Want to learn more about Ashtanga Namaskara, aka Knees Chest Chin? In this post, I share the benefits of Ashtanga Namaskara, a complete pose breakdown, contraindications, modifications and more.
Will it shock you if I tell you that Ashtanga Namaskara is not my favourite pose? I might even go so far as to say that I think it is…. wait… What can I say about this pose without being mean about it? Hmm. Think of something positive to say, Stephen. Remember what Thumper says.
OK, here goes.
In some ways this pose can be easier for students to do than Chaturanga Dandasana. Because you rest your chin and your knees on the ground, it takes less strength than a well done Chaturanga Dandasana.
However, the general shape of Ashtanga Namaskara encourages students to roll their shoulders forward and drop them towards the ground. If students are taught this pose before they learn Chaturanga Dandasana, in my experience, it leads to students doing the rounded shoulder shape in Chaturanga Dandasana, too.
If you’re doing repeated jumps into ChatD (as no one calls it) with rounded shoulders, it can stress the shoulder ligaments and cause injury.
The other aspect of this pose that doesn’t thrill me is that it isn’t very good for building upper body or core strength.
With ChatD, most students find it difficult because of weakness in their upper body and core. So, while Ashtanga Namaskar is often more accessible, it’s not building the strength they need for Chaturanga Dandasana and other hands-down poses.
That’s why I prefer teaching a modified Chaturanga Dandasana rather than Ashtanga Namaskar.
So, after not successfully saying many nice things about this pose, let’s look at the benefits!
- Ashtanga Namaskara Quick Facts
- Ashtanga Namaskara Benefits
- Precautions & Contraindications
- Misconceptions & Myths About Knees Chest Chin
- Ashtanga Namaskara Pose Breakdown
- Modifications & Variations
- Yoga Poses Related to Knees Chest Chin
- Related Posts & Videos
- Gear & Resources for This Pose
- A Final Note About Knees Chest Chin
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Ashtanga Namaskara Quick Facts
|Sanskrit||Ashtanga Namaskara / Ashtangasana|
|English||Knees Chest Chin / Eight Limbed Pose / Eight Point Pose|
|Meaning||Ashta (or Asta) means eight. |
Anga means limb.
Namaskar means bowing, a prayer, or a greeting.
The pose name translates as Eight Limb Prayer Pose.
Ashtangasana (another name for this pose) translates at Eight-Limbed Pose, which is one of the common translations used in English.
Whatever you call it, the eight refers to the eight parts of the body in contact with the ground: two feet, two knees, two hands, chest, and chin.
Ashtanga Namaskara Benefits
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Ashtanga Namaskara here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
The main physical benefits of Ashtanga Namaskara include:
- Strengthens your biceps.
- Strengthens rhomboids and trapezius muscles on your back.
- Stretches the fascia in the soles of your feet.
- Stretches your toes.
- Can help increase range of motion for back bends.
- Strengthens your hands and forearms.
- Strengthens your quads and hip flexors.
- If done with awareness, can help connect to your deep core, tone your transverse abdominus, and thus help prevent lower back pain in the pose.
If you want more on the benefits of yoga, see our complete guide to the benefits of yoga, which includes a history of yoga plus the origins of our modern yoga practice and much more.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people! If your body requires some extra support in this pose, see the Modifications section below for ideas on how to do this pose safely.
- If you have a neck injury, never place your chin on the ground while applying body weight into your chin.
- If you have a shoulder injury, it can flare up from the shape your shoulders come into in this pose.
- If you have sensitive knees, it can hurt to bring them to the ground.
- The shape of the pose can cause lower back pain from the excessive arching this pose encourages. If you have a hyper-mobile lower back or lower back injury, practice with caution and be sure to tone your belly (transverse abdominus) to protect your lower back.
- If you have a herniated vertebral disc or spondylolisthesis, it is likely best to avoid this pose.
- If you suffer from migraines, this pose can trigger or exacerbate them.
Misconceptions & Myths About Knees Chest Chin
This is not a good alternative to Chaturanga Dandasana, as it reinforces common Chaturanga misalignments. This is why Jason Crandell awarded Ashtanga Namaskara the title of Worst Chaturanga Alternative in his terrific blog post about Chaturanga Dandasana.
I much prefer to break apart Chaturanga Dandasana and work to help students build the awareness and strength that it demands. It helps them on their yoga journey much more than offering Ashtanga Namaskara as an alternative.
Fun fact: Yoga researcher Mark Singleton believes that it is in honour of this pose that K. Pattabhi Jois named Ashtanga Yoga, and not Patanjali’s Eight Limbs (Ashtanga) of Yoga, as is often claimed.
Ashtanga Namaskara Pose Breakdown
How to do Ashtanga Namaskara / Knees Chest Chin
- Start in Phalakasana (Plank Pose).
- Bend your knees to the ground.
- Bend your elbows and point them back towards the back of your mat. Lift your pelvis (aka hips) up. Engage the bottom of your pelvis (pelvic floor, or Mula Bandha) and tone your belly (transverse abdominus, or Uddiyana Bandha).
- As you lower your chest, stretch your chin forward and bring your chin down to the ground.
- Lower your chest and pelvis a little, so you can also bring your chest down to the ground.
- This is Ashtanga Namaskarasana.
- To come out of the pose, pull back with your hands and slide your chest forward to come up into Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose). Then press back into Balasana (Child’s Pose) for a couple of breaths.
Modifications & Variations
If your knees are sensitive
If you have sensitive knees, place a yoga blanket on your mat under your knees. Then when you’re coming into Knees Chest Chin Pose, you can rest your knees on the blanket for a little extra support.
If your wrists hurt
You can use a yoga wedge to reduce strain and pain in your wrists.
Place the wedge at the top of your mat with the thick edge of the wedge facing you. Then, set up in Phalakasana with the heels of your hands on the wedge and your fingers on the ground. This will reduce the amount of wrist extension needed to practice the pose.
If your lower back hurts
Place a yoga block between your thighs and squeeze the block. This will help engage your deep core muscles which will help to protect your lower back.
Yoga Poses Related to Knees Chest Chin
- Urdhva Mukha Svanasana / Upward Facing Dog Pose
- Bhujangasana / Cobra Pose
- Balasana / Child’s Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Facing Dog Pose
Poses To Take Your Practice Further
- Chaturanga Dandasana / Four Limbed Staff Pose
- Mayurasana / Peacock Pose
- Ganda Bherundasana / Chin Stand Pose
Related Posts & Videos
- Post: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana Benefits
- Post: Bhujangasana Benefits
- Video: Ashtanga Namaskara Pose Breakdown
Gear & Resources for This Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Yoloha Cork Yoga Mat with plant-based foam
- Yoloha Cork Yoga Blocks
- Machine Washable Vegan Yoga Blankets
- Foam Yoga Wedge
Save 10% on cork yoga gear
- Use our code AYO10 at checkout for 10% off all Yoloha yoga mats & gear.
Good for the planet and great for your practice!
A Final Note About Knees Chest Chin
I know I am a little hard on this pose. However, if this is a pose you like to practice, or your teachers regularly ask you to do it in class, please:
- Keep your chest opening and shoulders moving away from the ground.
- Learn how to tone your pelvis (watch my video for help with this).
- Engage your transverse abdominus so that you are protecting your lower back.
By practicing Knees Chest Chin with awareness, you will be able to reap the benefits without risking the unwanted side effects.
See you on (and off) the ice OMies, Stephen
I hope this post has been helpful in expanding your possibilities with Ashtanga Namaskara. It’s my goal to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply while enabling you to cultivate the strength and clarity needed to live your life adventure to the fullest!