Understanding dhanurasana steps and benefits can help improve your skin, health, and fitness. It is an intermediate yoga backbend that deeply opens the chest and the front of the body. Dhanurasana is one of the most important three back stretching and highly preferred yoga asanas.
If you’ve ever spent a day hunched over a computer or suffer from back pain or strain, dhanurasana steps and benefits improve posture and spinal flexibility. Additionally, the pose helps to open the chest, abdomen, quadriceps, ankles, groins, hip flexors, and throat.
The name “Dhanurasana” comes from the Sanskrit words Dhanura which means “bow” and Asana means “posture” or “seat”. Dhanurasana steps and benefits tones back muscles and maintains the elasticity of the spine, improving posture and increasing vitality (1).
When you perform dhanurasana steps, your body actually resembles a stretched bow, your hands being the strings.
Dhanurasana steps can be performed as part of your regular practice or within a sequence of back stretches. Dhanurasana can be used to open up the chest and stretch out the back, which is especially beneficial for people who sit or stand for long periods of time.
Sometimes beginners can find dhanurasana to be difficult. Especially getting a hold of your ankles or getting your thighs off the floor. A partner can help you work on preparation for dhanurasana steps.
If you are more of a visual learner, check out the video below to see dhanurasana steps and benefits:
Dhanurasana Steps and Benefits
- Start by resting flat on your stomach with your chin on the mat and your hands relaxing at your sides.
- On an exhalation, bend your knees. Bring your heels as close as you can to your buttocks, keeping your knees hip-distance apart.
- Stretch back with both hands and hold onto your outer ankles.
- On an inhalation, raise your heels up toward the ceiling, bringing your thighs up and off the mat. Your head, chest, and upper torso will also raise off the mat.
- Pull your tailbone down strongly into the floor, while you concurrently raise your heels and thighs even higher. Raise your chest and press your shoulder blades firmly into your upper back. Pull your shoulders away from your ears.
- Look forward and breathe softly. Your breath will become shallow, but do not hold your breath.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds.
- To release, exhale and softly lower your thighs to the mat. Gently release your legs and feet to the floor.
- Put your right ear on the mat and relax your arms at your sides for a few breaths.
- Repeat the pose for the same amount of time, then rest with your left ear on the mat.
Modifications & Variations
Dhanurasana is an intermediate yoga pose because it requires some flexibility. If you can’t grab onto your ankles securely or get your thighs off the ground, here are some modifications that may help you get started.
- Rest a yoga towel under your thighs. This will give you some lift so you can grab your ankles easier.
- Place a firm blanket beneath your hip bones for extra padding, if needed.
- You can also use yoga straps. Secure them around your ankles and hold onto the straps. This won’t bring your hands and ankles together, but it will bring them close together so you can perform the pose.
- If you do not yet have the flexibility to perform dhanurasana, try Half Bow pose.
- Keep breathing throughout the pose. Do not hold your breath.
- For a greater challenge, practice the pose with your thighs, calves, and inner feet pressing together.
- For an even deeper backbend for advanced students, take hold of the opposite ankles.
Dhanurasana steps and benefits provide maximum stretch on the abdomen and abdominal sides. Regular practice of this asana helps to shed and burn fat of the above-said regions of the body. It also provides an overall toned shape to the entire body (2).
Our bodies can feel fatigued for many reasons. Dhanurasana works directly on the solar plexus in the navel region, which is a large sympathetic nervous center (3). These nerves facilitate better efficiency, which in turn leads to improved functioning of vital organs such as digestive, eliminative and reproductive.
Dhanurasana’s combination of breathing and a stretch that aims at abdominal organs massage and compress internal organs; this sequence relieves a wide range of digestive discomforts like gas, constipation and bloating (4). It ensures the proper functioning of entire abdominal organs. It massages the liver, which in turn aids digestion. If you’re interested in a yoga practice to boost digestion check out Agnisar Pranayam.
Improves your Flexibility
Improved flexibility is one of the benefits of dhanurasana. During your first attempt, you probably won’t be able to grab your ankles. But if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening. You’ll also probably notice that aches and pains start to disappear. That’s no coincidence. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture.
Increases Blood Flow
Dhanurasana gets your blood flowing. It also gets more oxygen to your cells, which function better as a result. Since it helps to flush blood to the entire body as well as various organs it also works as a cleansing process.
Dhanurasana also boosts levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues. And it thins the blood by making platelets less sticky and by cutting the level of clot-promoting proteins in the blood. This can lead to a decrease in heart attacks and strokes since blood clots are often the cause of these killers (6).
Improves Lymphatic System
When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of dhanurasana, you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning (7). If you suffer from heat flashes or hormonal imbalances check out the yoga practice Sheetkari Pranayama.
Strengthens Spinal Columns:
Spinal disks—the shock absorbers between the vertebrae that can herniate and compress nerves—crave movement. Dhanurasana refreshes and rejuvenates the spinal column. It relieves stiffness and the spine is made more supple and healthy because the ligaments, muscles, and nerves are given a good stretch. This asana brings back elasticity to the spines and toning the abdominal organs.
Improves Asthma Symptoms
Dhanurasana realigns the back thereby improves the breathing processes. This, in turn, leads to a free flow of air through the nasal passages (8). It is one of the best yoga poses for removing the hunching tendency of asthmatics, which aggravates ill health.
Massage Thyroid and Adrenal Glands
Dhanurasana improves blood circulation in the thyroid gland. The pose is also effective for treating asthma, reducing headaches and strengthening muscles (9). Blood is flushed through the adrenal glands, the secretion of cortisone is reduced so that the body attains balance.
Reduces Back Pain
Dhanurasana can also help you reduce back pain and maintain a healthy spine. It helps stretch and strengthen important back muscles. The ligaments, muscles, and nerves in the back are given good stretch and the spinal column is rejuvenated.
When life gets stressful, many people hold tension in their shoulders. This can lead to fatigue, muscle knots, and pain. Keeping your shoulders relaxed and mobile will help to release this tension, which can increase your energy and even boost your mood! Dhanurasana strengthens your shoulders, arms, neck, abdomen, back, thighs & hamstring muscles.
An important component of dhanurasana is focusing on the present. Studies have found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores.
Relaxes your System
Focusing on the dhanurasana steps encourages you to relax, slow your breath, and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs. Practicing these chants while doing yoga is also helpful for relaxation.
Dhanurasana is considered best when practiced early in the morning. Mornings are preferred as the food is digested as well as the body has the energy to perform the asana. If you are unable to perform this in the morning keep a 3-5 hour gap between your practice and meal to receive optimal results.