I was out at one of the many trendy bars in Singapore, with 400 or so other members of an international club. I got chatting with one member, who was group lead for the philosophy network. He comes from a country of Sufi Muslims, and was describing the requirement to prostrate yourself 5 times a day on the floor, with eight points of the limbs.
Ashtanga Namaskara, I exclaim. He looks surprised, you know the name?
Do I know it? 108 times I know it – as part of the sun salutations. Never done it on its own. Have you?
Ashtanga Namaskara is one of the asanas in yoga that people don’t spend much time thinking about. It is really only a transition pose from downward dog to updog (if you do ashtanga) or from down dog to cobra in hatha, isn’t it?
It is known as a salute with eight limbs as “ashta” means eight, “anga” means limbs and “namaskara” means salute in Sanskrit language.
Often viewed as a beginners pose, one that means it helps you warm up the back, the arms, opens the chest so gently. I think this is why we rush through it. For many long-term yogis, it is something we did ages ago, cos now we do chaturanga.
It is a reminder of the key parts of our skeletal structure – the back, the chest, the legs and arms (you can see where the 8 points come from).
The mantra associated with this asana, is Om pushne namayah. I prostrate to the god who nourishes all.
It does indeed nourish our bodies.
How to practice Ashtanga Namaskar?
If you can handle the 17 second ad prior, take the time to watch this 7 minute video by a very happy and committed yogi, Adrienne, showing us how to do this asana as a stand alone and as part of the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations).
But if you don’t have the time, read the instructions below and then practice:
- Begin in Plank Pose. Look down to check your shoulders are directly above and in line with your wrists.
- Lower your knees to the floor. Keep your toes tucked under.
- Hug your elbows in toward your sides, pointing them back toward your heels. Keeping your hips lifted off the floor and palms flat, bring your chest to the floor.
- Place your chest between your hands and gently touch your chin to the floor.
Hold for 1-10 breaths. As a stand alone asana, lower your body all the way to the floor and rest after. Those practicing Sun Salutations press forward into Cobra Pose or Updog.
Like many yogis, I made some dreadful boo boos first learning the Ashtanga Namaskara.
Mistakes are proof you are trying….
- Do not let your elbows splay to the sides. Keep them hugged along your ribcage, pointed toward your heels – imagine you are a grasshopper.
- Drop your hips to the floor – Keep your hips lifted high. There should be a 90-degree angle between your stomach and thighs.
- Do not collapse into the pose. Really do the knees, chest, and chin. Focus on using the muscles of your back to lower yourself.
- Forget to breath – as part of sun salutations, you exhale as you perform this asana. Try and exhale smoothly and evenly throughout the pose.
- Avoid this pose if you have a major injury to your back, any part of your back, and butt pain (such as chronic sciatica – occasional bouts of sciatica are relieved by doing this asana).
Feedback appreciated –