Ruchi Kapoor deconstructs dhanurasana for beginners to the practice.
Dhanurasana is a yoga backbend that’s done with the belly on the floor. Unlike the full wheel pose, where we press into the floor with our hands and feet to lift our body with a push, in this asana, we try to pull our body up and away from the floor. Therefore, as a beginner to the practice, this backbend is more accessible than the more intense backbends, and it feels safer too. Dhanurasana opens the front of the body and is ideal for people who work on a desk a lot or have a bad sitting posture.
At a physiological level, this asana helps to keep the spine healthy and supple and on a psychological level, the effects of dhanurasana are profound. It instills a sense of self-assurance. Backbends like dhanurasana make us more receptive. One of our primal defense mechanisms is to round the shoulders and ball up protecting ourselves from the forces outside our physical boundaries of influence, and it’s this preservation mechanism that also restricts us from experiencing new things and achieving higher goals.
Backbends reverse this mechanism in the body and slowly (when the body becomes more comfortable) the mind begins to follow the body becoming more receptive and hence intuitive. Our breath becomes the connection between our body and everything else and gives a sense of harmony with the universe. With continued practice, new ideas flow easily and manifest in our mind without fear.
I have deconstructed how to practice dhanurasana below.
Asana to Activate the Anahata Chakra
Start from a comfortable position by lying on your belly. Place your hands on top of each other and rest your chin on them. Make sure your belly is pulled in with your navel moving towards the spine. This helps to stabilise the lower back.
When you’re ready, move your shoulders back and down, observing the internal movements with the mind’s eye. Lift your chest slightly by pushing into your left hand and reach back with your right hand to clasp your right ankle or foot.
Keeping your gaze on your nose, reach back with your left hand and clasp the left ankle or foot. Keep moving the shoulders back and keep your core activated. Stay here and breathe deeply.
Once you feel comfortable, inhale and lift your chest, ribs, legs and thighs off the floor simultaneously. Don’t push too far if you’re a beginner. Stay in the pose for as long as you can or for five breaths and then slowly come back down to the starting position. You can try this a few times and if possible, try pulling yourself higher every time. Try doing a forward bending asana after dhanurasana as a counter movement for the spine. Always remember to practice safely and respect your body’s limitations.
Ruchi Kapoor is a Mumbai-based Ashtanga Yoga Teacher and practitioner. For more information, visit https://www.cityogini.com/