Standing Bow: May this pose be ever in your favor…

Standing Bow Pose: How to up your (Hunger) game! May this posture be ever in your favor….

standing bow pose, side view, woman


You’ve seen it.  It’s the quintessential yoga pose.  On every mountaintop, beach, and natural wonder of the world, someone has now done a #stopdropyoga and you can bet your bottom dollar that this is one of the most popular choices in the modern yogi’s repertoire.  And who can blame them? From beginner yogi to decorated veteran yogi, nobody can deny the beauty and grace exuded in a posture that creates the shape of a bow and arrow -equal parts strength and grace.  But how useful is a bow and arrow that isn’t aimed straight or even one that isn’t pulled tight? Don’t know what i’m talking about then ask Katniss Everdeen (from the blockbuster movie The Hunger Games).  It wasn’t her beauty or grace that helped her survive the Hunger Games, but rather her bulldog determination to precision, accuracy, and focus, that gave her the upper hand in the biggest fight for her life.  Now that sounds pretty dramatic, but this posture was meant to exemplify the intense focus of this primitive sport.  And, and as beautiful as this posture may be, if you practice humility and honesty in your daily practice this posture tends to serve up a large helping of “humble pie”.  If you go beyond the impressive shape of this posture, it not only takes dedication to alignment but also learning which intricate muscles to relax and which to contract to hit the bullseye of the mental and physical benefits.

The secrets to this posture are found in this precision based sport, so let’s go there for our cues.  I will explain this posture on the right side for sanity’s sake so that I can explain using “right” and “left” cues, but this posture can obviously be done on both sides.

  1. Stance and set up: Stand up straight.  Keeping the right elbow touching your waist and bend your arm 90 degrees keeping your palm facing up.  Keeping the knees together begin to bend your right knee drawing your heel toward your Gluteus muscle.  Still keeping the knees together, reach and grab for the right ankle at the inside of the ankle (right where the knobby bone of the ankle protrudes).  Extend the left hand up drawing the left Bicep by the left ear.  Left palm should be facing forward.  Begin to inhale, and you reach your left hand higher as if you are going to touch the ceiling, shoulder coming out of the body.  The whole body should feel extended and pulled tight.
  2. Grip: Keep all 5 fingers of the right hand together (including the thumb).  Grip should be strong but no break in the wrist.  Although the grip is tight (white knuckled), make sure that as you begin to kick back that you do not begin to pull with the strength of the right arm, the bow is drawn with the kick.
  3. Place the arrow on the bow: In this posture, the arrow is formed with the two arms.  The bow is formed with the kicking leg.  Thus, it is important that the force comes with the kick (kicking is hard and continuous).  As you begin to kick back and away from the body, you form the bow and you are also placing the arrow on the bow simultaneously.  As you begin to kick back, the arms begin to be pulled into one line, from the left fingertips all the way to the right hand grip.  You are working on getting the arms in one line so the shoulders will also be pulled in to one line through the force of the kick.  Eventually, the chin will be touching the left shoulder because you have never changed the position of the head but because the shoulders are pulled in one line (from the reaching and kicking actions), then the left shoulder will keep moving to align with the chin (the midline of the body) -not the other way around.  In other words, you are reaching so much with the left fingertips that the left shoulder eventually meets the chin, not the chin reaching  for the shoulder.
  4. Finger position: Just as all 5 fingers of the right hand are together and touching, same goes for the fingers of the left hand.  They are together and the palm is facing forward and rotates down as the body comes down.  Also, when looking in the mirror in front of you, the fingertips of the left hand should appear as if they are touching the iris of the left eye; the hand position is much higher than many realize.  This helps you keep as arch in the spine and initiates the backbend.
  5. Draw:  As I mentioned earlier, the kick is continuous.  You need to draw a bow tight in order to shoot an arrow, right?  Imagine what would happen if you released the tension in a bow and arrow and then tried to shoot an arrow… the arrow would flop to the ground no matter how good you may be.  Same goes for this posture.  Keep kicking!  Only when you feel that your kick is maximized and you can’t kick any harder, do you even think about rotating the body at all.  I often see people begin to let the belly rotate down when there is still some slack in the bow and this is a recipe for misalignment and a wobbly bow and arrow.
  6. Aim:  In this posture, everything will eventually line up in one straight line in the front mirror.  Look at the picture (below).  You will see two feet in one line.  Not only that, but you will also, see my chin, left fingertips, gaze, everything in one line as if I am standing between two panes of glass.  The only thing that should not be in one line from the front are the hips.  The hips should be square to the ground, so there also needs to be a continuous effort to pull the right hip down.  This creates a twist in the spine.  See how everything is in one line in the picture, below? Except, my hips look like the are next to each other on either side of my body?  That is the correct alignment.  I often see people opening their right hip to achieve an kick that appears higher, but are really just trading alignment for pseudo-depth.  As you rotate your body down, you should rotate as if you are on an axis and there should be no side to side motion.  Keep coming down until the belly button is facing the ground (while never letting up on the kick).  Hold steady, breathe normally, and keep your eyes focused on your left fingertips touching your left eye in the mirror.
  7. Release:  When you are ready to come out, use your inhale to lift yourself back up the same axis from which you rotated down -reversing out the exact same way you came down.  Never let your left fingertips come away from touching your left eye win the front mirror.  End in the same position you began your set up.

standing bow pose, woman, front view

So, go ahead now.  Channel your inner Katness, and may this pose be ever in your favor!

Namaste, Bendy Babes,




woman, standing, smiling, field


Paloma is an avid yoga enthusiast, practitioner, and teacher in Louisville, Kentucky.  She created Her Bendy Life as a way to expand on her passion for all things yoga.  She has found that yoga is a very personal journey and she wanted a create a space to share some of the experiences, tips, and tricks from her dedication to her ever evolving practice.  She received a 200-RYT certified from Cindy Lunsford in Hot Vinyasa Yoga and also traveled to Cabo San Lucas to train with Tony Sanchez in the Ghosh Lineage. Paloma took her practice to new heights in 2016 when she placed 1st in the Yoga Federation’s Regional Competition in Chicago Illinois and 9th in the 2016 National Yoga Championship.

Paloma’s teaching emphasizes using the planes of the body to achieve proper alignment, allowing students to achieve the full therapeutic benefits of yoga.  She believes in adapting postures to each students ability (whether beginner or advanced) while maintaining physical alignment.  Paloma believes that yoga should never be dogmatic and that students should only go as far into a posture as what is comfortable for them.  She helps students find modifications that help them safely progress. Paloma lives with her husband George, her Labrador Retriever Belle, and her Pug Piper.

Instagram: @her_bendy_life

Right on Cue: A Guide for Yogis

Bring back curiosity and mindfulness into your practice, leading a class is more than just being right on cue. 

As intelligent, evolved beings we often find it challenging to take directions from others. Think back to the childhood curiosity that frequently found you pushing beyond the neatly laid out boundaries set out for you by parents and elders, questioning everything. If you spend long periods of time with young children in your day-to-day, you’re probably quite used to hearing the word “why?” endlessly repeated in response to basically any statement.

At some point in our lives, generally around the same time we found ourselves confined to a chair and desk for six hours a day, we started to lose that incessant desire to question; to explore beyond the surface of directions sent our way by others. We started to find it much easier to take directions without asking, and go through the motions on an autopilot of sorts.

In our modern yoga and movement practice, this lack of childlike curiosity and autonomy over our physical, mental, and emotional responses to our practice has become a (not-so) silent epidemic.

Right on Cue

Drastic words? Perhaps, but I fully believe that the consequences hold some pretty serious implications and impact. Let me back track by saying that I do not think this falls entirely on yoga practitioners unwilling to ownership of their practice, but also on the part of teachers who continue to repeat generalized cues without much conviction or thought put into how they translate into the bodies of practitioners in the room at that moment in time. And it’s this continuous stream of bland, non-personal cues for both the physical and subtle body that lead to practitioners tuning out, running on autopilot, and failing to connect on a profound level with what’s happening through their practice. As a growing community that has embraced the concept and practice of yoga, it’s time to tune back in to both our teaching and practice, and bring back that act of self-aware questioning.


Yoga Teachers

Let’s start by breaking down the difference between teaching and instructing, because they’re two very separate vocations. To instruct is to go through the motions, repeating words and phrases that are far too often not truly our own. An instructor leads with few modifications, and provides cues that do not allow much, if any, wiggle room, without questioning why he or she is asking practitioners to progress through a sequence of movements. A teacher, however, dedicates him or herself to moving outside his or her own definition of the practice in order to better serve the practitioners in the room, at any given time. A true teacher never defines him or herself as such (re: Yeah, actually I’m a yoga teacher. It’s pretty great!), but rather as a vehicle for learning.

The best teachers always question “why,” guide with purpose, and are always students themselves.

So “teachers,” let’s make waves and make changes. Instead of providing alignment cues in a tone that suggests everyone must follow suit, it’s important to provide practitioners with the space to experiment. Encourage everyone to feel out how their body responds to certain movements, to breath pattern, and even to different verbalizations and visual representations of instructions. Heel to heel vs. heel to arch vs. square your hips vs. toes at a 45 degree angle – there is no one or even two or three “right ways” for asana to make its appearance across a vast spectrum of different physical bodies. Let each practitioner determine what works and what doesn’t, and start to find your own voice in how you choose to verbalize your points of guidance.

Right on Cue

The best piece of advice I have been given was by a friend during our 300 hour training in Rishikesh. She observed me teaching our final “practicum” class, and when I looked to her for feedback, she told me that the best parts of my class were when I was being my authentic self. She suggested to me that I forget about turning to those overused, tired cues that we hear teachers repeating with a tireless lack of conviction. Be a little awkward, try to crack a joke or two, if that’s how you best connect and communicate with others. Even those practitioners that are new to your classes and teaching style will better connect with a teacher who carries with him or herself a sense of credibility and confidence, and doesn’t force a falsified presence. Finding your voice, as non-traditional as it may be, is so key to feeling fully comfortable as you strive to enable others to feel comfortable and find themselves through their practice.


Yoga Practitioners

Continue to ask “why.” This doesn’t mean that every single cue provided to you by an instructor or teacher needs to be followed up with that verbalization, but question the purpose behind the pose, behind the movement, and behind the cue. Leverage this to build a sense of awareness within your own physical and subtle body – identify how your reactions and responses change each day, and start to foster a deeper level of self-awareness. It’s incredible easy to move through asanas and through your typical flow without fully absorbing each subcomponent within your own being. Avoid the autopilot trap, bring a sense of awareness into your practice, and let that attunement permeate throughout other aspects of your life.

In its most raw form, pre-Instagram yoga challenges, before “Hot Power Flow” classes and “Yoga Bootcamp” classes were ever a thing, yoga symbolized union. It is the understanding that we are all one and the same. Yoga embodies the fact that nothing separates each one of us here; we do not coexist, we only exist as one collective. So let’s take steps towards breaking down the dogmatic teacher-student barriers that have come to be, and provide practitioners with the ownership to shape their respective practices, both on and off the mat.


Cassandra Cooper

Cassandra Cooper

Growing up with a background in competitive figure skating, Cass’ journey with yoga began at a young age. What started as a way of maintaining flexibility and mobility has since shifted to focus on building strength, by combining elements of functional movement into her practice and sequencing, helping to explore the different ways in which each individual’s body moves and changes shape. Since completing Octopus Garden’s 200 hour teacher training, and Rishikesh Yog Peeth’s 300 hour advanced teacher training program, Cass has pursued Barre and Pilates certifications through Stott Pilates, along with Essentrics movement training. The most important thing she’s discovered along the way is that you’re always a student – be curious, always question, carefully analyze, and continuously seek new avenues towards unexpected answers. ‘Yoga is the journey from cosmetic to cosmic beauty.’