Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight-Limbed Pose)

Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight-Limbed Pose)


What is Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight-Limbed Pose)?

Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight-Limbed Pose)

Ashtanga Namaskara is a yoga flow pose from Surya Namaskar. It is also known as Eight-Limbed Pose or Chest-Knee-Chin Pose. 

Ashtanga Namaskara is a beginner-friendly variation for the Four-Limbed Staff Pose during Surya Namaskar flow. In this posture, your body is balanced on only eight parts of your body – your palms, feet, knees, chest, and chin. 

The grounding gesture of this pose is as if you are paying homage to the sun and showing gratitude for providing energy on this planet.

In Sanskrit, "Ashta" means Eight, "Anga" means Body Parts or Limbs, and "Namaskara" means Greeting or Bowing Down at someone with respect. 

This asana was unknown, so there is no trace of it in ancient Hatha Yoga Texts. It was initially practiced by Pant Pratinidhis (a prominent administration family who used to serve the Kings of the Maratha Empire) in 1929. At that time, this pose was not considered a yoga pose. 

Later, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya's student K. Pattabhi Jois founded the Astanga Yoga system and started to teach this pose to his pupils. 

Sanskrit Name: अष्टाङ्ग नमस्कार     Pronunciation: osh-TONG-ah nahm-ah-SKAR-ah

Pose Type: Transition Pose         Also known as: Eight-Limbed Staff Pose or Caterpillar Pose

Strengthens: Arms, Shoulders, Core, Chest, Back, and Chin                

Stretches: Back, Chest, and Spine

Health Benefits of Ashtanga Namaskara

  • Relieves backaches. 

  • Helps calm the mind. 

  • Helps open the chest muscles. 

  • Enhances your sitting and standing posture. 

  • Improves strength in your arms and tones your triceps.  

  • It is a beginner-friendly pose for arm strengthening. 

  • Improves mobility and flexibility in your back muscles. 

  • Increases body awareness. 

  • Engaging your core helps to stimulate the Manipura Chakra and digestive system. 

When to Avoid Performing Ashtanga Namaskara

  • Avoid if you have migraines.

  • Avoid if you have high-blood pressure issues. 

  • Avoid if you had a severe injury. 

  • Avoid if you are recovering from surgery. 

  • Avoid if you have inflammatory elbow or knee arthritis.

  • Avoid if you are recovering from a slipped disc or spondylolisthesis

  • Avoid during pregnancy, especially if you have sore feet or chronic back pain.

How to do Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight-Limbed Pose)

We have divided the eight-limbed yoga pose practice into four phases: preparation, steps, posture tips, and counter postures. 

These detailed phases will help you understand Ashtanga Namaskara pose better and enjoy its significant health benefits. 

Part 1 - Preparatory Poses for Ashtanga Namaskara

The Eight-Limbed yoga pose is a practice from Sun Salutation flow. Below listed are a few yoga asanas that are done before Ashtanga Namaskara to activate the spine, arms, legs, and core muscles:

1. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) - Bend into a Standing Forward Fold, place your hands on the ground, and walk your four limbs through, creating a triangular space within your hands and feet. 

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Keep your core tight, feet flat on the ground, and flex your spine like a dog stretches its body while yawning. Hold this pose here for a few seconds, and then get into the next pose. 

2. Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana (High Plank Pose) - Move your spine in a neutral pose by holding your body on a high plank for a few seconds. 

Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana (High Plank Pose)

Keep your glutes, tailbone, neck, and head in one straight line. Make sure your core muscles are super engaged, and your gaze is between your palms. 

Part 2: Step-by-Step Instructions to Perform Ashtanga Namaskara

The following are the steps to get into the Ashtanga Namaskara or Caterpillar Pose:

Step 1- Begin with a high plank pose or a tabletop position. 

Step 2- From the starting position, inhale and gently drop your elbows and knees onto the ground. 

Step 3- Lower your chest and chin, and completely get in touch with all your eight limbs on the ground. 

Step 4- Make sure you are breathing gently and your core is engaged as you balance your body weight on your eight touchpoints. Hold this pose here. 

Step 5- If you are only practicing the Ashtanga Namaskara alone, then inhale as you lift your chest gently from the ground and get into Thunderbolt Pose. 

Or, if this pose is a part of sun salutation flow, then follow it up with a low cobra or full cobra pose. 

Breath Awareness: 

  • Inhale while dropping your elbows, knees, chest, and chin on the ground. 

  • Exhale as you release the pose or transition into the next pose.  

Performance Duration for Beginners: Hold the Ashtanga Namaskara for 30-60 seconds.

Performance Duration for Advanced: Hold the Ashtanga Namaskara for 1 to 3 minutes.

Part 3: Things to Keep in Mind

If you are performing this modified yoga asana for the very first time, try to keep the following tips in mind: 

  • Keep your core engaged: The name Ashtanga Namaskara translates into Eight-Limbed Pose in English, which literally means you have to balance this pose on eight body parts. 

For a strong and stable Ashtanga Namaskara hold, you need a strong foundation – that emerges from a tight core in alignment with focused breathwork. 

Part 4: Relaxing Poses After Ashtanga Namaskara

Below is a list of counter-postures that you can relax in after performing the Eight-Limbed Pose:

1. Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose) - Continue the caterpillar stance and flex your upper back by extending your arms in front. You can also ground your legs flat on the mat to extend your tailbone and feel a deeper stretch in your chest. 

Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose)

Hold this pose for as long as you feel comfortable, and then gently release the pose by sitting back into a Child's pose. 

2. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) - This pose comes after the Eight-Limb Pose in the Surya Namaskar flow. Simply counter-flex your spine and push your core muscles deep into the ground to execute the cobra stance. 

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Hold this posture like a raised hood of a cobra snake for a few seconds and allow your tailbone, shoulders, and chest muscles to release all the tension. 

3. Advasana (Reverse Corpse Pose) - This pose can be done after the whole Sun Salutation flow, or it is best done when you are practicing the Eight-Limbed Pose alone. Simply exhale as you release your balance from all your eight limbs and loosen your core muscles. 

Advasana (Reverse Corpse Pose)

Drop your body completely flat onto the mat and relax here. You can focus on your breath for a few minutes until all the stress is released from your spine. 

Ashtanga Namaskara Modifications and Props

Ashtanga Namaskara, or the Caterpillar Pose, is itself used as a modification or asana alternative for Chaturanga Dandasana in Surya Namaskar flow. 

This pose is simple to perform and can be easily performed by almost all beginner yogis. So there is no posture modification for this yoga asana. 

If you need alignment-related assistance, you can ask your yoga teacher or spotter to fix your form with their hand-held guidance. 

Ashtanga Namaskara Variations to Consider

If you feel ready to challenge your body further in the Eight-Limbed Pose, then try the below intermediate level variations to feel stronger in your practice:  

1. One-Legged Eight-Limbed Pose (Bent Knee Variation): If you want to challenge your core stability in the Eight-Limbed Pose, continue the main pose by lifting either leg up. 

One-Legged Eight-Limbed Pose (Bent Knee Variation)

When you lift your leg up, keep your knee bent and hold your leg up for a few seconds. Release the leg after some time and repeat the same on the other side. 

2. One-Legged Eight-Limbed Pose (Straight Leg Variation): Continue the last variation, just make sure your lifted leg is engaged, straight, and your toe is pointing towards the ceiling. 

One-Legged Eight-Limbed Pose (Straight Leg Variation)

Hold this pose for a few seconds, then release and repeat on the other leg. Over time, you will feel more stability and strength in your core with this practice.

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Level-Up Poses After Ashtanga Namaskara for Advanced Yogis

The following list of level-up yoga poses will help you get stronger and more flexible in your yoga practice, especially when it comes to balancing on your palms, feet, core, chest, or chin.

Level-Up Pose 1 - Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

Level-Up Pose 2 - Chaturanga Dandasana Variation (One-Legged Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

Level-Up Pose 3 - Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Level-Up Pose 4 - Ganda Bherundasana (Formidable Face Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana Variation (One-Legged Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana Variation (One-Legged Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Ganda Bherundasana (Formidable Face Pose)

Ganda Bherundasana (Formidable Face Pose)

Similar Limb Balance Poses like Ashtanga Namaskara

Here is a list of some similar poses that require balancing on either on your arms, legs, or chest:

  1. Crow Pose (Bakasana)

  2. Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose)

  3. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

  4. Eight Angle Pose (Astavakrasana)

  5. Elephant's Trunk Pose (Eka Hasta Bhujasana)

Frequently Asked Questions about Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight-Limbed Pose)

What is Ashtanga Surya Namaskar?

Can beginners perform Ashtanga Surya Namaskara?

What are the benefits of Ashtanga Namaskara?

What are the different Ashtanga Namaskara leg variations?

How many balancing points are there in Ashtanga Namaskara?

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