How to Do Bow Pose: Techniques, Benefits, Variations

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Also known as: Dhanurasana

Target: Chest and back

Level: Intermediary

Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) is an intermediate yoga pose similar to the back bend. This is one of the 12 basic Hatha Yoga poses. By lifting the torso up and back, the chest is opened up and the back is deeply stretched. This pose is a great way to stretch your back deeply after a long day of stooping.

This yoga pose can be done as part of your regular exercise or in a sequence of back stretches. After your body is warmed up from some standing and floor positions, do Bow Pose. This pose can also be used to prepare for a deeper back stretch. One last relaxing pose nicely done.

To start, get your yoga mat. If you are a beginner, you can also use a yoga towel or yoga rope to support you during your practice.


Bow Pose mainly benefits the chest and back. It’s natural for the body to bend backwards, but this is rarely the position we like.

Bow Pose can be used to enlarge the chest and lengthen the back, especially beneficial for those who sit or stand for long periods of time.

This yoga pose also helps to open up the neck, shoulders, and abdomen. It improves flexibility in the back and encourages balance in the core and chest.

If you have a stiff back, Bow Pose may be beneficial. For people with desk jobs, the Bow Pose can help improve posture and reduce discomfort that bending can cause.

Step by step instructions

You can do Bow pose on a yoga mat or carpeted floor. No equipment is needed, but a yoga towel is optional.

  1. Lie face down. Keep your chin on the mat and your hands at your sides. Your hand should be facing up.

  2. Exhale while you bend your knees. Bring your heels as close to your butt as possible. Your knees should be hip-width apart.

  3. Lift your hands and grab your ankles. Make sure to grab the ankle, not the top of the foot. Your fingers should wrap around your ankles, but your thumbs shouldn’t. Keep your toes pointed.

  4. Inhale and lift your heels off your buttocks, keeping your ankles. At the same time, lift your head, chest, and thighs off the mat. As you lift, rotate your shoulders safely and comfortably. At this point, only your core touches the mat, while the rest of your body is lifted toward the ceiling.

  5. Draw your tailbone into the mat to deepen the stretch. You should feel a stretch in your back as the weight and balance shift to your center of gravity. Your chest and shoulders should feel open.

  6. Look straight ahead and hold the pose for about 15 seconds while you focus on stretching, breathing, and balancing.

  7. Exhale and relax the pose. Lower your head, chest, thighs, and feet toward the mat. Let go of your ankles and bring your arms to the side. Relax for a few seconds and repeat if needed or continue to your next pose.

Common mistake

It’s important to avoid these mistakes to prevent injury and stay in shape.

Don’t hold the tops of your feet

As you bring your hands back, grab your ankles and not any other part of your foot. The ankle is the safest part of the foot, conversely grabbing the upper part of the foot can lead to slippage. If your hands slip, you could lose your balance and hit your chin or chest on the floor.

Keep your knees hip-width apart

Knee width is an important part of Bow Pose. When your knees are too close together, this can lead to discomfort in your back. It can also open the hips incorrectly and lead to muscle strain. Keeping your knees hip-width apart helps to align your body safely and comfortably.

Rotate the shoulder socket carefully

Bow Pose requires you to reach your arms back and then lift them up. Make sure you rotate your shoulders slowly and carefully throughout the movement. Rushing over and lifting your arm can injure your shoulder or cause discomfort.

Release a safe position

Getting in and out of Bow can be difficult for beginners and those with limited flexibility. Safe posture is important to prevent injury and stress. Make sure to release the pose once you’ve lowered your head, chest, thighs, and feet. Loosening the posture when these body parts are raised can cause a painful impact on the floor. Lower yourself down slowly and then release your ankles when you can safely do so.

Do not hold your breath

In some yoga poses, holding your breath is part of the stretch and can be beneficial. Bow Pose does not require you to hold your breath. Practice the correct breathing pattern to benefit from this pose. Exhale as you bend in and out of the pose. Inhale as you lift yourself up. Holding your breath can restrict your chest from opening.

Modifications and Variations

Need a modification?

Bow Pose is an intermediate yoga pose because it requires a certain amount of flexibility. If you can’t grip your ankle firmly, there are some modifications that can help you get started.

First, place a yoga towel under your thighs. This will give you a little lift so you can grab your ankle more easily. You can also use yoga straps. Secure them around your ankles and secure the straps. This won’t bring your hands and ankles together, but it will bring them closer together so you can do the pose. With time, you can do Bow Pose without these modifications.

As you build your flexibility, you can easily do the Bow Pose with Half Bow (Ardha Dhanurasana). In this modification, you will stretch one side of your body at a time. The left arm grabs the left ankle, then release and perform with the right. This still provides the benefits of Bow without requiring a lot of flexibility.

Want to join a challenge?

To make Bow Pose more challenging, try some of these techniques. Press your feet together. When your thighs, calves, and feet touch, this squeezes the shoulder blades together and encourages you to lift higher. You can also tap the opposite ankle for an even deeper stretch.

Once you have mastered Bow Pose, you can be ready for Full Bow Pose (Purna Dhanurasana). This move follows the same steps as Bow, but it is a longer stretch. Instead of grabbing your ankle, you’ll grab your big toe in Full Bow Pose. Wrap your fingers around your big toe the same way you would with your ankle. This is a more advanced pose and requires more stability.

Safety and Precautions

This pose will give you more relief in your back. If you have pain doing this pose, safely back off.

If you have back pain, neck pain, or a pre-existing injury, check with your doctor to see if you can do this pose for your condition.

Pregnant women should not do this pose because your weight is on the stomach.

Patients with hernia, high blood pressure or recent abdominal surgery should also avoid this yoga pose.


Incorporate this and similar moves into one of these popular exercises:

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