Pose Recipes: Dhanurasana
Dhanurasana (Bow pose) works great for strengthening the posterior (back) structures of the body while stretching the chest, hip flexors and thighs. It helps to facilitate better breathing and has a strong brhmana (energizing) effect. It can be used to facilitate the idea of “heart opening.” Mastering this pose (and even attempting it) gives the student a sense of accomplishment. Since this a fixed-frame posture (hands are holding on to the ankles creating a closed loop), the leverage can be potentially problematic for the lower back, shoulders, knees and necks. All those areas will require extensive preparation before attempting the pose.
Preparation (Sample core poses)
(Back bending pose, symmetrical, fixed-frame).
Lie on your stomach with your feet about hip distance apart. Bend the knees and see if you can hold on to your ankles. If not, rest your hands on the outside of your lower legs.
Inhale: Lift your upper body and your head up, while pulling your feet away from you and up (if you are holding on to the ankles). Alternatively, you can keep your ankles aligned over your knees while reaching for them with your hands (if you cannot hold on to the ankles).
Exhale: Gradually contract the abdomen and relax the shoulders.
With every inhalation widen the chest and pull the feet up. Look forward and be sure to keep the neck relaxed. Do not allow your knees to splay out to the sides; keep them about hip distance apart. After several breaths let go of your ankles and come out of the pose.
Sprinkles (additional elements)
This pose can be very useful in any practice that is meant to make you feel strong and capable. Prone backbending postures have been shown to increase the levels of testosterone in both men and women and give you a sense of oomph.
To emphasize the backbending element and intensify the energetic effect of the pose, you can add slight hold at the end of the inhalation in the core poses. When you breathe in the pose Inhale for 6 seconds, hold the breath in for 2 seconds and then Exhale for 6 seconds as a theme throughout the practice.
Examples of yoga practices that include Dhanurasana + detailed handout on Dhanurasana
You can find both practices under Shared Sequences.