension. Balance on your buttocks, and observe how a small lift in your left foot already pulls on the fingers of your right hand so that it is harder to keep hold of the right big toe. Reach the right side of your torso slightly toward your right foot, and allow the left side of your trunk to move in the direction of an open twist. The buttocks stay down but don’t need to remain parallel to each other.

See also What Science Can Teach Us About Flexibility

Step 5

Akarna Dhanurasana I
Zev Starr-Tambor

Keep your gaze forward, and embrace both the target and the archer in you. Take a breath. On an exhalation, pull your left foot up and back to bring your foot close to your ear. Open your torso to the left side. Keep your left knee and elbow parallel as you move them farther back. The sole of your left foot will turn slightly toward your ear. Balance on both buttocks and extend your inner right leg forward toward your right big toe. Feel the maximum distance between your big toes as the bow tenses. Keep looking ahead. Hold for 15–30 seconds. Lower your left leg by stretching it forward, and place it on the floor next to your right leg. Return to step 3, and repeat on the other side. End in Dandasana, and take a few deep breaths.

See also Round Out Your Practice: A Sequence for Flexibility

Stay Safe
When you begin practicing this pose, your lifted leg will feel heavy. Don’t hold it for long. Instead, reach your knee and elbow back and forth dynamically—only as long as you are able to steadily hold up your leg. Regular practice of this pose will make you a master of the bow. This pose also mobilizes one half of your pelvis at a time, so it may be stressful for the sacroiliac joint (which connects your pelvis to your spine). If you feel any strain, instability, or have scoliosis in that area, it’s best to avoid this pose or work under the guidance of an experienced teacher. 

See also Challenge Pose: Visvamitrasana

About Our Pro
Teacher and model Lucienne Vidah is an intermediate senior I Iyengar Yoga teacher and faculty member at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York. She founded Studio Spine in 1999, which is now a private space that offers Iyengar Yoga and body therapy sessions focused on aligning your fascial network.