Shashankasana – Rabbit Pose, Correct Method, Benefits

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S

Shashankasana is a relaxing posture. It is a good remedy for back pain and related problems. It is a forward bend pose. It stretches the spine, mainly the lower back and upper torso.

Shashanka = hare, rabbit, moon
Asana = pose

The moon is a symbol of peace and calmness. Since this pose also bestows peace and calmness it is called as moon pose. The final pose resembles hare like structure seen in dark patches of moon. The dark patches on the full moon resemble the shape of hare / rabbit with the moon in its lap and hence it is called as Shashankasana.

Shashankasana also may be split as –
Shasha = hare
Ank = lap
Asana = pose

The seated forward bend in this pose allows the practitioner rest his torso on his lap which mimics the shape of a hare and hence the name.
Read – Health Benefits Of Yoga: Mind And Body

Preparation for Shashankasana

  • The moon pose should be practiced on empty stomach and preferably early in the morning.
  • Food should be consumed 3-4 hours before taking on to the pose, especially if it is practiced at some other time other than early morning. In this way the stomach will obviously get empty before doing the pose. The food consumed would provide energy needed to perform the pose.
  • The bowel and bladder should be empty at the time of taking on to the pose.
    Read – Yogasana – Spiritual, Physical And Mental Benefits, Classification

Method of doing

Positioning for the pose

Sit in Vajrasana – diamond pose. Your hands are placed on thighs. Spine should be erect. Your butts rest on heels. The toes are touching each other.

Getting into the pose

Now slowly open up your knees apart. They should be wider than shoulder width distance.
Place palms on the floor in between the space between the knees. Now slide through your hands forwards on the floor with exhalation. As you slide, bend your torso forward from the hips. See that hands, head and spine are all in a straight line. Your chest and tummy now rests on your thighs.

Keep your chin or head touching the ground. Now your head is in between your hands. Your head and forearms touch on the floor.

Breathe gently in the pose. You can keep your eyes closed to feel relaxed.

Release from the pose

Variation

Variation 1

From Vajrasana you may raise hands up in the air, fingers pointing towards ceiling.
From here you may bring hands to the floor as you bend torso.
Place your hands on the floor, forearms resting on the floor and hands parallel to each other. Your head touches the ground and lies in between hands as torso rests on thighs.
Stay here for few deep breathes.
Release by rising up torso.
Raise your hands up pointing fingers towards the ceiling.
Bring down hands and rest them beside your legs on the floor or on thighs.
Rest in Vajrasana.
You may do this with knees apart. Some experts advise it to be done with knees together.

Variation 2 – Hare pose with hands stretched back

a. Start with Vajrasana and bend forward as in the previous versions. Instead of keeping hands extended on the floor in front of you, you will take your hands behind your back after bending forward. Clasp hands behind your back. Be in the pose for few deep breaths and release.

b. Alternatively – Sit in diamond pose closing eyes. Take hands behind your back. Grab right wrist with your left hand. Inhale. Bend your torso forward as you exhale. Touch forehead to the floor. Relax there and breathe normally. To release, inhale and return back to the diamond pose.

Variation 3 – Rabbit pose with hands under your abdomen

Sit in diamond pose closing eyes. Make a fist with right hand. Place the fist on the lower part of abdomen. Inhale.
Bend forward as you exhale so as to touch forehead to the floor. Be here as long as it is comfortable for you to be.
Come back into diamond pose as you inhale.
Perform few rounds by changing the hands (to make the fist).

Variations – Difference from Child’s Pose

Balasana – Child’s Pose – The Rabbit / Hare Pose is almost similar to Child’s Pose. Both look like close variants of each other. There is slight difference in both poses especially towards the endpoint of the poses. In rabbit pose you have stretched hands in front of you and palms rest on the floor. In the child’s pose the hands rest behind you, next to your feet / hips with palms facing upward towards the ceiling.
Read – Padmasana Lotus Pose, How to do, Benefits, Side Effects, Ayurveda View

Modifications

If you cannot touch head or chin to the floor due to stiff back or hip muscles try doing the pose with a block / pillow / folded blanket or bolster under head in the forward bend. You can do the pose easily by keeping heads on these props.

You may practice this pose against fixed bars. This will lengthen your spine beyond normal limit. It will also give your hands and spine a good stretch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FL5WlTXo-0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgWlGP36qG4

Health Benefits

  • It provides a good stretch to your upper body. It intensely stretches the muscles around lower back, pelvis, arms, hips, torso, inner thighs and abdomen. It stretches para-vertebral muscles and supports back.
  • It strengthens the muscles which help you maintain posture. It strengthens hip flexors, muscles of the back and hamstrings.
  • It tones up the pelvic muscles and relieves sciatic pain.
  • Strengthens back, legs, pelvis, sexual organs and digestive system
  • Tones and massages the muscles of pelvic region and sciatic nerve
  • Relaxes spinal nerves
  • Good remedy for spondylosis
  • It burns excess fat from belly, waist, hips and thighs. It helps you to overcome obesity.
  • Improves blood supply to the head
  • It stimulates digestive fire and enhances digestive fire.
  • Helps in relieving constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Helps in deepening the breath and improves lung functions.
  • It massages reproductive organs and enhances their functioning. It also provides cure for diseases related to this system and invigorates the system. It is very beneficial in treating gynecological disorders.
  • It helps to improve the functions of kidney, liver and visceral organs
  • Helps in proper functioning of adrenal glands
  • Nourishes the eyes
  • Improves brain functions
  • It regulates blood flow into hair follicles and is thus good for hairs. It also prevents graying of hairs, hair fall and maintains hair health.
  • It enhances facial glow as it increases blood flow in the face.
  • It reduces stress, anger, depression and anxiety by soothing your brain.
  • Helps to relieve fatigue and promotes concentration

Preparatory Poses

  • Baddha Konasana – Bound Angle Pose
  • Supta Virasana – Reclining Hero Pose
  • Supta Padangusthasana – Reclining hand-to-big toe pose
  • Dandasana – Staff Pose
  • Vajrasana – Diamond Pose

Follow Up Poses

Time spent doing Shashankasana

Hold the pose for few deep breaths or for half to one minute time. Repeat the pose 5-8 times.

Impact on Chakras

This pose stimulates and balances the below mentioned chakras –

  • Ajna Chakra – third eye chakra – center of intuition and inner knowledge
  • Vishuddha Chakra – throat chakra – center of expression and higher communication
  • Anahata Chakra – heart chakra – center of love, forgiveness and compassion
  • Manipura Chakra – Solar Plexus / Naval Chakra – center of self-esteem, confidence and personal power
    Read – Chakra – Kundalini: Introduction, Meaning, Types, Location, Ayurveda View

Contraindications, Precautions

Contraindications

  • Abdominal injury
  • High blood pressure
  • Knee, neck, shoulder and spinal injury
  • Slipped disc
  • Dizziness
  • Glaucoma
  • Backache
  • Migraine
  • Recent surgery on shoulder or back
  • Osteoarthritis

Caution

Woman shall refrain from this pose during pregnancy and menstrual cycle.

Impact on doshas and tissues

Impact on Doshas and its subtypes – The pose balances the equation between samana vata, pachaka pitta and kledaka kapha, the gut doshas, since it stimulates and enhances the digestive fire. It is also good in balancing the apana vata, samana vata and pachaka pitta axis since it is a good remedy for constipation and IBS. The balancing effect of this pose on apana vata is also seen by its effect on enhancing the functions of reproductive system, adrenal glands and kidneys and also in providing relief in gynecological disorders. The pose is a praised one for the balance of udana vata and avalambaka kapha as it helps in bettering the lung functions. Since the pose is good for eye health it balances alochaka pitta. It also balances the head doshas i.e. prana vata, sadhaka pitta and tarpaka kapha since it improves brain functions, relieves stress, anger, anxiety and depression and improves concentration. Being good for the muscles and joints, it balances the shleshaka kapha.

Impact on tissues – The hare pose provides good stretch, strength and flexibility to your muscles and joints. Therefore it is good for the health of muscle tissue and the channels responsible for transporting this tissue. Since it burns the excessive fat it is good for balancing the fat tissue.

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