Bow Pose is an intermediate yoga backbend that deeply opens the chest and the front of the body. If you’ve ever spent a day hunched over a computer, or if you practice sports that include a forward-reaching motion — such as swimming, cycling, or golfing — you know how good it feels to stretch your arms and lift your chest. Bending backward is a natural way to regain balance after hunching forward!
Named after an archer’s bow, the Sanskrit term for Bow Pose — “Dhanurasana” (DAHN-yoor-AHS-uh-nuh) — comes from two words:
- “Dhanu” — meaning “bow”
- “Asana” — meaning “pose”
2.Bridge Pose — Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
It is a beginning backbend that helps to open the chest and stretch the thighs. Its Sanskrit name comes from five different words:
- “Setu” — meaning “bridge”
- “Bandha” — meaning “lock”
- “Sarva” — meaning “all”
- “Anga” — meaning “limb”
- “Asana” — meaning “pose”
When you’re in the pose, your arms and legs create a “locked bridge” with your body. This pose can be used as preparation for deeper backbends, or practiced with a block as a restorative pose.
- Lie on your belly, with the chin on the floor, palms flat on the floor under the shoulders and legs together.
- Pull up the knee caps, squeeze the thighs and buttocks, engage mula bandha, and press the pubic bone down into the floor.
- Without using the arms, inhale and lift the head and chest off of the floor, keeping the neck in line with the spine.
- With the elbows close to your sides, press down into the palms and use the arms to lift you up even higher. Drop the shoulders down and back and press the chest forward. Keep the legs, buttocks, and mula bandha strong, and keep the pubic bone pressing down into the floor.
- Breathe and hold for 2-6 breaths.
- To release: exhale and slowly lower the chest and head to the floor. Turn the head to one side and rest, rock the hips from side to side to release any tension in the low back.
4. Urdhwa Hastasana
To begin Urdhva Hastasana, stand with your feet together and arms at your sides. Feel the soles of your feet softening
into the floor and the firmness of the floor supporting your weight evenly across each foot. This is your ground. Notice that there is a natural lift that accompanies this grounding. Allow the breath to move freely along the full length of your torso, without bloating the belly. With an exhalation, soften and release the weight of your organs down, feeling the navel draw slightly inward. Sense your organs resting on the floor of your pelvis, and pay attention to the firming in your legs and a subtle lift moving up the spine. As you catch this energy, surrender your shoulders and begin your inhalation, feeling your breath across your back as you raise your arms. You should sense lightness and length in your arms, like a kid flying down the road in a car with his arm sticking out the window. The effortless lifting of weight by its very nature is grace, and in Urdhva Hastasana, grace is the outer expression of the inner movement of energy, where all effort is coordinated and directed from the abdominal center.
At the peak of the pose, the arms converge over your head as you bring your palms together. Spread your shoulder blades and draw your chin in slightly (towards the center of the throat) as you take your head back and gaze at your thumbs. If you have neck vertebrae complications, keep your head upright until you develop the strength and understanding necessary for taking it back.
5. Cat pose
Start on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position. Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor. Center your head in a neutral position, eyes looking at the floor.
As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, making sure to keep your shoulders and knees in position. Release your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
Inhale, coming back to neutral “tabletop” position on your hands and knees.