Shape up with the yogic bow pose
The classic bow or dhanurasana has both aesthetic and therapeutic effects. It is part of the set that gives the yogic glow and the high, by boosting overall blood circulation and upping respiratory capacity.
The classic bow looks deceptively simple, but only when one learns to hold it long does one appreciate the various muscle groups -- including the subtle ones on your face -- that gets worked through that deep arch of the body.
The curve of the spine tones the vertebral column, stretches the spinal nerves impacting the nervous system, cures imbalances in your posture and improves confidence by opening up the chest region powerfully. It also works on the abdominal region with great effect, controlling most problems that arise from the mismanagement of our gut: constipation, acidity, obesity (especially fat deposits along the hips and thighs).
The limbs get a powerful workout. The face gets a pleasant anti-gravity drag that actually delays aging, especially along the vulnerable neck region.
Its effect is more than may be listed here: but it is used widely to control diabetes, digestive, respiratory disorders and menstrual disorders. You must, however, learn to hold such classic poses for long for actual benefits.
Here, Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, will lead you through a five bow pose variations.
Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings or upcoming workshops from http://jaisivananda.blogspot.com
(This column only seeks to share the author's enthusiasm towards yoga. Yoga is best learnt under expert guidance.)
Image: A collage of yogic bow poses
Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff
Mandukasana (Frog pose)
This is a preparatory pose. You lie on your stomach, with the chin on the ground. Fold both legs at knees. Reach hands behind to grasp either ankle.
Now press down the foot with either hand, stretching the thighs and the ankle joint. This prepares the body for the extreme stretch in the classic bow. Hold this pose as long as you can, breathing normally.
In all the versions, you must end the pose by releasing your hands, getting into the crocodile pose (makarasana) by placing hands over one another, resting either cheek on the back of the hands. Feet may be flared or lightly touching a the big toes.
Benefits: Regulates the uro-genital system; useful in diabetes, shapes thighs and arms gently. Encourages deep breathing.
Image: Mandukasana (Frog pose)
Also known as one-hand bow pose or half-bow.
Lie on the stomach, chin on ground. Reach right behind to hold right ankle. Left hand and left leg remain stretched out as shown.
Inhale, lift chest off the ground, thighs off the ground, while left leg and left hand also lift up straight. Look ahead at the hand in front, continuing normal breathing.
Benefits: Also prepares you for the classic bow pose. Tones limbs. Rest of the benefits as listed for the classic bow.
Image: Ekapada dhanurasana
Rest on stomach, chin on ground. Fold both legs at knees, reaching hands behind to grasp either ankle.
Inhale, lift thighs, chest and chin off the ground. Continue normal breathing, firming the hold on your ankles, and arching your spine and looking up so the neck also feels a powerful stretch. Initially do thrice. Later hold the pose for a minute.
Benefits: Same as those of Ekapada dhanurasana.
Also known as unsupported bow pose or advanced version.
Lie on stomach, with chin on ground. Place palms flat on ground, under each shoulder.
Fold legs at the knees. Inhale, lift chin, chest, palms off the ground. Simultaneously lift thighs off the ground. Hold this pose as long as is possible, with normal breathing throughout.
Benefits: As above, more enhanced. Boosts will power.
Image: Nirlamba Dhanurasana
Dhanurasana (Bow, advanced version)
Lie on stomach. Chin on ground. Bend legs, crossing them at ankles. Reach behind hands to grasp the crossed feet as shown. Hold for as long as you can, breathing normally.
Benefits: Same as those of Nirlamba Dhanurasana.
Image: Dhanurasana (Bow, advanced version)