Practice Bow Pose to Open the Chest and Stretch the Spine

bow pose

This is what I look like when I practice Bow pose.

When I was little and took dance, we practiced Bow pose, also known as Dhanurasana, but we called it Rocking horse. As a limber little kid, you’d just reach back for your feet with your hands and pop up. Then, you’d rock back and forth from your ribs to your hips.

The problem with this story is that I never was a limber little kid. I’ve always had a rather rigid spine and anything involving spinal extension involves focus, correct form, and lots of warming up. This is especially true since I broke my neck almost a year ago. So, the version of Bow pose that I teach involves focus, correct form, and lots of warm-up before you practice.

Bow Pose

Before you practice Bow pose, you want to warm-up. At a minimum, do several rounds of Sun Salutations and several poses to help open your chest and shoulders. Since your arms reach behind you, you may want to clasp your hands behind your back and lift your arms for a stretch. Locust pose is another good preparatory pose.

You also want to take the time to open the front of your hips. Try a traditional quadriceps stretch, and work on reaching your leg back in to extension.

  1. Use ujjayi breathing.
  2. Begin on your stomach with your legs hid-width apart and your arms by your sides.
  3. Bend your right knee. Inhale and roll the right shoulder blade on to your back as your reach for your right ankle or foot.
  4. bow pose

    As a frame of reference, here is Alexandria Crow in Bow pose. Thanks to Yoga Journal for the image.

    Exhale and lengthen through your spine. Lift your abdominals off the mat.

  5. Bend your left knee. Inhale and roll the left shoulder blade on to your back as you preach for your left ankle or foot. Keep your legs parallel to each other throughout this pose.
  6. Exhale and soften through your shoulders.
  7. As you inhale, draw your belly button toward your spine. Press your feet into your hands and your hands into your feel as you reach your sternum (breastbone) forward. Let your shoulder blades slide down your back.
  8. Hold in this lifted position for several rounds of breath.
  9. Make sure to allow your upper back to open as you breathe. Also, keep the muscular energy in your arms and legs throughout your practice of this pose.
  10. To come out, simply lower your upper body to the mat on an exhale and release your ankles or feet.
  11. You may practice this pose 2 or 3 times total.
  12. Perform the spinal twist of your choice to reset your spine.

Bow Pose Video

Here is a video for visual learners.

What is your biggest challenge with this pose–tight shoulders, tight spine, or tight hips? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.