“He is the source of light in all luminous objects. He is beyond the darkness of matter and is unmanifested. He is knowledge, He is the object of knowledge, and He is the goal of knowledge. He is in everyone’s heart.”
~~The Bhagavad Gita
The Gita captures the eternal struggle between the ego and our higher consciousness. When Prince Arjuna raises his bow to fight the Kauravas, he lets it slip and falter, asking mentor and charioteer Lord Krishna whether he should fight his kin. Krishna then reveals how everyone must fulfil his dharma and both happiness and distress have to be viewed with detachment. We are all warriors like Arjuna when we surrender and take the right action and see challenges as a chance to grow.
The term“Dhanurasana” comes from the Sanskrit wordsDhanura meaning “bow” andAsana meaning“posture.” This yogic asana is named after the shape it takes- that of a bow.” The above sentiments can be expressed in this physical posture as we melt and soften, stretch, accept and mould our body into a strong bow. Linked with the Urdhva Chakrasana, the Dhanurasana combines theCobra and Locust pose and countersForward Bends and the Plough.
Like an archer stringing a bow, or indeed much like Arjuna counselled by Lord Krishna in the Mahabharata, this position gives stability and confidence. The basic movement involves pulling the arms back and gripping the feet, then raising the head, chest and thighs up together to form a curve or a bow shape. This asana improves vitality, spinal elasticity, and posture. It tones the muscles of the back, working each part of the spine – cervical, lumbar, thoracic and sacral. As the chest lifts fully and lungs expand, we increase lung strength and capacity.
Eighth in the sequence of 12 basic poses of Hatha Yoga, this is the final of the three back boosting exercises. The bow pose instils confidence. Also, just like a real bow which would break if there is too much tension, and without sufficient tension, there would not be enough force to launch the arrow, so also, this pose needs exactly the right balance of effort and relaxation.
Dhanurasana should be practised after Bhujangasana (Cobra) and Shalabhasana (Locust) and followed by a forward bending asana as a counter stretch.
To perform this asana, you need to lie down on your abdomen, forehead on the floor, legs together and arms by your sides.
Please remember, it often takes practitioners years to just do the Bow correctly. As newcomers to yoga, often the thighs don’t lift off the floor. If this is happening to you, don’t get disheartened. Stay regular with your full yoga practice – as the body develops in strength and flexibility, the thighs will begin to lift off the floor.
Once you have mastered the Bow pose, you can begin to try a more advanced variation.
Urdhva Dhanurasana translates as the Upward Bow. This posture is also called Chakrasana or The Wheel. You should have sufficient shoulder as well as back flexibility before attempting falling back into the Wheel from a standing position. An easier way to come into this posture would be to start from a lying down position.
This is the sideways Bow Pose. Attain the Bow Pose and then exhale and roll over to any one side. Stretch the legs and the chest and hold for a few steady breaths before returning back to original bow pose and then perform the asana to the other side. Maintain the pose for an equal length of time on both sides to massage the abdominal organs from the sides, by pressing them against the floor.
This version involves rocking back and forth in the Dhanurasana or Bow Pose. The Bow Rocking Action is done synchronised with the breath – inhaling as we lift the chest and rock back, bringing the thighs onto the floor and exhaling as we rock forward and drop the chest and forehead onto the floor, lifting the thighs off the floor. Our liver, pancreas, and spleen get massaged and benefit from this rocking motion.
This posture is an incomplete Bow Pose or Partial Bow. Place your body in a face prone position, and then raise your head and chest and simultaneously reach back with any one hand and bending the same side leg back, catch the ankle or foot. The opposite side should be relaxed. The free arm may be at the side or front of the body. Hold the semi bow position for 5 counts and then release and perform the steps for the other side. Muscles, nerves and organs on each side of the body derive great benefit from this pose.
This is the Shooting Bow Pose whereby the person takes on the shape of a bow and arrow. For this pose, sit on your buttocks. Then hold the right big toe with the right hand and the left big toe with the left hand. Arch your back and bring the right toe towards your head to touch the right ear while keeping the left leg stretched. Hold a few seconds. Release this and then bring the left toe towards your head and left ear, while the right leg now remains lengthened out on the floor.
Finally, do any forward bend like Child’s pose/ Balasana as a counter stretch and then relax in a comfortable supine position of Shavasana.
Those with the following health problems should not perform the Dhanurasana:
Pregnant women should not do this pose. Also, the Bow Pose strongly activates the body so it should not be done after a meal or at night.
Inspiring the confidence that can win a righteous war through surrender to the Divine, the Dhanurasana has many benefits. It is undoubtedly a gem in the treasure house of Yoga. Followed by millions from times immemorial, this posture, part of Raja and Hatha Yoga, is intended for liberating oneself from the stiffness of the body and the rigidity of the mind. Practice the Bow pose and step onto the path of the union of one’s inner resilience with the Divine source of energy.