Aah – a personal favourite! Why? Because I love the challenge of it! Even after many years of practice I have to give this one my all! It is actually the posture that I used to get nervous about – mainly because I would get mad at myself if I couldn’t hold it. As often is the case, I made peace with the posture and now I love it!
Thank goodness, I no longer get cross with myself if I have to come out or even if I fall out – I simply get back in and use the time I have. Funnily enough, once you take the pressure off yourself of trying to hold it you usually can! The first set is held for 1 minute and the second just 30 seconds.
Here is how it goes. A summary is repeated at the bottom if you prefer.
Preparation for Standing Bow Pulling Pose
As this is the second in the group of 3 balancing postures, as usual you start with your feet facing straight forward and bring your right hand out, palm facing up. Thumbs and fingers together as Bikram says “as if you are holding money in your hand” and you don’t want to drop it! Then you bend your right knee and grab the foot which is now behind you with your right hand from the inside at the ankle. This may feel strange as usually this posture is practised by holding from the outside of the foot but with the Bikram method it is slightly different. Make sure you have that nice tight grip and that you don’t lose it. Then to stabilise yourself, the left arm goes up very close to the head. Again fingers and thumbs together so your hand is kind of like a paddle and your arm is locked and strong.
Focus and final preparation for Standing Bow Pulling Pose!
Now it’s time to get your focus by gazing at your standing knee which as usual should be locked throughout the posture so you have that “concrete lamppost in place” true Bikram style! Concentrate on that and it will give you a lot of strength. Make sure your knees are together at the start and the hips will automatically be square on the mirror. This will avoid doing the “surfing stance” which brings the body out of kilter before you start!
As you inhale, charge the body forward towards the mirror as if you are trying to touch it with your fingertips, and at the same time, kick your right leg back and up towards the ceiling. You bring the body down from the lower spine until the chest and abdomen are parallel to the floor. This is possible as you are constantly stretching your left arm towards the mirror and this will lead your body down.
As a beginner you may have a tendency to just try and “hang in there” for the duration of the posture (counting down the seconds no doubt) but as in all Bikram postures by being proactive with the instruction you will find it will make each posture easier not harder as you may think! Every little detail helps to create more strength and eventually more ease. In the old days there were some little details I would try and get away with not doing, only to find when I did make the effort to listen more and do what was in the dialogue that the posture became soooo much easier! I was surprised but I have since found that to be true on all the postures now – it’s like one day there is an “aha moment” and your body just starts to get that feeling of “oooohhh – that’s what its meant to feel like!” I have heard this from other students too so I know that this is quite a common occurrence.
So in the case of Standing Bow Pulling Pose it requires you to continuously kick your leg back and up as hard as possible and eventually your foot will be visible above your head “like a red indian feather sticking up!” If it seems like you’ll never see that foot in the mirror – don’t despair just try moving the foot away from the buttocks first and then kick up. As usual there is always more to aim for (what’s new?) if you’re game and that is to get both feet in one line down the centre.
Keep on kicking back so eventually you can’t see your right shoulder in the mirror as it is behind the left shoulder and therefore invisible in the mirror. Keep on stretching your left fingers towards the mirror and you will find you gain so much more poise and strength to enable you to hold longer. The dialogue then says to try to touch your shoulder to your chin. Now it doesn’t say try to touch your chin to your shoulder – why? Because if you move the direction of your head you will lose the balance and alignment. The head should stay straight as “where your eyes go the body follows” and you will also lose your focus if you turn your head. So you keep your head facing straight and bring the body parts in towards the centre. The dialogue will keep you on track every time! Eventually both shoulders will be in one line.
Kicking and stretching should be 50/50 – that ensures your balance and if your standing leg is locked too – those three things – as Bikram famously used to tell us ” You can balance there for EVVVEEEERR!” I think that could be a tall order but you get the idea! The rest of the posture is continually keeping the standing leg locked, stretching forward and kicking up until finally the 60 seconds is up – phew! Then you have the pleasure of doing it all over again on the other side.
The second set of 30 seconds will feel like a doddle now ! Actually joking apart I usually see that the second set seems be so much easier for everyone and this is possibly due to mind over matter again – the extra seconds can play on the mind and you can put too much pressure on yourself. If you’re the over achiever type of person it may be best to think “who cares?” and just go for it with a light hearted attitude – “bank” the seconds you hold the posture and ignore the rest. If you come out or fall out don’t judge yourself (judgment does not help your body one iota), just use the time to go in again and practice. Those three, four, seven, fifteen seconds will eventually merge into being able to hold for the whole time without the breaks if that is your aim of course!
Summary of the main points of Standing Bow Pulling Pose:
- Keep thumbs and fingers together with palm up to grab the foot from the inside at the ankle and hold that strong grip
- Standing leg should have a locked knee and act as that “concrete lamppost”
- At the start the other arm should be strong and upright very close to the head
- Both knees together at the start facing the mirror to avoid the “surfing stance”
- Inhale and charge the body forward until the chest and abdomen are parallel to the floor
- Keep stretching the stabilising arm forward as if trying to touch the fingertips to the mirror
- Keep the head straight and touch your shoulder to your chin (not the other way round!)
- Continually keep kicking up and back with the leg until eventually you can see the foot raise up behind the head (this could take time – no worries!)
- All three – stretching forward, kicking up and standing leg locked will enable you to keep the balance!
The main benefits of Standing Bow Pulling Pose:
- Increases both strength and flexibility
- Tones the legs and arms, lifts the buttocks
- Develops concentration, focus and determination
- Shunts blood from one side of the body to the other allowing it to equalize again when standing still in Savasana
- Acts as an internal massage
- Flushes blood to the face giving it a glow
- Relieves back pain as it brings flexibility and strength to the lower spine
- Works out most of the body’s muscles
- Opens up the chest and increases lung capacity
- Great for pregnant women
- Flushes out the kidneys to eliminate toxins
- Helps correct high blood pressure
- Good for tennis elbow and frozen shoulder
- Improves flexibility of the sciatic nerve
- Strengthens and firms the abdominal wall, upper thighs, upper arms, hips and buttocks – great all over workout!
Well as usual I’ve gone on a bit! Just take the bits you need!