Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Iyengar's difficulty rating: 4* out of 60*

Iyengar's Technique:

  1. Lie down prone (facedown).
  2. On an exhale, bend your knees, stretch your arms back, and hold each ankle with the corresponding hand. Take two breaths here.
  3. On another exhale, lift your knees and chest from the floor. Stretch your chest and feet apart; use your arms to make our body taut like a bow.
  4. Lift your head and pull it as far back as possible. Attempt to lift your ribs and pubic bone from the floor, so that only your abdomen bears the weight of your body.
  5. Do NOT keep your knees together as you lift. Instead, separate your knees in the beginning, and once you have lifted your thighs as high as they will go, keep them that high and attempt to rejoin your ankles, knees, and thighs.
  6. Allow your breathing to be fast. Remain in this shape for 20-60 seconds.
  7. Release your ankles, straighten your legs and lower down on an exhale.

Comparing Forms:

  • In contrast to Iyengar's instructions, I have kept my feet, knees, and thighs apart; this feels safer for my knees, but diminishes the intensity of the thigh stretch. For some, keeping the legs separated may compress the sacrum and low back, for others it will create more relief in the sacrum and low back.
  • My shoulders are more externally rotated, creating a deeper stretch in the pectoralis muscles. Iyengar's shoulders remain relatively neutral or are perhaps slightly internally rotated, which is a deeper and less common range of motion. In my body, imitating Iyengar's shoulders here is aggravating to my rotator cuff.