Archer Pose, Akarna Dhanurasana
a (towards, near) + karna (ear) + dhanura (bow) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Shooting Bow Pose
Work on your focus, balance and sense of play in this powerful asana.
Archer Pose Fundamentals
Archer Pose is quite an unique asana. Its shape appears like an archer releasing the arrow, hence the name. Not very common, this pose can refresh your practice with a new challenge and let you play on the mat.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika described this pose “Grasp both toes with the hands [left with left, right with right], keep one leg straight, and draw the other to the ear as you would the string of a bow. This is dhanurasana.”
The pose is also called Dhanurasana in the text Sritattvanidhi written in 19th century. Today we refer to Bow Pose as Dhanurasana, and the archer pose got a prefix and is called – Akarna Dhanurasana, which literally translates to “Toward-the-Ear Bow Pose”.Except for strengthening you physically, Archer Pose also makes you feel stronger mentally. It helps you build focus and stability in the mind.
Archer Pose & Yogic Philosophy
The name of the pose refers to a myth from Ramayana. The myth talks about a huge bow that lord Shiva gave to King Janaka.
The bow was so enormous and powerful that no human could ever lift it – except for Janaka’s infant daughter Sita. He was shocked to see his small daughter move the giant Shiva’s celestial bow to reach her toy. That also gave him an idea of how to recognize Sita’s husband – as he will be the only one able to wield the bow.
The day came, and only Rama was able to wield it and married Sita. He not only wielded it but did it with so much power he broke the shaft. The two had already fallen in love so there was no doubt about the connection.
The way this story related to our practice is that it symbolizes Lord Shivas passing of the yogic knowledge to Janaka.
Wielding the bow talks about our spiritual power, and symbolizes the path of yoga – unifying the individual with the divine, and represents a disciplined practice, through which each and every one of us can reach that goal.
By pulling back – or withdrawing – the senses, we can direct ourselves and reach our final goal, unification with God.
Energetically Archer Pose stimulates the lower three chakras, which can help us balance our emotions and increase our concentration.
Archer Pose Benefits
- Stretches and opens the hips, hamstrings, lower back, and groin.
- Strengthens the core, the wrists, knees, and ankles.
- Opens the chest and encourages us to work on lengthening the spine. This in turn can help with our postural and lung health.
- Encourages mental stability, focus, and concentration. It can also bring a sense of self-confidence.
- Energizes the body and boosts the mood – perfect for your morning practice.
- Stimulates the endocrine glands and reproductive organs, boosting their function.
How To Do Archer Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
- Begin seated on the mat with your legs extended in front of you, in Staff Pose or Dandasana. Engage the feet and hold for a couple of breaths.
- Stretch forward to a fold and grab the big toes, in Seated Hand To Big Toe Pose.
- Keep holding the right foot with the right hand, and pull the elbow and shoulder back, bringing the foot close to the ear.
- Keep pressing the back left leg into the floor, keep the spine long, and twist the torso slightly toward the right.
- Keep holding the big toes of both feet the entire time.
- Gaze forward, hold for several breaths, and release. Move back to Dandasana then move the practice to the other side.
Tips And Tricks:
- Keep the extended leg as straight as you can, and glue it on the floor.
- Keep the grip on the toes for the entire duration of the pose.
- You can use a yoga strap to hold either of the feet and extend your reach. In this way, you will be able to practice with good alignment, even if you can’t reach the full expression of the pose right away.
Archer Pose Variations:
Archer Pose Variation: Standing Archer Pose
There is also a standing version of the Archer Pose, which is similar to Warrior poses.
Start with your legs in the same position you would for the Warrior Pose with the right foot forward.
Stretch both arms in front of you (towards the right knee) with hands in fists. Then draw the left arm back, just like you’re pulling a bow back.
Bring the left shoulder blade back closer to the spine, and bring the left hand close to the left shoulder. Then repeat the same on the other side.
This pose is often included in the Kundalini Yoga practice because it opens the energy channels and boosts energy flow in the body. This helps to heal and balance the chakras.
Archer Pose Variation: Akarna Dhanurasana II
This is the second variation of the seated Archer Pose.
Start in Staff Pose with the legs extended in front of you.
Bend the right leg and place the foot on the left thigh. Grab the right big toe with the left hand and grab the left toe with the right hand. Lift the right foot off the ground, bringing it closer to the left ear.
Then repeat on the other side.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Collapsing the upper body. Although the spine will naturally round slightly in the pose, you should strive to keep it as straight as possible and keep the chest open. If that’s too difficult use a strap to extend your reach.
Bending the bottom leg. The extended leg is a big part of this stretch, and if you aren’t able to both hold the toes with your hand and keep the leg straight, prioritize second, and use a strap or a rolled shirt to grab the foot.
If you have an injury in the wrists, toes, hips, ankles or shoulders avoid this pose.
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