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Bow Pose is the fourth posture in the important Spine Strengthening Series, and this August it is our posture of the month at HYF!

During the Spine Strengthening Series, Cobra zeroes in on on your lower/lumbar spine, while Locust addresses the upper/cervical spine. Full Locust Pose works the strength and flexibility of your mid/thoracic spine.

You could say that our posture of the month puts a bow on this gift of a series by strengthening and stretching your entire spine, top to bottom in a backbend that is done against gravity.

It’s normal to feel some well-earned fatigue by the time you get to Bow Pose. You can use that fatigue to your advantage to relax your shoulders, allowing them to lift and open. But channel every drop of energy you can muster into your lower extremities: this posture is driven by the strong kick, kick, kick of your legs.

Tips from the podium: 

  • If you have a lot of trouble grabbing both feet at the beginning of this posture, you can reach for the right foot on the first set and the left foot on the second set. Every week or so, give both hands a try; your body will open up over time.

    Nice set-up, Jean! Hands just below the toes, wrists straight and elbows straight. You’re ready to kick!

  • Grip your feet two inches below your toes, using your finger strength. Check for straight wrists in the front mirror. If your wrists are bumping out, you are over-gripping your feet and sending too much tension up your arms into your shoulders. If you’ve been over-gripping for a while, this new grip might feel slippery and weak, but you’ll soon develop the finger/hand strength that you need.
  • Knees and feet are only six inches apart at most. Your knees might need to go wider for you to grab your feet, but then line things up, knees behind shoulders, toes pointing straight up.

    When knees and feet are six inches apart, it looks like this!

  • When John Salvatore visited the studio earlier this year, he described this posture in a very helpful way. He suggested thinking about your hands as hooks and your arms as bungee cords that are pulling your chest and shoulders up off the floor. Your legs are doing the lifting; your upper body is coming along for the ride as your shoulders lift and open.
  • Again, your legs are doing the lifting. Think about kicking your knees up and off the floor. Once you find that motion, go deeper and try to get your entire thigh bone off the floor. Push your hips down into the floor, contract your glutes, and kick, kick, kick!
  • It’s okay to look in the front mirror as you initiate the kick. You are looking for: 1) straight wrists 2) knees that are still only six inches apart, not splaying out to the side 3) toes pointing up toward the ceiling 4) shoulders and knees in one line, front to back. Over time, you’ll be able to feel these aspects of the alignment, but use the mirror if you need to.

    What a lovely Bow Pose! Notice how Jean’s knees are even with her shoulders, toes lined up over her hips. When we tell you to roll forward in class, we are helping you find this alignment.

  • Look up and back, as if you’re going to one day see your toes with your very own eyes.
  • You are balancing on the soft part of your belly, just below your ribs.


  • Increases blood circulation to all the structures of the spine.
  • Revitalizes spinal nerves.
  • Opens the shoulders, and stretches entire front side of body and spinal column, helping to straighten rounded spines.
  • Opens ribcage, permitting maximum lung expansion and improved oxygen intake.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Strengthens erector spinae, deltoid, rhomboid, and lattisimus dorsi muscles.
  • Increases concentration and determination.

–Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory Chelmsford



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