Sashtangasana is so named for the eight points of contact with the floor—hands, feet, knees, chest, and chin and translates as “position held by 8 limbs of the body”. This posture follows Dwipadasana or “plank pose”; it is the sixth position in the Prana Vashya Yoga™ sun salutation and its sequencing is significant.
How to get into the position
Starting, then, in plank pose (having exhaled all the air from your lungs) and ensuring your wrists are in line with the outer shoulders and knees under the hips, shift your body weight slightly forward and lower your knees, chest and forehead to the ground. Keeping your chin and elbows tucked-in and raising your tailbone to the ceiling so that your hips are high (do not collapse your hips).
Do not attempt to breath in this position. Sashtangasana is a transitional position in the Prana Vashya Yoga™ sun salutation and the breath must be held out because the diaphragm is trapped, and the chin is tucked in, so it is impossible to breath without straining internal organs. This posture is designed not to support breathing but rather the control of the breath.
Prana Vashya Yoga™ considers the breath as the key channel in directing consciousness towards the prana. Prana is life and living refers to being present; not just physically but consciously. Through control of breath in yoga, you can develop a healthy mind and body. Such good health is a pre-requisite for understanding the Self. So we work to increase our awareness and to develop control over mind and body.
If your shoulders and chest are tight and not open yet, then as a modification to the full Sashtangasana, try putting your chin on the floor instead of your forehead.
This position is great for opening the hips, shoulders and chest and general upper body strengthening. It also elongates the spine and is a gentle back-bend.
Do not attempt this position if you have any recent or chronic injury to the wrists, elbows, shoulders, back or neck.