By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Ashtanga Namaskara is a posture and also an exercise explained in Yoga. It is sometimes a part of Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation) sequence. It is the sixth pose in sun salutation. It is also a traditional pose with a combination of breathing patterns, yoga poses and specific gaze points. It warms the body and prepares us for further activities. It is said to provide a feel of freedom within one’s heart when practiced promptly and with devotion.
Ashtanga = eight parts/points of the body
Namaskara = greeting
It is called as Ashtanga Namaskara because in this pose the body is balanced on eight points of the body simultaneously coming into contact with floor including feet, knee joints, chest, chin or forehead and both hands. The person lay down prone (face down) in this pose.
It is taken as an alternative for Chaturanga Dandasana in Sun Salutation sequence. It is said to be ideal for those who do not have strength to do the original pose. It is a beginner’s pose practiced to strengthen one’s arms. Strong arms are needed to perform Chaturanga Dandasana and hence Ashtanga Namaskara forms a prerequisite training for the former. This pose also forms an ideal warm-up for the backbends.
In this pose, person assumes a pose of saluting by lying down on floor by keeping eight points of his body in contact with floor. This form of saluting is practiced in Indian tradition to wish or salute elders to take their blessings or in front of Gods or sages and saints.
Read – Dandasana Staff Pose – Stick Pose, How to do, Benefits, Precautions
Other names –
- Ashtanga Dandavat Pranam
- Eight Limbed Pose
- Caterpillar Pose
- Chest, Knees and Chin Pose
- Salute with eight parts
This asana was unknown and hence not mentioned in Hatha Yoga Practices. It formed part of Sun Salutation sequence of Pant Pratinidhi in 1929. It was not then considered to be a part of Yoga. Hands are below shoulders, elbows are bent.
Read – Hatha Yoga and Shat Karmas: Benefits, Precautions
Preparation for Ashtanga Namaskara
- Perform Ashtanga Namaskara on empty stomach by consuming food 4-6 hours before performing half wheel pose.
- Evacuate bowel and bladder before performing this pose.
- Ideal time is early morning. If morning schedules are tight then it can be performed in the evening.
Method of doing Ashtanga Namaskara
Positioning for the Asana
- Start with phalakasana, the plank pose,
- Make sure that your shoulders are directly above your wrists
Performing and getting to the Ashtanga Namaskara
- Now ground your knees to the floor gently, toes are tucked under, breathe smoothly throughout the pose.
- Exhale again
- Now bring chest to the floor. Finally bring forehead / chin to the floor. Now you have landed your shoulders right over your hands.
- Keep elbows hugging on to your sides
- Butts are raised and high. Toes stay tucked under.
- Now you have come to ashtanga position as your hips and abdomen off the floor.
- Keep taking deep breaths as you balance your body on your arms, chest and knees.
- You can simultaneously chant the hymn ‘Om Pushne Namaha’ if you believe in doing so.
Read – Analysis Of Effect of Mantras On Health And Nadi
Release from the asana
- Hold in the pose for few breaths, 2-5 breaths to start with.
- Now gradually release from the pose by dropping yourself gently on to the mat. To do this, gently lift your chin off the ground. Slide your chest through your hands, un-tuck your toes and straighten your legs and gradually arrive at Bhujangasana – the cobra pose.
Be gentle on yourself and do the asana slowly. Don’t hurry with it. When you are lowering your body into the pose your muscles of the back are engaged. So you need to see that you don’t let your body fall into the pose such that it creates pain or discomfort. If you feel pain or discomfort take your chest down as far as you can without pain.
Never let your elbows stick out. Just keep them hugged to the sides of your body, pointing towards your heels.
The more you arch your back into the pose, the pose will get deeper. Do not arch your back to an extent wherein you experience any back pain.
Read – Low Back Pain – Ayurveda View Point And Treatment
What time should be spent in the pose while doing Ashtanga Namaskara?
Ashtanga Namaskara can be done for 2-5 breaths in the final position. You can repeat the pose 3-5 times.
Watch this video to follow the method of doing Ashtanga Namaskara
Health Benefits of Ashtanga Namaskara
- It is a great posture and exercise for arm balancing
- Increases strength of arms and shoulders, strengthens biceps and triceps
- Increases strength of abdomen, knees and chest
- Improves stability, flexibility and mobility of the back and spine
- Relieves backache
- Improves the flexibility of the body and posture
- It stretches the soles, toes, lower back, hips and neck
- Opens up the chest and hence good for chest organs
- It prepares you for Chaturanga Dandasana
- It prepares you for other poses which require arm balancing
- It helps in keeping the mind calm
- Will provide anger control and mindfulness benefits
- Enhances the awareness of your body and life
- Prepares you towards a healthier and better lifestyle
- When combined with pranayama makes Ashtanga Namaskara one of the most effective stress buster exercise
Impact on Chakras
Ashtanga Namaskara is said to have a stimulating and balancing effect on Manipura Chakra i.e. Solar Plexus. Therefore it activates the organs related to digestion.
Read – Chakra – Kundalini: Introduction, Meaning, Types, Location, Ayurveda View
Contraindications, Precautions for doing Ashtanga Namaskara
Patients suffering from below mentioned conditions should avoid doing Ashtanga Namaskara –
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Wrist pain and injury
- Recent injuries to your neck, shoulder or elbow
- Injury to any part of the body
- Those recovering from surgery
- High blood pressure
If you are a pregnant, avoid this pose after the first trimester.
If you feel any pain, ease out of the pose.
Impact of Ashtanga Namaskara on doshas and tissues
Impact on doshas and subtypes – Since the pose activates Manipura Chakra and improves digestive functions, it balances samana vata and pachaka pitta. The pose also opens up the chest and is good for chest organs. Hence it is good for udana vata and avalambaka kapha. This asana keeps the mind relaxed and hence balances the Prana Vata – Sadhaka Pitta – Tarpaka Kapha axis.
Impact on tissues – This pose mainly tones up, stretches and strengthens the muscles of the arms, shoulders and all eight limbs involved in the asana. Therefore it is good for the health of muscles and muscle carrying channels.
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