Hot Yoga: Standing Bow Tutorial

How to do it

Turn your right hand, palm facing out, thumb toward the back wall and elbow touching the side of your body (palm out, thumb back, elbow in).

Pick up your right foot by the ankle, raise your left arm up to the ceiling, fingers together, and palm facing the front.

Stand tall with your shoulders and hips square to the mirror. Beginners, extend your right shoulder and arm away from your side. Squeeze your grip.

Lower the body down and reach your arm forward toward the front mirror. Kick ‘BACK’ not ‘UP’ as you let your right shoulder go back. Keep your right knee behind your right hip.

Your right hip turns slightly back (in the Hot Yoga Evolution, the hips are not parallel to the floor, and not square to the front mirror – the hip turns out half-way back) and your foot should eventually grow out of the top of your head, as you look into the front mirror.

Lower your upper body down far enough, so that the stomach is parallel to the floor. Keep your chest slightly higher, than your stomach and your left arm higher, than your chest – completing the back bend.

Use the first set to focus on balance and alignment, use the second set as a “kicking” set.

How to teach Beginners (for teachers)

Make sure they’re holding the foot properly; palm out, thumb back, elbow in. About 50% of the time, a beginner will have a wrong grip. However, for someone with very tight hamstrings, knee problems, or overweight with short arms – I’d let them grab overhand with a ‘wrong’ grip.

Don’t kick back too much, or you won’t be able to lower down.

“Unfreeze” the shoulder and let it go back. This way, the leg can kick up behind you, away from the hip.

If you’re holding your right foot, you need to turn your right shoulder back behind your head, and your right knee behind your body so you won’t be able to see either one in the front mirror.

Keep your left arm strong and fully extended toward the front mirror, wrist straight and palm flat.

Work on balance and breath. If you fall, begin once again from scratch. Usually, beginners lose they’re balance until they learn to: 1. Set the eyes (drishti) 2. Slow down.

Intermediate / Advanced practice

This pose is 40% back bending, 40% standing leg stretching and 20% shoulder and hip- joint release. The key to the pose is judging how high to kick back at the beginning. If your standing-leg is not flexible, you can’t kick too high, because of the limitation in the hamstring. So kick back just enough to lower the stomach down to parallel to the floor. The more flexibility in the standing leg, the higher you’d want to kick initially.

At the advanced level, you must start by kicking super-high in order to release the back hip. Try to find your starting point within the first five to ten seconds of the posture, leaving you enough stamina to kick your leg up.

Ultra-advanced practice

You need to kick up high right away (but slowly), in order to release the back hip, right at the beginning of the pose. At your level, you should have the hamstring flexibility to lower down to where your stomach is parallel to the floor, your chest is a little higher than your stomach and your arm and shoulder are a little higher than your chest. This completes the back bend. Get to it right away, don’t waste too much energy getting to your starting position – start kicking!

Hold right off your ankle toward the shin. Look in the front mirror and see that the bottom of your upper foot is in a vertical position, flush to the mirror. If your upper foot is pointing inward or outward that indicates that your hip is not in the right position. Your knee should be directly below your foot.

Do full splits (down on the mat) to stretch the hamstring of the standing leg between sets. This will really help lock the kicking leg out. Just don’t do that in a bikram class, they’re probably throw you out of the room. 😉 If you’re still not able to straighten the upper leg at the end of the pose (be careful), take a peek at the side mirror. This will give you a better visual perspective. You’re probably closer than you think! Then just lock out the kicking leg, yeah!


Nyon, Switzerland