Bow Pose: Expand Your Chest and Stretch Those Hip Flexors!

Looking to improve your flexibility? Learn how the bow pose can help you strengthen, open up, and elongate your muscles. 


Maintaining flexibility is critical if you want to avoid the pain of stiff joints. Here’s how to do bow pose to benefit your upper torso and hips.

bow pose

Bow pose is a deep backbend that opens the chest and front of the body while expanding the hip flexors. In this yoga asana (pose), the body takes the shape of an archer’s bow. Bow pose is also known as Dhanurasana (DON-your-ahs-UN-ah) in the ancient language of Sanskrit

Level of difficulty: Intermediate

Bow pose step-by-step instructions

bow pose dhanurasana

Pro tip: 

Warm-up the body with a few simple movements before going into this pose. You will reduce your chance of straining the joints and muscles in your legs, arms, and back if you stretch first. 

See preparatory poses below.
  • Begin by lying flat on your abdomen with your feet and knees hip width apart and your arms by the sides of your body
  • Bend your knees and grab hold of each ankle with each hand
  • Breathing in, lift your chest and upper torso off the ground, and pull your legs up and back using your hands 
  • Relax your leg muscles and gluteal muscles, allowing your upper and lower body to come up easily (your hands will pull your lower body up by the ankles)
  • Look straight ahead and keep your gaze forward, relax your back muscles and smile!
  • Stabilize the pose by paying attention to your breath, and keep breathing 
  • Once stabilized, the entire body is taut as an archer’s bow
  • Continue to take a few breaths as you relax in bow pose, but be careful not to overdo the stretch
  • After 15 - 20 seconds, exhale and gently bring your thighs and chest to the ground with care
  • Release your ankles and relax


Learn how to practice victory breath (also known as Ujjayi or ocean breath) to add to your yoga practice. You can learn and practice victory breath on a SKY Breath Meditation course.

Bow pose benefits

bow pose strengthens

  • Strengthens the back and abdominal muscles
  • Stimulates the reproductive organs 
  • Opens up the chest, neck, and shoulders
  • Tones the leg and arm muscles
  • Adds greater flexibility to the hip flexors, back, and spine
  • Good stress and fatigue buster
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort and constipation
  • Helps people with renal (kidney) disorders
  • Improves posture

Precautionspracticing yogaAvoid doing bow pose if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Back or neck injury
  • Lower back pain
  • Hernia
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Headache/migraine
  • Recent abdominal surgery
  • Pregnancy

Modifications and variationsperform bow pose

To modify: If you’re unable to reach your ankles, use a yoga strap or a belt. Wrap the strap around the front of your ankles. Grab the loose ends of the strap before lifting your upper body and coming into the posture.

To increase the challenge: Keep your thighs, calves, and inner feet touching. This brings the shoulder blades together and encourages the body to lift higher.

Half Bow Pose: 

  • Lie on your belly with both of your arms extended forward 
  • Bend your right knee, reach your right arm back, and take hold of your right ankle 
  • As you hold your right ankle, extend the left leg and arm, pressing them into the floor to help stabilize the pose 
  • Hold for three deep breaths in and out
  • Release the pose and take a couple more deep breaths 
  • Bend your left knee, reach your left arm back, and take hold of your left ankle
  • As you hold your left ankle, extend your right leg and arm, pressing them into the floor
  • Hold for three deep breaths in and out
  • Release the pose and finish with a couple deep breaths

Preparatory and follow-up yoga posesyoga poses

Add breathing and meditation to your yoga practice in one easy step

Your yoga practice will benefit greatly from learning breathing and meditation. Our pillar program, SKY Breath Meditation not only improves your daily yoga experience, but also enriches every aspect of your life. Everything from reduced stress and greater mental focus to enhanced sleep, improved respiratory function, and increased joy.

To learn more about SKY, please attend a FREE breath and meditation online session with a live instructor. You’ll also experience guided breathwork and relaxing meditation during the 75-minute introduction. Click on the image below to pick your day and time.

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Browse our entire yoga pose library, or attend our yoga course and learn more about each pose in detail. If you are interested in becoming a yoga teacher, click here for more information.

We recommend you learn and practice yoga under the supervision of a trained teacher. ​​While a regular yoga practice can result in improved health, know that it is not a substitute for medical treatment. 


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