Happy New Year!
The eighth posture in the Suryanamaskar is the Parvatasana or the mountain pose. Also, known as adho-mukh svanasana (downward facing dog).
• Posture: Here you shift weight to the hands as you bring the pelvis off the floor first by flexing the hip and knees while the shin continues to rest on the floor. Next, dorsiflex the feet (bring the ball of feet under for weight bearing. To do this, you draw the feet towards the head, and plant the sole of the feet on the floor. Simultaneously, as you lift the knees and hips from the floor (the knees are straightened, albeit not locked or hyperextended), while the hands with palms facing floor form two of the four point support (the feet being the other two). The body makes an inverted “V” or a mountain shape with the sit- bones forming the highest point (ischial tuberosities form the “peak” of the mountain). The palms are still on the floor with fingers spread out, and elbows are extended while drawing the head between the arms, while gaze is fixed on the knees. To attain the final posture, push the heels into the floor and press into the palms through the shoulders, elongating the spine. This posture can be held for some time (1-3 minutes) and serves to even out breathing (you can do 2-3 cycles of breath in and out with holds in between).
• Muscles: This posture is an excellent opportunity to stretch the posterior leg, especially the calf, the hamstrings and to some extent the gluteus maximus muscles the latissimus dorsi, back extensors and thoraco-lumbar fascia. The very first act is to stabilize the spine for the transition from bhujangasana to parvatasana. The muscles bracing the abdomen, keeping a stable and rotation-free torso are the transversus abdominus, obliques, multifidi. The quadratus lumborum with gluteus medius stabilizes or balances the pelvis laterally, with respect to spine and the hip joint respectively. Gradually the erector spinae contracts eccentrically with concentric contraction of rectus abdominus, permitting the spine to move from extension to neutral position. At the hip, the gluteus maximus is contracted in final bhujangasana position and it relaxes as it gives way to hip flexor engagement for closed-chain hip flexion. As the feet are pulled up in a weight bearing position and later the heels are pushed downwards into the floor, the dorsiflexors contract and in a closed-chain movement, they pull the shin (tibia or lower leg) forward and down, approximating them to the top of feet(dorsal surface). At the knee, the hamstrings engage briefly as they bend during transition movement and in final position the quadriceps tighten for knee extension pulling the knee cap upwards. One should be careful so as not to hyperextend the knee. Some weight is also transmitted via the upper extremities, requiring stabilization of the shoulder blades. The rhomboids and middle trapezius as well as serratus anterior bring the shoulder blade or scapula in close contact with the rib cage for added stability and effective weight transference. The rotator cuff, specifically the infraspinatus and teres minor rotate the humerus outward to prevent impingement at shoulder joint. The triceps bring the elbows to extension, then co-contracts with elbow flexors for stability and weight transfer. The pronators align the forearm so as to allow the palm to face down into the floor for weight bearing. The interosseous muscles in the hands bring the fingers apart to increase the base of support.
• Breathing: During transition of posture from bhujangasana (cobra pose) to parvatasana (mountain pose), breathe out. Once in final position, breathe in and out several times to even out and deepen breath. In this position, the abdominal contents are pushing onto diaphragm due to gravity. At the same time, the rib cage is free and unimpeded in expansion all around. Breathe in deep and take opportunity to completely breathe out with aide from abdominal contents pushing on diaphragm effectively with less muscular engagement required.
“Om Marichay Namaha”
I bow to thee, one who possesses rays.
Ami Gandhi is a licensed physical therapist in the state of California. She is the owner of StableMovement Physical Therapy, a small boutique practice in San Jose that offers patient centered, one-on-one, hands-on physical therapy.