By Gwen Lawrence
By all appearances Bow pose looks like a very challenging advanced pose. Bow is a great therapeutic pose for those with lives that are always on the move and putting us in positions of leaning forward or bending forward. The best way to undo a slouchy posture or long day on the computer is by practicing Bow Pose.
How to: Bow
Begin by lying on the floor face down. Take a second to extend and expand your body. Bend both legs and reach around with your hands and try to grab onto your ankles or lower legs, thumbs facing down. For beginners it is best to grasp the outer ankle and in time you will externally rotate your shoulder and grab the leg on the inner ankle side, thumbs facing up.
Broaden your chest and slides your shoulder blades towards each other behind you and down your back. Relax your shoulders down away from your ears. You lift the chest up by the pure power of your legs. Arms are straight and legs press back and feet press up. Tune into your pelvis and tilt it until you feel less strain on your lower back.
Do not over lift your chin keep a gradual backbend finishing through the top of your head. Remember your head is a natural extension of your spine. Keep your gaze neutral and do not over lift your eyes.
On the inhale lift your upper body, on the exhale lift your lower body and get a gently rocking motion going. Press the chest and legs away from each other,”stringing the bow”
Gently let go and release back into childs pose.
If it is not possible for you to grab your ankles you can wrap a strap around the front of then and hold a side of the strap in each hand.
Benefits of Bow Pose
The role of bow pose is vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:
- Heats and strengthens the entire body , mostly legs, back, and buttocks
- Massages the abdominal organs
- Aids digestion
- Helps people with respiratory ailments
- Aids fatigue
- Aids anxiety
- Stretches opens whole anterior spine
- Improves posture
For the Yogi or lay person, bow pose should be considered when plagued by constipation. The stretching of the anterior spine while in this gentle backbend, creates a massage for the abdominal organs. It also eases tightness in the stomach, and helps bring additional blood and oxygen to the area to aid elimination. Regular practice of this pose will relieve lower back pain and release tension and strain on the upper back and neck. I do not know anybody that would not benefit from extra TLC of their back.
For the athlete, this pose is a tremendous additional to their stretching routine. In addition to the above mentioned, bow pose increases the flexibility of the back. Athletes that play soccer, hockey, tennis and wrestling all can appreciate the advantage having a supple spine can offer him/her. Torqued goal saves, powerful serve returns and compromising
positions of a wrestler all require great strength in the back as well. Most of these sports are also concentrated on being in a spinal flexion position (forward bending). A hockey
players constant forward lean, and a soccer goalies anticipatory ready position put continuous regular stress on the spine, being in this gentle back bend is a welcome opener for the lungs and vertebrae.
Bow pose also opens hip flexors and very often tight in athletes, psoas. Leaving the athlete again with greater spinal flexibility, rotation and less strain. With this winning combination you are sure to increase your agility.
Although you should always consult your physician and research a properly-trained teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely:
- Avoid if you are pregnant
- Contraindicated for those with recent abdominal surgery
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Those with serious low back problems
Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body.