Dhanurasana is a prone backbend that can be challenging for beginners but also deeply rewarding. Take it slowly and honor any pain that comes up by backing out until you can maintain the pose comfortably.
Lay down on your belly with the hands by the waist. Bend the knees and bring the feet toward the hips. Reach back and take the outside of the ankles in the hands. Bring the thighs together enough that the knees are about hip width apart and tuck the tailbone under. On an inhale, press the feet back strongly into the hands (engage the quads) and lift the thighs and torso off the floor. Engage the intrinsic back muscles and finally the glutes to aid in the lift.
Keep the shoulders back (though you actually want to elevate the shoulders slightly in addition to bringing them back to prevent excess strain on the front of the shoulder joint) and lift up through the sternum. Make sure the thighs haven’t moved any wider than hip width distance apart. Let the neck continue the line of the spine and try and keep the upper back relaxed. Try to get the bend spread relatively evenly along the length of the spine so there is no crunching or compression in any one area.
Only come up as far as is comfortable. Because you are externally supporting your backbend with the arms, it is possible to push too far into the pose. Find a level of elevation that is comfortable and fill the back of the rib cage with each inhale. You may notice that the body tends to rock forward and back with the breath and that the breath becomes a little bit faster. This is fine, just focus on steady, even breathing.
Stay here as long as you can comfortably maintain your breath, then slowly release and spend a few moments with the head turned to one side, breathing into the back of the torso. Often this pose is repeated several times. You can end by finding Child’s Pose, rounding the back to counter the pose.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you or see you at one of my classes!