A fabulous warm up for Archer Pose is a supine version – an ideal pre-cursor to the main event. Lie comfortably on your back with both knees bent, draw the right leg towards the chest, catch the toes with the right hand (or use a belt) and then stretch your leg up towards the ceiling. Bring the left leg into half happy baby (Ardha Ananda Balasana) by drawing the left knee towards the chest, lifting up the foot and placing your left hand on the inside of the foot or take hold of the ankle, then encourage the knee towards the armpit or the floor on an exhalation, keeping the left shin vertical if possible. Stay here for a few deep, easy breaths, noticing how that feels for the hips, glutes and the hamstrings, then slowly release and repeat on the other side.
If you felt comfortable practicing the supine version, then you may feel confident with progressing into the full seated Archer Pose.
Begin sitting in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with both legs stretched out ahead and with the spine long and tall. Notice how that feels for the hamstrings – you could roll up a blanket or towel and place under the knees if the muscles feel tight. You could also sit on a blanket, block or cushion to slightly elevate the hips if that feels more comfortable. Bend the left knee and place the sole of the foot on the mat. Breathe in and as you exhale fold forward and catch hold of the toes on the right leg with the right hand (or use a belt if preferred) whilst hooking your left index finger around the big toe on the left foot. Slowly breathe and lift your torso back upright whilst lifting the left leg, keeping the knee bent and gently encouraging the left foot back towards the left ear. Hold the pose for five to ten breaths, keeping your gaze (Drishti) towards the outstretched toes, then slowly release, stretch out anything that feels good to re-set the muscles and then repeat on the other side.
Archer Pose can reduce stiffness and improve flexibility in the hips, it stretches the hamstrings, builds on core strength and can help to strengthen the arm muscles and shoulders. Archer isn’t recommended for anyone experiencing any spinal or abdominal issues or during pregnancy.
When exploring Archer Pose, take your time, enjoy the journey and don’t let the full posture become an obsession. It’s great to have a target to aim for with our arrows, but as with all legendary bowmen and women, it takes time, patience and plenty of practice to hit the bullseye every time.