How to Do Bow Pose for a Big Heart Opener

July 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Yoga Articles

Type of pose: Backbend, Heart opener

Benefits: Stretches the chest, abdomen, shoulders, and quadriceps. Improves spinal mobility.

Bow pose is a deep backbend and should be considered an intermediate to advanced pose. There’s no reason why beginners can’t start to work on it, however, since it takes time to figure out how to harness the strength of your legs to pull the upper body back. And it does have one very obvious difference from urdhva dhanurasana (aka upward facing bow aka wheel pose) that can make it more accessible: the role of the arms and shoulders.

Wheel pose requires open shoulders and strong arms, since they are bearing the body’s weight. These two factors limit how deeply some people can go with wheel. Since bow pose is flipped over, the arms and shoulders have a very different part to play, making bow a good option for people with tighter shoulders.

I really do recommend using a blanket under your hips in this pose whenever possible. The hip points of the pelvis are being pressed strongly into your mat and it’s possible that the contact can even result in bruises on your hips. Adding some padding makes the pose a lot more comfortable.


1. Come to lie on your stomach with your arms down along your sides. Place a blanket under your pelvis as padding. 

2. Bend your knees.

3. Roll your shoulders down and back to reach your hands back and take hold of the insides or outsides of your ankles, whichever is more comfortable.

3. On an inhale, flex your feet and press back strongly through your legs to lift your chest and thighs simultaneously off the floor.


4. Make sure that your thighs stay hip’s distance apart and parallel to one another throughout the posture. They tend to want to drift apart, so you may have to work a bit to keep them together.

5. Keep your shoulder blades on your back to support the opening of your chest.

6. Since you are lying on your abdomen, it’s normal for your breath to rock you slightly up and down.

Try to keep your breath full and deep even though your chest may be compressed.

7. Stay up for around five breaths, then release the pose by lowing your chest to the floor and then letting go of your ankles.

Beginners’ Tips

1. If you can’t reach your feet, it’s possible to use a strap in this pose. The strap should pass around the front side of both ankles with the ends held in each hand.

1. You may feel at first as if you can’t get much lift off the floor. Bow pose requires a combination of back flexibility and strength. Try using your legs even more to raise your chest. Over time, this pose becomes more accessible.

Advanced Tips:

1. One variation on bow is to push so strongly into your thighs that they come to rest on the floor as your chest soars up.

2. Try pointing or flaring your toes. 

3. Try parsva dhanurasna (side bow) by rolling onto your right side without letting go of your feet. After several breaths, roll back to center and then onto your left side, holding your feet the entire time.

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