By B.K.S. Iyengar
I one is exhausted and fatigued, if the brain needs to be rejuvenated after a long day, the asana to be performed is Adho Mukha Svanasana.
A longer stay in this pose and one can be assured that one is going to be very fresh! But it is important to stay in the pose and perform it with all its precision to experience these effects. To recapitulate the asana: lie on the floor, place the palms by the side of your chest and then pressing the palms on the floor, raise the trunk. Keep the elbows straight and straighten the arms, keep the legs taut by gripping the knees firmly. Rest the crown of the head on the floor.
It is not possible for a new practitioner, due to an untoned body, or someone who does not have strong will and determination, or those who are diseased and aged, to do this asana without help.
The limitations faced by new practitioners to perform the classical asana are:
• The inability to touch the head to the floor without bending at the elbows or knees
• The inability to move the shoulders towards the shoulder-blades or pain in the shoulders, upper arms and elbows or the experience of fatigue in legs also.
However, this does not mean that this asana is meant only for a privileged few. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says: ‘Yuva, vrudho…ativrudhodurbhalomap.’ This means that the young, the old, the diseased, the aged—all can practice yoga. With this authority as background, here we describe how the posture can be done by everyone with the help of props.
Use of the wall: Spread each palm with the thumb and index finger spread away from each other and then place each of the palms against the wall. The distance between the palms should be as wide as the shoulders. Bend at the knees and move the legs away from the wall. Straighten the arms and rest the crown of the head on the floor. Keep the head rested, straighten the legs at the knees without bending at the elbows. With the palms against the wall, it is easier to lift the shoulders. As the shoulders are lifted, it is possible to spread and ‘open’ the chest with ease. This results in rejuvenating the body and makes one feel fresh.
Use of a pillow, blankets or a block of wood: Sometimes, it may be very difficult for some people to rest their head on the floor without bending the arms or legs. Such people can place a pillow, a block of wood or a few folded blankets underneath the crown of the head. The asana can be done independently as the classical asana has been described, or by placing the palms against the wall as described above. Keeping the head rested ensures a cooling effect on the head and eyes. This is also beneficial in the summer months as it brings a cool feeling to the brain.
Adho Mukha Svanasana with a rope: The same asana can be done with the help of a rope. This takes off the load from the limbs, gives a good extension to the lower back helping people with lower back pain. One can stay very comfortably for five to seven minutes in this posture.
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