Knees-Chest-Chin Pose — Ashtanga Namaskara (ash-TAHN-gaa nah-muh-SKAR-uh) — is a beginning strength-building yoga pose that paves the way for full body weight-bearing poses, like Chaturanga. Its rarely used Sanskrit name literally translates as "Eight-Limbed Salutation," which comes from three words:
- "Asht" — meaning "eight"
- "Anga" — meaning "limb"
- "Namaskara" — meaning "salutation"
The "eight limbs" refers to the parts of the body that touch the ground in the pose: The chin, the chest, both hands, both knees, and both sets of toes. Knees-Chest-Chin is an essential element of Sun Salutations, a common warm-up pose, and a substitute for practicing Chaturanga.
Benefits of Knees-Chest-Chin Pose
Knees-Chest-Chin increases the flexibility of the spine and neck while opening the chest. It also helps to strengthen the arms, shoulders, legs, abdomen, and back. Practicing the pose regularly will help build strength throughout your whole body and lead the way for other arm-balancing and weight-bearing poses.
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As part of the Sun Salutation sequence, Knees-Chest-Chin is sometimes practiced many times during Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Power Yoga classes. It is often used as a warm-up pose during vinyasas, before moving on to Chaturanga. It is also used as an alternative to Chaturanga for beginning yoga students and those who are building strength. Advanced students can benefit from practicing Knees-Chest-Chin during their first few rounds of Sun Salutations as a gentle way to warm up the arms and shoulders.
Do not practice Knees-Chest-Chin if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, or a recent neck, shoulder, elbow, or wrist injury. Women who are pregnant should avoid practicing this pose after the first trimester. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin in Plank Pose. Make sure your shoulders are directly above your wrists.
- With an exhalation, lower your knees to the floor. Keep your toes tucked under.
- Hug your elbows in toward your sides, pointing them back toward your heels. Keeping your hips lifted off the floor and palms flat, bring your chest to the floor.
- Place your chest between your hands and gently touch your chin to the floor.
- Hold for 1-10 breaths, and then lower your body all the way to the mat and rest. More experienced students can press back into Plank Pose. Those practicing Sun Salutations can press forward into Cobra Pose.
Modifications & Variations
Knees-Chest-Chin is a great pose for beginners — there should be no pain and very little discomfort (if any) when performed. Be sure to take it slowly and don’t over-strain your neck, arms, wrists, elbows, or shoulders. If you are experiencing discomfort in your lower back or neck, only bring your chest as far down as you can without causing pain.
Practicing Knees-Chest-Chin can build strength in the arms, while warming the body and preparing it for activity. Keep the following in mind when practicing this pose:
- Do not let your elbows splay to the sides. Keep them hugged along your ribcage, pointed toward your heels.
- Keep your hips lifted high. There should be a 90-degree angle between your stomach and thighs.
- Do not simply collapse into the pose. Utilize the muscles of your back torso to lower yourself with contained effort.
- Breathe smoothly and evenly throughout the pose. If your breath becomes strained or forced, relax out of the pose for a minute before trying it again.
Salute Your Practice
Bringing movement and flexibility to your spine and neck will help your body become balanced and coordinated. Knees-Chest-Chin is a great way to build strength and vitality while conditioning your body for a deeper yoga practice.