The Bow Postures

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When an advanced student has come into the bow posture, it resembles a drawn bow: the torso and thighs are the bow, and the taut upper extremities and the legs are the string, which is drawn toward the ceiling at the junction of the hands and the ankles. The beginner's posture is not so elegant. Most of its length is flattened down against the floor, and the pose is acutely hinged at the knee joints.

the beginner's bow

To begin, lie prone, flex the knees, and grasp the ankles. Try to lift yourself into a bow, not by backbending with the deep back muscles, which remain relaxed in the beginning posture, but by attempting to extend the legs at the knee joints with the quadriceps femoris muscles. An attempt to straighten the knee joints is little more than an attempt, since you are holding onto the ankles, but it does lilt the thighs and extend the knees moderately (fig. 5.22).

It seems extraordinary that the quadriceps femoris muscles (figs. 3.9, 8.8, and 8.11) are the foremost actors for creating this posture, but that is the case. At first they are in a state of mild stretch because the knees are flexed. Then, shortening these musclcs concentrically against the resistance of the arms and forearms creates tension that begins to pull the body into an arc. The quadriceps muscles are performing three roles simultaneously: extending the knee joints from a flexed position, lifting the thighs, and creating tension that draws the bow. The tensions on the knee joints can be daunting for a beginner, and many students do well just to grab their ankles. If that is the case, they may not lift up at all but merely contract the quadriceps muscles isometrically. That's fine. Just doing this every day will gradually strengthen the muscles and toughen the connective tissue capsules of the knee joints enough to eventually permit coming up further into the posture.

itje intermediate and advanced bows

Intermediate students will approach the bow with a different emphasis. They may use the quadriceps femoris muscles to lift the knees in the begin-n'ng, but they aid this movement by engaging the deep back muscles (the elector spinae) to create an internal arch. Then, as they come higher they


will use the gluteal muscles in the hips to provide even more lift. And a the gluteus maximus muscles shorten concentrically for extending th< hips, they lift the pelvis away from the floor and indirectly aid extension <> the knee joint.

As advanced students lift into the posture, the lumbar region become fully extended and the hips become hyperextended. Such students will 1 dividing their attention among at least five tasks after they bend the knees and grasp their ankles: paying attention to stretch and tension of tl quadriceps; maintaining a strong connection between the ankles ar shoulders; watching the knee joints, which are receiving an unconvention stress; overseeing the complex muscular interactions between the quadrice femoris muscles on one hand and the gluteal muscles that lift the thig during extension of the hip joints on the other; and breathing, which rocking the upper half of the body up with each inhalation and dropping t forward with each exhalation (fig. 5.23). Once these conditions are establish i, advanced students can take the final option of drawing the feet toward t e head.

The nervous system orchestrates all of this complex musculoskeli il activity. In beginners, the quadriceps femoris muscles, deep back muse s, and gluteals do not receive clear messages to lift strongly into the posti Instead, they are inhibited by numerous pain pathways that take ori n from the joints (especially the knees), and from the front side of the b( ly generally Such reflex input should not be overridden by the power of \ 11. Even advanced students who are able to lift up more strongly may find f it discomfort in the sacroiliac, hip, and knee joints limits the posture. Expt ts honor these signals mindfully Then, as soon as there is no longer any I it of pain, the only limitations to the posture are muscle strength id connective tissue constraints. Advanced students, having practiced the I w thousands of times over a period of years, know exactly how much ten >n can be placed safely on each joint and how to come down from the pos. re without harm.

Figure 5.22. In this beginner's version of the bow posture, the main concentration is on lifting the body using the quadriceps femoris muscles (knee extensors on the front of the thighs).

Figure 5.22. In this beginner's version of the bow posture, the main concentration is on lifting the body using the quadriceps femoris muscles (knee extensors on the front of the thighs).

Quadricer Stretch


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