The Gheranda Samhita (II—18) explains Dhanurasana thus: Your body will curve like a bow as you lie prostrate, stretch your legs like sticks on the floor and catch hold of the toes.
In Sanskrit, ‘Dhanus’ connotes ‘bow’. Thus, Dhanurasana refers to that yogic exercise where your body will resemble a tightly drawn bow. Your trunk and thighs will be akin to the bent portion of the bow while your lower legs and the stretched arms will resemble the firm bowstring.
The counterposes of Dhanurasana are Chakrasana, Halasana and Paschimotanasana. These three asanas stretch the spine in the opposite directions.
As the legs and the arms can be pulled and stretched according to one’s capacity, Dhanurasana can be done by everybody, irrespective of whether one is weak or strong.
Dhanurasana combines Shalabhasana and Bhujangasana. Dhanurasana requires a complete arch of your spine.
To obtain the optimum advantages from all these three asanas, do as one complete set of postures (one after the other) the following asanas: Bhujangasana, Halasana and Chaklrasana (in the lying down posture). The entire spine gets a total rejuvenation as a result of the trio.
Dhanurasana is not for pregnant women!
Don’t try this posture if you’re suffering from the following ailments: Slipped disc, hernia, colitis, stomach ulcer, heart problems, and high blood pressure!
You must not practice Dhanurasana if you recently underwent any abdominal operations. Wait till you have recovered completely!
Lie face down on your abdomen.
Your chin must be resting on the floor.
Your arms will have to lie on the sides.
The feet will have to be kept apart.
Entirely relax all the muscles including the back muscles.
Breathe normally. *
Bend the legs backwards.
Grasp the ankles.
Bend backwards your head and neck.
Slowly inhale deeply. Complete the inhalation process in about 10 seconds.
Wait for some three seconds, and then start exhalation.
Even as you exhale, perform the following the following movements.
The exhalation process and the movements should be done in about 15 seconds.
Pull backwards your legs.
Gradually, bring together the inside edges of the knees, feet and toes. Join them together and at one level with each other.
If they are not in alignment, you won’t be able to arch the back to the maximum level.
The final position starts now.
Simultaneously raise backwards your head, neck, chin, chest, thighs and your knees.
Raise the chin off the ground.
At the same time, raise upwards your lower region of the pelvis as well as the head, neck, chin, shoulders chest and navel portions besides your hips, thighs, and knees.
Join the knees and the feet.
Keep your head and upwardly raised and as far backward as is possible.
Pull vigorously the ankles.
Look straight ahead.
Try to balance your body on the navel region.
Arch the spine to the maximum limit.
Remain in this position and hold on to your breathe.
Balance your body on the navel.
Don’t rest your thighs, pelvis, and chest on the ground.
Look up to the optimum level.
As you attain this final position, you will naturally feel a strain on your legs and the arms that are holding the posture.
Keep your arms stretched.
Don’t allow your legs to slip downwards.
Gradually increase the time you remain in the final position. .
Stay in this position for at least five seconds or till you feel the strain and complete the exhalation process.
Start inhaling slowly and gradually return to the starting position.
Points to remember
Ensure that as you release your head, trunk and legs, you are not releasing your grip on your ankles.
Moreover, see that arms and legs do not spring apart.
Firmly hold on to your ankles.
Do not let go of your feet.
Don’t let go of your feet as you hold on to your breath. Else there may be a residual tension on your back.
Do the asana correctly thrice.
When you repeat Dhanurasana, relax after each cycle with your chin resting on the ground and even as you grasp your ankles.
Don’t strain when you raise and bring together your feet and knees.
Visualize a bow when you do Dhanurasana.
As you attempt to grasp the ankles backwards, don’t lean to ones side and keep the trunk horizontal.
Firmly grasp the ankle-bones and not higher.
Once you grasp the ankle bones, keep the arms stiff and straight.
Don’t bend the elbows.
Never spread out your elbows. Otherwise, you won’t be able to arch the back sufficiently.
Since you will have to raise the feet to their highest possible limit, so don’t join the knees and feet as you start the leg-raising process.
While raising the legs, keep the ankles and the knees a slight apart. This will help you to easily raise the legs to the optimum level. It will also help you in securing a better curvature of the neck and the spine during the final action.
As you gain expertise, you will have to bring the knees and the shoulders in a straight line. Moreover, you will have to keep the feet edges in such a way so that they touch each other.
This will be possible only with constant practice. Slowly but surely your muscles as well as the toes, heels and knees will become suppler. As a result you will be able to bring the legs together in the final raised position.
Don’t put undue pressure on your body while raising the legs and trying to bring the feet and knees closer to each other.
Dhanurasana has therapeutical as well as physical advantages. Here are the lists:
Sterility is contained.
Pancreatic action is stimulated. As a result, diabetes is controlled.
If you are suffering from piles, Dhanurasana will cure it.
You’ll also get relief from constipation.
Urinary problems, liver sluggishness and dyspepsia gets cured.
You won’t have flatulence. The intra-abdominal pressure will eliminate gas from the intestines as well as the tummy.
Slipped discs are corrected.
Sciatica patients get relief by practising Dhanurasana.
Rheumatism is cured particularly of the hands, knee-joints and the legs.
Lumbar pains are also alleviated.
Pain of the especially of the back and the knee are cured.
Dhanurasana is especially ideal for women. *
Women can firm up their bust line muscles.
Dhanurasana is the ideal exercise for people having a sedentary lifestyle.
This asana also eliminates fatigue.
You will also not feel laziness once you start practising Dhanurasana.
Dhanurasana rectifies slouching and improves posture.
Excess flab in the hips, thighs, and abdomen are reduced.
Blood congestion in the abdominal viscera is relieved.
Digestion is promoted via stimulation of the gastric secretions.
Spinal elasticity is improved.
Spinal muscles and nerves get strengthened.
Minor vertebral dysfunctions are corrected.
Premature calcification of the vertebrae column is prevented.
Slipped disc troubles are healed.
Increases capacity of the lungs.
The glandular system — especially the adrenals and the prostate gland — has a stimulating effect.
Dhanurasana activates the solar plexus.
This asana also has a positive effect on the liver, genital organs, bladder, spleen, liver and the heart.
Urinary problems are cured due to the alternate squeezing and relaxation of the kidneys, thereby causing them to regularly flush out the toxic materials produced in the body.
The buttocks and thigh muscles are tightened.
Muscles of the pelvic region, lumbar region, and the abdominal area are made stronger and suppler.
The hip joints muscles besides both the recti get fully stretched in Shalabhasana and Bhujangasana.
Both the body halves are arched simultaneously.
As a result, Dhanurasana exercises the entire body including the neck, back, ankles, legs, thighs, shoulders and the arms.
Joint rigidities are reduced.
Your body would definitely become more flexible.
* Hatha Sanketa Chandrika: particularly verse 63 concentrating on asanas.
* Hatha Pradipika: I—25.
The Bow that Rocks
As you remain in Dhanurasana, your knees and trunk will be firmly positioned on the ground. Begin the rocking
momentum by first rocking your bow-shaped body backwards and then forward. Gradually, you will have the required
momentum to keep on rocking. This is how you make your stretched body rock.
THE BREATHING RHYTHM
It is important that you match your breathing rhythm with the rocking pace. Here’s how you should be breathing: As
you rock backwards you should inhale and when you swing forwards you should be exhaling.
Don’t hold on to your breath at any moment.
Start rocking to the breathing rhythm.
Obviously if you are going the Nature’s way (pregnant), you should not be practising either Dhanurasana or the rocking-bow posture!
If you have any boil or skin ruptures in the abdominal portion, then you should first cure them.
Similarly, never ever attempt the rocking bow posture if you’re suffering from slipped disc, hernia, colitis, stomach ulcer, heart problems, and high blood pressure!
Again, please wait till you recover fully after any abdominal operations to try the rocking bow asana.
Prior to attempting the rocking bow posture, ensure that the ground below your abdomen is free from extraneous substances like buckles, pins, or zippers especially in the dress you are wearing.
Don’t pause or do the rocking bow rhythm in a slow motion.
Rocking to the extreme position may strain your neck as well as your back.
Maintain balance and have control over your body as your rocking movement gains momentum.
Stop before you feel exhausted or feel you are out of breath.
Don’t use your head to accentuate the rocking momentum.
The Strategy & Finer Points
Remain in Dhanurasana.
Your knees and trunks must be raised well above the floor.
Stretch to the optimum level.
First rock backwards slowly and gently.
Utilize the momentum to rock in the forward direction.
Rock your body on the abdominal wall.
Just like a rocking horse or chair, maintain the momentum to rock to and fro as well sideways (alternately).
During the rocking (sideways, backwards and forwards) process, ensure that your knees are together.
Also see that the chin is touching the floor.
Never straighten your spine.
During the forward rocking movement, you should lower your chest and head.
In the meantime, don’t release your grip on the ankles and raise your legs as high as possible.
While rocking, keep your arched back stiff.
For the Novices
The novices will find that as they start the rocking movement only their abdomens are touching the ground.
Nonetheless, slight movements will also bring in advantages to your body.
The best strategy for the beginners is to keep on trying! Moreover, when the rocking movement gains in pace, attempt rolling both ways as far as you can. These attempts can be made whenever your chin touches the ground in the forward rocking movement and then the knees as you swing backwards.
You can also separate the knees after lifting the legs from the floor. Then, pull the ankles away from each other.
Remember that you should do the rocking movement just thrice.
Remain in the rocking bow posture till you start feeling uncomfortable.
The rocking movements especially the to-and-fro ones massage the abdominal muscles.
Your spine and vertebral column also get massaged.
Any congestion in the solar plexus region will be removed.
Your ankles will remain flexible.
Your back muscles as well the lower back portion get adequate exercises.
Excess flab in the thighs, hips and the abdomen will be reduced.
In short, your figure will be trimmed down.
Your posture will also be improved.