Ashtangasana (Eight Limbed Pose): Steps, Benefits, and Contraindications

Ashtangasana - Ashtanga Namaskara Eight Limbed Pose- Fitzabout

Ashtangasana, also known as Ashtanga Namaskara or Eight Limbed Pose, stretches the neck and shoulders, while strengthening the arms and upper body, as well as lengthening and realigning the spine.

Information

Known as:Ashtangasana, Ashtanga Namaskara, Ashtanga Dandavat Pranam, Eight Limbed Pose, Caterpillar Pose, Chest Knees and Chin Pose, Eight Limb Prayer Pose, Eight Point Pose, Salutation with Eight Limbs Pose, Salute With Eight Limbs Pose, Four Limbed Staff Pose Knees Chest Chin Floor Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana Knees Chest Chin Floor Pose
Sanskrit name:अष्टाङ्गासन;
अष्टाङ्ग नमस्कार
IAST:aṣṭāṅgāsana;
aṣṭāṅga namaskāra
Pronunciation:aash-tanh-GAHS-ah-nuh;
aash-tanh-GAH namah-SKAR-ah
Level:Beginner
Type:Strength, prone, arms, leg support, balancing
Focus:Entire back, spine, arms, neck, shoulders
Total time:30 to 60 seconds
Drishti:Forward;
Tip of nose (Nasikagra or Agochari)
Chakra:Manipura Chakra, Swadisthana Chakra, Muladhara Chakra
Indications:Internal organs, digestion, abdominal
Counterposes:Phalakasana (Plank Pose)
Preparatory poses:Plank Pose (Phalakasana), Lotus Pose (Salabhasana), Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Follow-up poses:Upward Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), Child’s Pose (Balasana), Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Contraindications:Blood pressure, migraine, neck, shoulder, wrists, neck, hips, knees, ankles, toes, pelvis, or elbow injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, herniated disc or spondylolisthesis, pregnant women

Meaning

Ashtangasana

The Ashtangasana is derived from the Sanskrit name, which is made up of two words — Ashtanga + Asana:

  1. Ashtanga” = “eight limbs”
  2. Asana” = “posture or pose”

The Ashtanga Namaskara is derived from the Sanskrit name, which is made up of four words — Ashta + Anga + Namaskar + Asana:

  1. Ashta” = “eight”
  2. Anga” = “limb or part”
  3. Namaskar” = “bowing, or a prayer, or a greeting, or salutation”
  4. Asana” = “posture or pose”
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In Ashtanga Namaskar (Knees Chest Chin Pose is also known by another name) the body touches the ground in eight parts during the practice of the pose. Eight parts of the body, i.e., two feet, two knees, two palms, chest, and chin touch the ground. Salute With Eight Limbs, a literal translation of the Sanskrit name for Asana.

In this practice, the practitioners take the posture of saluting by lying down on the ground by keeping the eight parts or limbs of their body in contact with the ground. This form of Namaskar is practiced in the Indian tradition to seek the blessings of elders or to wish or greet in front of deities or saints and sages.

Acting as a transition pose, the body is balanced and rests on the chest, chin, palms, knees and feet, making it a great pose for strengthening the muscles of the arms, as well as the core.

Knees Chest Chin Pose is part of the classical Hatha Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation), which consists of a space between the Plank Pose or Downward Facing Dog Pose and Cobra Pose.

This Asana can be a great preparation pose for Four Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana), or forward arm balancing pose.

Benefits of Ashtangasana (Eight Limbed Pose)

One of the many great benefits of regular practice of this yoga posture is to make the body strong and flexible.

The physical and mental benefits of this yoga pose are listed below:

  1. Physical Benefits:
    • Stretches the toes, soles, hips, lower back, and neck
    • Opens the chest
    • Strengthens the core, abdomen, chest, biceps, triceps, knees, and entire back
    • Tone the limbs (upper limb and lower limb)
    • Maintain the natural curvature of the spine
    • Improve posture and flexibility
    • Stimulate the internal organs
    • Helps to boost energy in the body
    • Relieves back pain
  2. Mental Benefits:
    • Calms the mind
    • Build confidence
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Ashtangasana (Eight Limbed Pose) Practice Guide

Knee, chest, and chin alignment is an essential part of Ashtangasana (Chest Knees and Chin Pose), and its alignment is equally important to keep the body comfortable and relaxed. By being aware of these three parts, and connecting to these stretches and pressure, the body communicates when it needs improvement.

Hence, alignment plays an essential role to get the best out of this yoga pose. One of the most essential aspects of this posture is that, it helps in stabilizing the mind, instilling confidence throughout the Asana.

Therefore, learning to go beyond mere physical benefits is the most indispensable aspect of yoga practice, and can be achieved with this yoga posture.

Follow the instructions below to practice these Asanas safely. It will help you in the complete practice of the pose.

Step-by-step instructions

Ashtangasana - Ashtanga Namaskara - Eight Limbed Pose - Caterpillar Pose - Chest Knees and Chin Pose - Fitzabout
© image: Instagram/Supritha Bhat

  1. Begin with Phalakasana (Plank Pose). Make sure the shoulders are directly over the wrists.
  2. Exhale, and slowly lower your knees to the ground, toes tucked down.
  3. Bend your elbows and point them back toward the back of the mat. Raise the hips. Engage the bottom of your pelvis (pelvic floor or mula bandha) and pull your abs (transverse abdominis or uddiyana bandha).
  4. While lowering the chest, spread the chin/forehead forward and bring the chin/forehead down to the ground.
  5. Lower the chest and pelvis slightly, so that you can also bring the chest down to the ground.
  6. Keep hugging the sides, butts are raised high, toes stay tucked under.
  7. Stay in this position for 4-12 breaths.
  8. To come out of the pose, pull back with the hands and slide the chest forward to come into Cobra Pose or Upward Facing Dog Pose. Then press back into Child’s Pose for a few breaths.
  9. Repeat this pose 3 more times to get the most out of this pose.
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Tips:

Be gentle and practice the pose slowly, do not rush it. When you lower your body into the pose, the back muscles are engaged. That’s why you need to see that your body doesn’t get into a posture that causes pain or discomfort. If you feel pain or discomfort, move the chest as low as you can without pain.

Don’t let the elbows stick out, just keep them close to the sides of the body with the heels pointing up.

The more you bring your back into the pose, the deeper the pose will be. Do not bend your back to such an extent that you experience back pain.

Precautions and contraindications

There are precautions and contraindications you should keep in mind to avoid injury while practicing Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight Limbed Pose).

Precautions and contraindications for the same are explained below:

Injury and surgery

Practicing Caterpillar Pose (Chest Knees and Chin Pose) puts a lot of strain on the joints and muscles throughout your body. Therefore, if any part of the body is injured, or is recovering from surgery, then the practice of this yoga posture should be avoided.

Injury to your shoulders, elbows, wrists, neck, hips, knees, lower back, ankles, toes, pelvis, etc. should be reported to your yoga teacher/instructor to avoid injury.

Slip disc and spondylolisthesis

Individuals, regardless of age, recovering from a herniated disc or spondylolisthesis should avoid the practice of Ashtanga Namaskara.

Arthritis and lower back pain

People who are battling with their back pain issues, or suffering from arthritis, should completely avoid the practice of Ashtangasana.

Migraine and blood pressure

If individuals are not yet comfortable with your breathing and body awareness, that is, if you suffer from blood pressure or have a migraine, as breathing can be restricted while trying to keep the body in balance, and this is not safe for in such individuals.

Pregnant women

In general, pregnant women should avoid the practice of Ashtangasana because there is a lot of pressure in the abdominal region with active use of the pelvic floor muscles.

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