Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

Perhaps, Madonna said it best "Open Your Heart to Me." In keeping with this month's theme, I chose a heart opening pose. In yoga philosophy, the body has many energy centers called chakras. One of the important ones is the heart chakra, or anahata chakra located in the middle of the chest. By opening the chest, we open the heart, deepening our compassion and connection to others and thus decreasing our isolation and depression.

On a physical level opening the chest helps to tone our spine and increase the breathing capacity of our lungs. It also helps to relieve tightness in our back and shoulders. Chest openers are especially important for women, as they help regulate menstrual flow, relieve cramps and prevent prolapse of the uterus. Both men and women can benefit from increased blood circulation and stimulation of the thyroid, pineal and pituitary glands.

This pose is not recommended if you have migraines, serious lower back or neck injury, insomnia or if you have uncontrolled high or low blood pressure. Also if you are new to this pose or yoga, you might want to consult with a trained instructor before attempting.

Step 1
Lie on your belly with your hands alongside your torso with palms facing up. (You can lie on a folded blanket to pad the front of your torso and legs.)

Step 2
Exhale and bend your knees, bringing your heels as close as you can to your buttocks. With your hands reach behind and grab hold of your ankles (but not the tops of the feet). Make sure to keep your knees hip width for the duration of the pose.

Step 3
Inhale and strongly lift your heels away from your buttocks and, at the same time, lift your thighs away from the floor. This will have the effect of pulling your upper torso and head off the floor. Burrow the tailbone down toward the floor, and keep your back muscles soft. As you continue lifting the heels and thighs higher, press your shoulder blades firmly against your back to open your heart. Draw the tops of the shoulders away from your ears. Gaze forward.

Note: With the belly pressed against the floor, breathing will be difficult. Breathe more into the back of your torso, and be sure not to stop breathing.

Stay in this pose anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds. Release as you exhale, and lie quietly for a few breaths. You can repeat the pose once or twice more.

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