By all appearances, Bow Pose looks like a very challenging advanced pose. Bow is a great therapeutic pose for those of us who are always on the move and in positions leaning or bending forward. The best way to undo a slouched posture or the stress from a long day on the computer is by practicing Bow Pose.
How to: Bow Pose
Begin by lying on the floor face down. Take a second to extend and expand your body. Bend both legs and reach around with your hands. Try to grab onto your ankles or lower legs, thumbs facing down. For beginners, it is best to grasp the outer ankle. In time, you will externally rotate your shoulder and grab the leg on the inner ankle side, thumbs facing up.
Broaden your chest, and slide your shoulder blades toward each other and down your back. Relax your shoulders down away from your ears. You lift the chest up by the pure power of your legs. Arms are straight and legs press back and feet press up. Tune into your pelvis and tilt it until you feel less strain on your lower back.
Do not over lift your chin, and keep a gradual backbend finishing through the top of your head. Remember, your head is a natural extension of your spine. Keep your gaze neutral and do not over lift your eyes.
On the inhale, lift your upper body. On the exhale, lift your lower body and get a gently rocking motion going. Press the chest and legs away from each other--in a sense, "stringing the bow."
Gently let go and release back into Child's Pose. If you cannot grab your ankles, wrap a strap around the front of them and hold a side of the strap in each hand.
Benefits of Bow Pose
The role of bow pose is vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:
- Heat and strengthen the entire body; mostly legs, back and buttocks
- Massage the abdominal organs
- Aid digestion
- Help people with respiratory ailments
- Aid fatigue
- Aid anxiety
- Stretch and open whole anterior spine
- Improve posture
For the Yogi or lay person, bow pose should be considered when plagued by constipation. The stretching of the anterior spine while in this gentle backbend, creates a massage for the abdominal organs. It also eases tightness in the stomach, and helps bring additional blood and oxygen to the area to aid elimination. Regular practice of this pose will relieve lower back pain, and release tension or strain on the upper back and neck. Who doesn't need a little extra TLC for their backs?
For the athlete, this pose is a tremendous addition to the typical stretching routine. Bow pose increases the flexibility of the back as a whole. Torqued goal saves, powerful serve returns and compromising wrestling positions all require great back strength. Many of these sports are also concentrated on being in a spinal flexion position (forward bending). A hockey player's constant forward lean, and a soccer goalies anticipatory ready position put continuous regular stress on the spine. These athletes can all appreciate the advantage of a supple spin.
Bow Pose helps to open the lungs, vertebrae and hip flexors, which are often very tight in athletes. This gives athletes greater spinal flexibility and rotation with less strain. With this winning combination, you are sure to increase your agility.
Although you should always consult your physician and research a properly trained teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely. Avoid if you:
- Are pregnant
- Had recent abdominal surgery
- Have high blood pressure
- Have heart disease
- Have serious lower back problems
Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body.