Standing Bow Pose
This is a standing, one legged twisted back bend where each joint in the body is doing almost every motion it can. Possibly the only joint movement not included is spine flexion (spine rounding). The main function or reason behind doing a movement like this, in my opinion, is to get better at walking or running. See the previous blog post in my teacher training blog if you wanna know more about my reasoning behind this idea. The opposing motion in the hip/shoulder joints, as well the rotation through the mid spine are all motions that must happen when you walk/run. Of course, this posture takes them way beyond what’s needed to walk or run effectively, so please don’t emphasize depth while working this pose. The act of exegeration is a strong teaching tool because the body often compensates in very sneaky ways. If one motion, like twisting for example, is difficult for your body, it can be because you are “too” good at another motion that can hide your lack of rotation. The body is brilliant at adapting. But, sometimes this bites us in the metaphorical ass in the long run. Short term solutions are often very expensive in the hard to see future. SO, the dynamic, or HOW you are using the whole body, is the star of the show. If you can grab your foot behind you and tip forward a bit while rotating enough to feel one side of your body get a little shorter than the other, you are doing great! That’s all the ROM you really need to have a functional body. Don’t be fooled by those folks doing fancy pretty things on beaches. Most likely they were born with that ROM and should be doing some loaded strength work instead of standing splits! Focus your efforts on creating enough contact with the entire standing foot to allow yourself to push against the floor. Think of your foot as spreading forward and towards the big toe. Use that push against the floor to float the standing hip back and to the outside. You could call this “loading the posterior hip”. Then, use that hip action to float the tail, the back of the heart and back of the skull. When I use the word float, I am referring to a sense of lift and lightness. If you don’t feel that yet, that’s okay. Keep repeating and maybe adjust the weight distribution on your standing foot until you feel it happen in the hip. When you emphasize the downward push against the floor with your standing foot, think of the opposing upward action as going along the curve in the knee joint (to what ever degree that is) and out the back of the standing hip. Notice if you are letting the force “leak” out the back of the knee. Once you can feel the upward float or release from the downward push, start to actively lift the toes of the leg you are holding on to. No need to kick. Kicking will make your quads (the front of your upper leg) work way more than they need to and can start to have a naughty influence on the front of that hip bone, causing excess forward tipping of the pelvis and pressurizing the lower back or SI joints. Yuck. If you feel the need to kick the leg in order to move it or keep it up, it’s a sign that you are not as plugged into the standing leg as you can be. Go back to that standing foot and repeat the cycle. As you are creating the upward float through the lifting leg and back body, allow those actions to gently draw the mid spine into a twist. Don’t force this action. With time and patience it will become a natural effect of the work you are doing from the hips down. Plus, it has to happen to a degree just to grab that lifting ankle. Also, it’s SO OKAY to allow the standing leg to soften forward. This isn’t a collapse or a weakening. Well, unless it is. Then you will feel your whole body mass deflate and feel heavy. Think of taking the back of the knee slowly forward until you can root powerfully into the back of the standing leg hip. It’s a shifting of space and curves. And hence a strong example of how ALL POSES are just a way to physically express a relationship of space in the body. It’s not so much how high that top leg goes, but how it is working with the bottom leg, the breath moving in/out and so on throughout the body.
While this seems like a lot to do, it’s just the basics of the big movements and broad intentions when doing this posture. There are all sorts of fun things to play with in regards to working deep tissue and superficial tissues. How to take advantage of the strong intrinsic connection between the glutes and the latissimus dorsi. And, well. That will be the next blog post.
Have fun playing with finding the dynamic within the pose. When you can relax into the big picture rather than striving towards a final finished pose that looks a certain way, you are on your way to using this posture as the tool it was designed to be, rather than a performance goal.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments! I would love to know what you think.