How to Do Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Dhanurasana

Targets: Chest and back

Level: Intermediate

Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) is an intermediate yoga pose similar to a backbend. It’s one of the 12 basic Hatha Yoga poses. By lifting your torso up and backward, the chest is opened and the back is deeply stretched. This pose is a great way to deeply stretch the back after a long day of hunching over.

This yoga pose can be performed as part of your regular practice or within a sequence of back stretches. After your body is warmed up from some standing and floor poses, perform Bow Pose. This pose can also be used as preparation for a deeper backbend stretch. A final relaxation pose follows nicely.

To get started, grab your yoga mat. If you are a beginner, you may also use a yoga towel or yoga straps to support you into the stretch.


Bow Pose primarily benefits the chest and back. It’s natural for the body to bend backward, but this is rarely a position we find ourselves in.

Bow Pose 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.

This yoga pose also opens up the neck, shoulders, and abdomen. It improves flexibility in the back and encourages balance in the core and chest.

If you have a stiff back, Bow Pose may be beneficial. For people with a desk job, Bow Pose can help improve posture and alleviate the discomfort that slouching may cause.

Step-by-Step Instructions

You can perform Bow Pose on a yoga mat or carpeted floor. No equipment is necessary, but a yoga towel is optional.

  1. Lie flat on your stomach. Keep your chin on the mat and your hands at your sides. Your hands should be palm up.

  2. Exhale while you bend your knees. Bring your heels as close as you can to your buttocks. Your knees should be hip-width apart.

  3. Lift your hands and take hold of your ankles. Be sure to grab the ankle and not the top part of the feet. Your fingers should wrap around the ankles, but your thumb does not. Keep your toes pointed.

  4. Inhale and lift the heels away from the buttocks, keeping a hold of your ankles. Simultaneously, lift your head, chest, and thighs away from the mat. As you lift, rotate your shoulders safely and comfortably. At this point, only your core should touch the mat, while the rest of your body is lifted towards the ceiling.

  5. Draw your tailbone into the mat to deepen the stretch. You should feel the stretch in your back as the weight and balance shifts to your core. Your chest and shoulders should feel open.

  6. Look straight ahead and hold the pose for about 15 seconds while you focus on stretching, breathing, and balancing.

  7. Exhale and release the pose. Lower your head, chest, thighs, and feet back towards the mat. Let go of your ankles and return to your hands to your side. Relax for a few seconds and repeat the pose as needed or continue to your next pose.

Common Mistakes

It’s important to avoid these errors to prevent injury and maintain proper form.

Don’t Hold the Tops of Your Feet

When you reach back with your hands, grab your ankles and not any other part of the foot. The ankle is the most secure part of the foot, whereas grabbing the top of the feet may lead to slipping. If your hands slip, you may lose balance and hit your chin or chest on the floor.

Keep Your Knees Hip-width

The width of your knees is an important part of Bow Pose proper form. When your knees are too close together, this may lead to discomfort in the back. It can also open up the hips incorrectly and lead to straining. Keeping your knees hip-width apart helps the body to align safely and comfortably.

Rotate the Shoulder Socket Carefully

Bow Pose requires you to reach your arm back and then lift. Make sure you rotate your shoulder slowly and carefully through the movement. Rushing through the reaching and lifting of your arms can injure your shoulder or cause discomfort.

Release the Pose Safely

Entering and exiting Bow Pose can be tough for beginners and people with limited flexibility. Releasing the pose safely is vital to prevent injury and straining. Be sure to release the pose once you’ve lowered your head, chest, thighs, and feet. Releasing the pose when these body parts are lifted can cause a painful impact on the floor. Lower yourself slowly and then release your ankles when you can do so safely.

Don’t Hold Your Breath

In some yoga poses, holding your breath is part of the stretch and can be beneficial. Bow Pose does not require you to hold your breath. Follow the correct breathing pattern to benefit from this pose. Exhale as you bend into and out of the pose. Inhale when you lift up. Holding your breath may restrict the chest from opening up.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

Bow Pose is an intermediate yoga pose because it requires some flexibility. If you can’t grab onto your ankles securely, there are some modifications that may help you get started.

First, rest a yoga towel under your thighs. This will give you some lift so you can grab your ankles easier. 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. With time, you may be able to perform Bow Pose without these modifications.

As you build your flexibility, you can ease into Bow Pose with Half Bow (Ardha Dhanurasana). In this modification, you will stretch one side of your body at a time. The left arm grabs the left ankle, then release and do the right side. This still provides the benefits of Bow Pose without requiring as much flexibility.

Up for a Challenge?

To make Bow Pose more challenging, try some of these techniques. Press your legs together. When your thighs, calves, and feet are touching, this pinches the shoulder blades together and encourages you to lift higher. You can also reach for the opposite ankles for an even deeper stretch.

Once you’ve mastered Bow Pose, you may be ready for Full Bow Pose (Purna Dhanurasana). This follows the same steps as Bow Pose, but it’s a deeper stretch. Instead of grabbing your ankles, you will grab your big toes in Full Bow Pose. Wrap your fingers around your big toes like you would your ankles. This is a more advanced pose and requires more stability.

Safety and Precautions

This pose should provide relief in your back. If you experience pain during this pose, back out of it safely.

If you have pre-existing back pain, neck pain, or injury, check with your doctor to see if you can perform this pose in your condition.

Pregnant women should not perform this pose as your weight shifts to the stomach.

Patients with a hernia, high blood pressure, or recent abdominal surgery are also advised to avoid this yoga pose.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

By Lacey Muinos
Lacey Muinos is a professional writer who specializes in fitness, nutrition, and health.