Archery Inspired Yoga: Connecting to the Heart
Looking for a way to soften your heart and ignite your warrior’s courage? This archery inspired yoga sequence will help you get there.
Practicing Beyond Your Comfort Zone
If you live in Los Angeles, you’ve heard of Terranea, the coastal resort considered the gem of Palos Verdes. Terranea is well-known for rooms with sweeping ocean views, first-class dining, and sea-side nature walks. Yet this pristine resort has much more to offer by way of self-discovery than appears on the surface.On my most recent visit to Terranea, I decided to escape my comfort zone and try something completely new: archery. And boy, was I glad I did.
From the hilltop overlooking Terranea’s private beach cove, I saw canvas covered cork targets in the distance, lined up along the cliff wall. As I embarked upon the sandy walk downhill, the targets looked bigger, but no less intimidating. We were greeted by our instructor, Bob, who assured us that no one would get stuck by any arrows that day. Over the next hour, we were taught the basics of archery. As we began to practice using the bow and arrow, I was struck by how much the pulling of the bowstring required a soft, gentle touch while holding the arrow.
In some ways, it felt familiar to my yoga practice because posture is integral in archery. (Have you ever seen an archer slouch while aiming to shoot?).
With each subsequent loading of my bow, I became more practiced and adept as my focus narrowed. I stopped noticing extraneous sounds around me and began to only hear my breath and see the target. And there, with the waves crashing behind me, bow pulled taut in direct aim at the target, all that was left was my breath. Just as when I am in the zone during yoga practice, each moment became solely about the breath and the connection to my heart.
The focus of this archery inspired yoga sequence is about centering the heart.
As I have now made archery a regular hobby, I have come to appreciate the connections between yoga and archery. A true warrior, just as a yogi, leads with her heart and seeks peace, no matter the circumstance. She centers herself with her breath and keeps her awareness fully in this moment.
Before the sequence, start with a few sun salutes or other preparations to warm up your body.
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
Starting with your left foot forward, and your right foot at 45 degrees. Bend your left knee directly over the ankle and face your hips toward the front of your mat. Inhale and reach your fingers to the sky, engaging the triceps to straighten your elbows. Hold here for 3 breaths.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
From Warrior I, turn your back foot to 90 degrees and rotate your hips to the long edge of your mat. Keep your left arm extended over your left leg, and bend your right elbow, resting your right hand near the front of your right shoulder. Gaze over your left fingertips as you breathe here for 3 breath cycles.
Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)
From Warrior II, keep the front knee bent over the ankle, and place your right hand on your heart as you reach your left arm overhead. Shift your torso so your heart shines up to the sky and allow your gaze to follow your left hand. Stay in Reverse warrior for 3 breath cycles.
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Cartwheel your hands down to the earth to frame your left foot. Step the left foot back, into plank pose, then lower yourself all the way to the ground. Press your hands firmly into the earth, and lift your torso up and through your arms. As you straighten your elbows, shine your heart to the sky. Engage your quadriceps by pressing the tops of your feet into the ground, and lift your knees off the mat. Hold this posture for 1-2 breaths.
Bow pose (Dhanurasana)
Lower to the ground and lay flat on your belly with your forehead resting on the mat. Bend your knees and catch hold of the ankles. If this is not accessible to you, wrap straps around your feet to extend your reach, and catch hold of the straps. Inhale and press your ankles away from your hips as you lift your chest and knees off the mat. Stay here for 1-2 breath cycles, or however long feels good for you.
Archer Pose (Akarna Dhanurasana)
Come to a seated position and extend your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and rotate it out to the side. Flex your hips and reach forward to grasp your left big toe with your left index and middle fingers. At the same time grasp your right big toe with your right index and middle fingers. On an inhalation sit upright and lift your right foot and knee off the floor, pointing your right elbow behind you as if you were drawing back on a bowstring. Draw your right foot as close to your ear as is comfortable. Keep your gaze focused forward over your left foot. Take 3-5 breaths here.
Flow through one sun salutation and perform this sequence on the other side. End in Savasana.
Dr. Ingrid Yang, M.D., J.D., E-RYT500, C-IAYT, is a physician, certified yoga therapist, Reiki master and an advisory board member at wellness company obVus Solutions, where she contributes her expertise to the breathing exercises featured in the minder® posture corrector + breathing coach app. When not practicing medicine, Dr. Yang leads yoga trainings and retreats all over the world, with a special focus on kinesthetic physiology and healing through posture modification, breathwork, meditation and mind-body connection. Dr. Yang has authored two books: Hatha Yoga Asanas and her latest release, Adaptive Yoga, published in November 2020.