Inside: Archer pose is a hum-dinger of a yoga pose. It requires hip flexibility, core strength, and arm strength. If you’re lacking in any of those areas, this pose can feel close to impossible. But it’s not! Here’s the best way to modify Archer pose so people of all levels can practice it.
As a yoga instructor, I’m constantly searching for ideas to help vary my poses and keep my classes fresh. The other day, I came across Archer pose, also known as Arkana Dhanurasana. I looked at the picture and thought, “Oh, that looks fun! We should try that.”
Immediately, I turned to my trusty friend, Google. I read several posts from undoubtedly very knowledgeable people. With their words in my head, I felt confident and prepared.
I anchored myself on my mat, reached for my toes, and discovered a complete inability to move any further. In the instructions, I was supposed to be lifting and bringing my right leg up in the air. However, in reality, I couldn’t even pick my foot up a half an inch off the ground without having it slam back to the floor.
Still, I kept trying. Like an unbelieving driver turning the key on a car with a dead battery, each time I kept thinking, “No, I got it this time.” I would start to lift my foot then bam! Surely a high-powered magnet was pulling me to the floor.
After three fails (because the third try was not, in fact, the charm), I returned to Google. Why did these people write about this pose like it was no big deal? It is a big deal. This pose is truly challenging. And, as someone who likes a good challenge, that drew me to this pose even more.
I had to learn what to do!
Luckily, with some research and experiments, I’ve found the best way to modify Archer pose.
If you have tight hamstrings, tight hips, or short arms; have a yoga strap or belt nearby.
- Begin in Dandasana. Take a moment to really make sure you’ve got yourself set up correctly. Feel your SITs bones press into the mat beneath you, and make sure that your hip flexors are relaxed.
- Practice ujjayi breathing throughout.
- Draw your belly button toward your spine and hinge forward to loop your big toes with your fingers. (Your pointer and middle fingers go toward the inside of the big toe and the thumb closes the loop.) Make sure your right fingers are looped around your right big toe and your left fingers are looped around your left big toe.
- On an exhale, anchor down through the left leg and lift your right leg so that your knee goes just outside of your right shoulder.
- If you were not able to lift, grab your strap and loop it around the arch of your left foot. Roll your left shoulder blade onto your back, find your best alignment, and repeat steps 3 and 4.
- When your right leg is lifted, focus on outwardly rotating the right leg from the hip. This will cause your knee to move further away from your shoulder.
- Bend your right elbow to increase the stretch in your hip.
- Make sure that you keep your best possible alignment throughout.
- Hold and breathe for 5-8 breaths.
- To finish, return the right foot to the ground, release the big toe, take the strap off the left foot (if applicable), and return to Dandasana.
- Follow steps 3-10 for the other side. Remember, just because you need a strap on one side does not necessarily mean that you will need it for the second side.
Archer Pose Video
Here’s a video of how to modify Archer pose for visual learners.
As you practice Archer pose, I want you to remember these 3 things:
- Gravity does not increase once your foot gets about half an inch off the floor.
- There is not a large magnet beneath (or within) you that pulls you to the floor and makes it impossible for your foot to lift.
- Yoga straps are designed to help us modify more challenging yoga poses when certain parts of the body are not quite strong enough to do their job unassisted.
It’s true–the full version of Archer pose is not a beginning yoga pose. However, even if you’re a beginner, you can use this tip to modify Archer pose so you can practice like a pro.
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What do you think of these modifications? Is there anything else that you would add to help someone practice this pose? Let us know if you have more suggestions!