Shashankasana (hare pose)
1. Sit in vajrasana, placing the palms on the thighs just above the knees.
2. Close the eyes and relax, keeping the spine and head straight.
3. While inhaling, raise the arms above the head, keeping them straight and shoulder width apart.
4. Exhale while bending the trunk forward from the hips, keeping the arms and head straight and in line with the trunk.
5. At the end of the movement, the hands and forehead should rest on the floor in front of the knees.
6. If possible, the arms and forehead should touch the floor at the same time.
7. Bend the arms slightly so that they are fully relaxed and let the elbows rest on the floor.
8. Retain the breath for up to 5 seconds in the final position.
9. Then, simultaneously inhale and slowly raise the arms and trunk to the vertical position.
10. Keep the arms and head in line with the trunk. Breathe out while lowering the arms to the knees.
This is one round. Practise 3 to 5 rounds.
Note: While holding, maintain normal breathing.
Duration: Beginners should slowly increase the length of time in the final position until they are able to hold it comfortably for at least 3 minutes. Those who wish to calm anger and frayed nerves should further increase the time to 10 minutes, breathing normally.
Physical - on the breath synchronised with the physical movement. In the final position, on the pressure of the abdomen against the thighs.
Spiritual - on manipura or swadhisthana chakra in the final position.
Contra-indications: Not to be performed by people with very high blood pressure, slipped disc or those who suffer from vertigo.
Benefits: This asana stretches the back muscles and separates the individual vertebrae from each other, releasing pressure on the discs. Often nerve connections emanating from the spinal cord are squeezed by these discs, giving rise to various forms of backache. This posture helps to relieve this problem and encourages the discs to resume their correct position. It also regulates the functioning of the adrenal glands. It tones the pelvic muscles and the sciatic nerves and is beneficial for women who have an underdeveloped pelvis. It helps to alleviate disorders of both the male and female reproductive organs. Regular practice relieves constipation. When practised with ujjayi pranayama in the final position, it helps to eliminate anger and is very cooling for the brain.
Note: The Sanskrit word shashank means moon'. It is derived from two words: shash meaning 'hare' and ank meaning 'lap'. People in India have seen the dark patches on the full moon as resembling the shape of a hare with the moon in its lap. Furthermore, the moon symbolises peace and calm; it emits soothing and tranquilUsing vibrations. Shashankasana has a similar calming and cooling effect. More simply, it is the position frequently adopted by hares and rabbits.
Variation I: Sit in vajrasana and close the eyes. Hold the right wrist with the left hand behind the back. Relax the whole body and close the eyes. Inhale and then, while exhaling, slowly bend the trunk forward from the hips so that the forehead rests on the floor. Remain in the final position for a comfortable length of time while breathing normally or deeply or in ujjayi. Return to the starting position while inhaling.
Variation 2: Sit in vajrasana. Place the fists in front of the lower abdomen. Inhale and then, while exhaling, slowly bend forward until the forehead touches the floor. The fists will exert pressure on the lower abdominal organs. Retain the breath in the final position for as long as is comfortable. Inhale while raising the trunk and head. Practise 2 to 3 rounds.
Physical - on the pressure of the fists in the abdomen in the final position.
Benefits: This variation massages and improves the efficiency of the intestines and digestive organs, relieving ailments such as constipation and excessive wind in addition to the benefits derived from the basic form of the practice.
Variation 3: Sit in vajrasana. Interlock the fingers of both hands behind the back. Breathe in deeply. Then, breathing out, move the head and trunk forward and rest the head on the floor. Simultaneously, raise the arms up and bring them as far forward as possible. Hold the breath out and slowly move the arms from side to side 3 times. Do not strain. Breathe in, raising the head and trunk and lowering the arms. This is one round. Practice 2 to 3 rounds.
Benefits: This variation releases tension in the upper back and neck muscles, bringing great relief to those who experience stiffness in this area. It also gives the benefits of the basic practice.