Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose): Steps, Benefits, and Contraindications

Sasangasana, Shashankasana, Rabbit Pose, Hare Pose, Shasangasana, Prostration Pose, Naman Pranamasana - SharpMuscle
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Sasangasana, also known as Rabbit Pose or Shashankasana, stretches and lengthens the spine while releasing tension and stiffness in the shoulders and neck area and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to improves the state of rest and relaxation.

Information

Known as:Sasangasana, Shashankasana, Rabbit Pose, Hare Pose, Shasangasana, Prostration Pose, Naman Pranamasana
Sanskrit name:साशङ्गासन
IAST:sāśaṅgāsana
Pronunciation:sah-shan-gah-suh-nuh
Type:Forward-bend, inversion, stretch
Level:Intermediate
Focus:Spine, neck, shoulders
Total time:30–60 seconds
Drishti:Towards the nave;
The space between the eyebrows (the third eye)
Chakra:Vishuddha Chakra (Throat Chakra), Ajna Chakra (Third Eye Chakra), Crown Chakra (Sahasrara Chakra), Heart Chakra (Anahata Chakra), Solar Plexus (Manipura Chakra)
Indications:Spinal health, neck, shoulder, digestion, bloating, gas, indigestion, internal organs, mental clarity, stress, anxiety or tranquility, intention, belief system
Counterposes:Cow Pose (Bitilasana), Child’s Pose (Balasana), Fish Pose (Matsyasana), Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)
Preparatory poses:Child’s Pose (Balasana), Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana), Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana), Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana), Standing Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana)
Follow-up poses:Child’s Pose (Balasana), Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana), Standing Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana), Seated Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana), Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Contraindications:Neck, shoulder, arms, back injury; Spondylitis and Vertigo; Hypertension; Pregnancy; Depression

Meaning

Sasangasana

The term “Sasangasana” is derived from the combination of two Sanskrit words – Sasanga + Asana:

  1. Sasanga” = “rabbit”
  2. Asana” = “pose” or “posture”

Therefore, the literal meaning of Sasangasana is “Rabbit Pose.”

The name of this yoga asana, Sasangasana, is inspired by the physical shape or appearance that resembles a rabbit when performing the pose. In Sasangasana, the practitioner folds the body forward, resembling a rabbit curling up or hiding its head in a similar asana.

The name of a yoga asana often reflects its form, characteristics, or symbolism, allowing practitioners to identify and connect with the posture. In the case of Sasangasana, the name helps to describe the shape and actions involved in this particular asana.

Benefits of Shashankasana (Rabbit pose)

Shashankasana (Rabbit Pose) offers a range of physical, mental and emotional benefits, which are listing below:

Physical Benefits:

  • Stretch and lengthen the spine
  • Promoting greater flexibility and mobility in the vertebral column
  • Release tension and tightness in the shoulders and neck area
  • Stretch the entire back, including the muscles along the spine
  • Alleviate back pain
  • Improve posture
  • Open and stretch the hips
  • Promote greater flexibility and ease of movement in the hip joints
  • Activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a state of rest and relaxation
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Mental and Emotional Benefits:

  • Enhances the sense of calm and relaxation
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces the depression and anxiety 1
  • Enhances the introspection and turning the attention inward
  • Cultivates the mindfulness and connect with one’s thoughts, emotions, and inner self
  • Creates a sense of grounding and stability
  • Calms the mind, reduce mental chatter, and foster a greater sense of inner balance
  • Clears the mind and enhance mental clarity
  • Enhances the concentration, and improve focus
  • Releases stored emotions and promote emotional well-being
  • Releases the tension and stagnant energy, creating space for emotional healing and balance

Shashankasana (Rabbit pose) Practice Guide

Shashankasana excellent pose that a gentle stretch for the back, shoulders, and neck, while also promoting relaxation and introspection. It is often practiced as part of a sequence or as a counterpose to other back bends or inversions.

Rabbit Pose involves folding the body forward in a seated position, resembling the posture of a rabbit. In this asana, the practitioners sit on the heels and folds the torso forward, reaching for the ground with the forehead or crown of the head. The arms may be extended forward or alongside the body, depending on personal preference and comfort.

Step-by-step Instructions

  1. Start by assuming the Child Pose (Balasana). Gradually move your hands backwards and secure your heels with your hands.
  2. Gently shift your forehead towards your knee and rest the top of your head on the floor. Strive to bring your forehead as close to your knee as possible.
  3. Maintain a firm grip on your heels to generate resistance and raise your hips towards the sky. Simultaneously, shift your weight onto the crown of your head.
  4. Remember to breathe steadily while stretching your arms towards your heels and elongating your neck without straining it.
  5. Maintain the pose for a duration of 30–60 seconds.
  6. Exhale and gradually lower your hips, followed by your shoulders. Finally, release your hands forward.
  7. Find relaxation in the Child’s Pose (Balasana).

Common Mistakes

Common mistakes can affect the effectiveness of the asana and potentially lead to discomfort or injury. Approach Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose) with mindfulness, focusing on proper alignment, and listening to your body.

If you’re uncertain about the correct form or experiencing any discomfort, it’s advisable to seek guidance from a qualified yoga instructor/teacher who can provide personalized instruction and help you avoid the following common mistakes.

1. Straining the Neck

One common mistake is straining the neck by pulling or gripping the heels forcefully. This can create excessive tension and compression in the neck and may lead to discomfort or strain. The neck should be relaxed and not excessively flexed or extended during the asana. To avoid this mistake, it’s crucial to focus on gently reaching towards the heels without forcefully pulling or straining the neck.

2. Overarching the Spine

Some individuals tend to overarch the spine, particularly in the lower back, during Rabbit Pose. This can occur when there is limited flexibility in the upper back and shoulders. Overarching the spine can strain the lower back and prevent proper engagement of the core muscles. To address this mistake, it’s essential to focus on maintaining a lengthened spine and gently engaging the core to support the posture.

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3. Lack of Hip Engagement

Neglecting to engage the hips and core muscles can result in a collapse or sinking of the hips towards the heels. This can diminish the effectiveness of the asana and reduce the stretch in the spine and shoulders. Engaging the hips and core helps to create stability and maintain proper alignment in the asana. To avoid this mistake, consciously engage the hip muscles and draw the hips slightly forward to maintain stability and alignment.

4. Holding the Breath

Holding the breath or shallow breathing during Sasangasana is a common mistake. It can lead to increased tension and limit the flow of energy and oxygen to the body. Remember to maintain a steady and deep breath throughout the asana, allowing the breath to support relaxation and enhance the stretching effect.

5. Straining the Shoulders

Excessive tension or strain in the shoulders can occur when individuals try to force their way into the asana without proper warm-up or flexibility. This can result in discomfort and limit the range of motion in the shoulders. To prevent this mistake, it’s crucial to warm up the shoulders and gently ease into the asana, respecting the body’s natural limits and avoiding any excessive strain or discomfort.

Modifications and Variations

Modifications and variations in Sasangasana allow you to adapt the pose to your specific needs, limitations, and level of comfort. They provide options to ensure a safe and beneficial practice for individuals with varying levels of flexibility, injuries, or physical conditions. It’s crucial to listen to your body, respect your limitations, and choose the modifications or variations that feel suitable for you.

However, the modifications and variations of this yoga asana are explaining below:

  1. Use Props: Props such as blocks or bolsters can be used to modify the asana and make it more accessible. Placing a block or bolster under the forehead can provide support and alleviate strain on the neck and shoulders. This modification is particularly useful for individuals with limited flexibility or neck discomfort.
  2. Support for Knees: For individuals who find it challenging to reach their heels or experience discomfort in the knees, using folded blankets or bolsters behind the knees can provide support and make the asana more comfortable. This modification reduces the amount of knee flexion required and minimizes strain on the knee joints.
  3. Forearms on the Mat: Instead of reaching for the heels with the hands, some individuals may find it more accessible to place their forearms on the mat alongside the body. This modification reduces the strain on the shoulders and allows for a gentler stretch in the spine.
  4. Half Sasangasana: In this variation, instead of folding the body completely forward, individuals can fold halfway, resting the forehead on a block or bolster placed in front of them. This modification is suitable for those with limited flexibility in the spine or who find it uncomfortable to fold all the way forward. It still provides a gentle stretch while maintaining a more accessible position.
  5. Supported Sasangasana: For individuals who need additional support, a chair, or wall can be used to modify the asana. Standing in front of a chair or wall, individuals can fold forward with their hands resting on the support, allowing for a supported and less intense stretch.
  6. Dynamic Movement: Instead of holding the asana statically, individuals can incorporate gentle rocking or swaying motions while in Rabbit Pose. This variation can help release tension in the spine, shoulders, and neck and provide a soothing and rhythmic movement.
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Precautions and Contraindications

Precautions and contraindications are crucial to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals, therefore, the precautions and contraindications of Sasangasana are explaining below:

  • Neck, Shoulder, Arms, and Back Injury: Shashankasana involves placing pressure on the neck, shoulders, and arms, as well as folding the spine forward. Individuals with injuries or issues in these areas should exercise caution or avoid the asana. Excessive strain on the neck and shoulders can worsen existing injuries or lead to discomfort. The forward folding motion may also exacerbate back issues. It’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or experienced yoga instructor/teacher for modifications or alternative poses that suit the specific condition.
  • Spondylitis and Vertigo: Spondylitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the spinal joints, and vertigo is a condition characterized by dizziness and a sense of spinning. Rabbit Pose involves deep flexion and compression of the neck and spine, which can potentially exacerbate symptoms in individuals with spondylitis or vertigo. It’s advisable to avoid or modify the asana to minimize strain on the affected areas and prevent dizziness or discomfort.
  • Hypertension: Shasangasana is an inversion, as the head is brought below the heart. Inversions can potentially increase blood pressure in individuals with hypertension (high blood pressure). The increased pressure in the head and neck region may not be suitable for those with uncontrolled hypertension. It’s crucial for individuals with hypertension to practice under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor/teacher, who can provide appropriate modifications or recommend alternative asanas to avoid adverse effects on blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the body undergoes various physiological changes, and caution is necessary when practicing certain yoga poses. Hare Pose involves compressing the abdomen, which may not be suitable for pregnant individuals, especially in later stages of pregnancy. Additionally, the balance and stability required in the asana may be compromised due to the shifting center of gravity during pregnancy. It’s best for pregnant individuals to consult with a prenatal yoga instructor and seek suitable modifications or choose pregnancy-safe asanas.
  • Depression: While yoga can have positive effects on mental health, including depression, individuals with severe depression may find certain asanas, including Sasangasana, challenging. The forward folding motion can intensify feelings of introspection and may not be suitable for those experiencing extreme emotional vulnerability. It’s crucial for individuals with depression to practice yoga under the guidance of a mental health professional or experienced yoga instructor/teacher, who can offer appropriate support and modifications.
Sources
  1. “ADOLESCENT STUDENT’S PROBLEMS AND YOGA AS A PREVENTIVE MEASURE.” Research Scholar, Department of Educational Psychology, Karpagam University, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, India. i-manager’s Journal on Educational Psychology, Vol. 11 l No. 4 l February – April 2018. Available from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1184167.

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