Shashankasana is a relaxing posture and a boon for back pain problems. In yoga asanas classification, it comes under the forward bend pose that stretches the entire spine especially the lower back, and upper torso gently.
This asana is one of the easiest poses of yoga, which can be practiced by anyone regardless of age.
The Sanskrit word Shashankasana is a combination of two words where ‘Shashank‘ means ‘moon’ and ‘asana‘ means ‘pose’. The moon (Shashank) is a symbol of peace & calmness, and doing Shashankasana provides the same so it’s also called ‘moon pose‘.
According to legends, it has said that ancient Indians have observed the dark patches on full moon resembling the shape of hare or rabbit, with the moon in its lap.
Indeed, In Shashank, shash means ‘hare’ and ank means ‘lap’. Forward bending in Shashankasana lets one rests on their lap which mimics the appearance as of a ‘hare’. So it’s called the hare pose.
Moon soothes and tranquilizes as it showers its cool and calm energetic vibration. Therefore, practicing shashankasana has a similar effect on the mind and body of practitioners.
Shashankasana Practice Guide
Practitioners can go through the following steps to practice this asana.
Precautions and contraindications
- Avoid shashankasana in case of an abdominal injury, recent shoulder, or back surgery, knee problems or slipped disc.
- Women in pregnancy and menstrual cycle should also refrain from this pose.
- Bound angle pose (Baddha Konasana)
- Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)
- Reclining Hand-to-big-toe pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
- Come into Vajrasana, hand placed on thighs and spine should be erect. Open up your knees apart, wider than shoulder-width distance.
- Place your palms on the floor in between the space created by widening the knees.
- With an exhalation, slide through your hands on the floor and bend your torso forward from the hip level. Keep your hand, head, and spine all in a straight line.
- Come down and touch the floor from your palms and forehead. Breath gently here. You can close the eyes to aid in relaxation sensation.
Inhale and slowly slide your arms back while using your core muscles. Now, come back in a sitting Vajrasana position with arms raised and spine erect.
Further, hands down and breathe normally.
Follow Up Pose
- Corpse Pose (Savasana)
- Lying Thunderbolt Pose (Supta Vajrasana)
- Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Props & Modifications
- Place a bolster under your head in forward bend of Shashankasana in case of stiff back or hip muscles (when hips aren’t elevated enough).
- To lengthen spine beyond normal limit, do it against fixed bars. Measure a distance from fixed bars so it’s slightly more than your stretched hands in accomplished Shashankasana position. Now, pull it to give your hands and spine a good stretch.
With little variation in Shashankasana, it becomes a similar relaxing pose called the child’s pose (or Balasana). The only difference that can be noticed down in Shashankasana and Balasana is:
- In Shashankasana, the hand goes in the forward and palms flat down rest on the floor. On the other hand, Balasana practice rest hands backward, next to the hips while palm facing upward.
1. Shashankasana Hands Stretched Back
- Sit in Vajrasana and close your eyes. Now, grab the writs of your right hand by the left hand behind your back.
- Inhale, and then exhale out to bend your torso forward. Let your forehead touches the floor and relaxes there while normal or deep breathing (Ujjayi Breath).
- Stay in the pose as long as it is comfortable. Now, inhale to return back.
2. Shashankasana Hands Under Abdomen
This variation aids in digestion and good in case of stomach pain.
- Sit in Vajrasana and close your eyes. Now, make a fist from your right hand and place it on the lower abdomen.
- Inhale, and then exhale to bend forward; this will touch your forehead to the floor. Maintain as long as it is comfortable
- Now, come back while inhale and sit into Vajrasana, Perform few rounds by changing hands.
- Soothes and relaxes Spinal Nerves – Forward bending in Shashankasana stretches paravertebral postural muscles that support your back. It assists in the opening of intervertebral foramina [efn_note] Intervertebral Foramina https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/veterinary-science-and-veterinary-medicine/intervertebral-foramina [/efn_note] which makes it releases pressure on spinal nerves. It is also helpful in spondylitis.
- Beneficial in Irritable Bowels syndrome – Regular practice of Shashankasana increases the gastric activity in the practitioners along with the enhanced parasympathetic activity. Such a transformation benefits in Irritable bowel syndrome [efn_note] Yogic Versus Conventional Treatment in Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomized Control Study https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/B:APBI.0000017861.60439.95 [/efn_note].
- Activate Solar Plexus and Third Eye Chakra – Pressure on the abdomen and forehead touching the floor propels the subtle energies through nadis (subtle channels) to these points in the body; this results in activation of Solar plexus [efn_note] Influence of Manipur Chakra (Coeliac Plexus) on Annavaha Srotas (Gastro Intestinal Tract) https://www.tmjournal.org/?mno=278120 [/efn_note] and Third eye chakra if performed on a daily basis.
- Stretches and Strengthens various muscles – Bending and returning back into the upright position without hand support intensely stretch lower back, hips, torso, inner thighs, and abdominal muscles. This approach strengthens postural muscles.
- Invigorates Reproductive system – Press over the abdomen creates a massaging effect on the reproductive organs; this enhances their functions and rectifies problems. However, it is also helpful in gynecological disorders [efn_note] ROLE OF YOGA IN PRIMARY DYSMENORRHOEA https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ [/efn_note]
- Overcome obesity – Shashankasana induces digestive fire, which results in enhanced metabolism. This further burns off the excess fat from the belly, waist, hips, and inner thighs. Thus, overcome obesity.
- Reduces stress and anxiety – In Shashankasana, simultaneous compression of legs (venous blood) and abdomen (squeezes blood out of spleen, liver) with deep inhalation increases the venous supply to the heart [efn_note] Venous Circulation https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/venous-circulation [/efn_note]; ultimately to the head & neck. It soothes the brain; Hence helps to overcome stress and anxiety. Also, Shashankasana practice makes our body less likely to respond to cortisol hormone which is a sign of a reduction in mental health indicators (stress, anxiety, anger, etc).