The Bikram Standing Bow Pose in the Hot Yoga Series is a posture I have been struggling with lately, and I have been trying to get my head around it. Picking up your foot and bringing it back reverses the motion of the body that we do all day, and you can feel uncomfortable if you are not used to doing the pose. The Standing Bow Pose translates into Sanskrit as Dandayamana Dhanurasana. The word Dandayamana Dhanurasana is broken down as follows: Danda means "Stick" or "Staff," Yamana has the meaning of "Restraint," Dhanur translates into English as "Bow" and Asana means "Posture" or "Seat."
The first part of the posture is the pick-up of the foot. When you pick up the foot, you need to pick it up from the inside the ankle. When you have your grip, make sure that you have the inside part of the elbow facing the front wall or mirror. You then raise your left arm up towards the ceiling with all five fingers together. Bring your inner thighs together in a swiping motion and stretch up out of your waist. Lower your upper body down from your abdomen while you simultaneously keep the lift through the chest.
For beginners of the Bikram Hot Yoga Series, this can sound like a lot to do, so let's simplify your posture. The first part is the picking up of the foot from the inside. In the ideal world, you would pick up the inside of the elbow facing the front wall, but there are modifications to this approach. You can simply just pick up the foot from the outside and walk your fingers around the foot till you have the proper grip on the ankle from the inside. If you can only hold the foot from the outside, that is fine as well; just keep in mind to keep trying to walk your fingers around the foot to get the proper grip.
If the teacher in your class permits it, you can also use a prop for the pick up of the foot. You can use a belt, a strap, or if you are wearing long and loose-fitting pants like sweat pants, you can use that to establish a grip. Another way that can help you pick up the right foot is not focusing so much on the foot as working on your upper body. Just attempting to pick up the foot while at the same time trying to stretch forward with the other arm will open the shoulders and upper back, which will improve your reach and help you grab the foot over time.
Once you have the proper grip of the foot, we are ready for the next step, the get down. Bring the opposite arm towards the ceiling with all five fingers together. Bring your chin to your shoulder, which will help get set you up properly when you lower down. We are now going to start lowering our body down from the abdomen and keeping the chest lifted. Lowering down like this helps in the movement of the spine.
It also assists in opening the shoulders and gives a good stretch along the front of the body. If you have trouble with lowering down, just keep in mind to have the energy moving forward. Keep stretching and moving forward even if you fall out. If you fall out of the posture, it is ok just make sure you fall forward. If you fall out of the posture, just get back into it, and over time you will find you are staying in the pose for longer and longer.
The standing leg in the Bikram Standing Bow should be strong, with the weight distributed evenly throughout the standing foot. The leg does not need to be as rigid as it is in Standing Head to Knee since what is keeping you in the posture over time is the fifty percent stretching forward with the hand and the fifty percent kicking back and up with the foot. It is the dynamic of this motion that is what keeps you in the posture.
The Standing Bow Pose has various parts, so it can confuse the average beginner, so simplify it by breaking it down into simple steps. The first part is to pick up the foot from the inside, and if you can not pick up the foot from the inside, grab it from the outside and try walking your fingers the foot till you can pick it up from the inside. Then once you pick up the foot, lift out of the waist with the left arm up, drop your upper body down with your chest lifted.
The final part to remember is to stretch in opposite directions with the left hand towards the front of the room and the back foot stretching back and upwards. Picture the posture as the name of the pose says a Bow. You are pulling in opposite directions like a bow. The standing bow pose is like other yoga poses in that you do not need to get it all done today. If you just do small bites of the standing bow pose every day, you will eventually be doing the posture's full expression.