The fourth and ninth asana in Surya Namaskar is the equestrian pose or the ashwa sanchalanasana.
• Position: From the hasta padasana, or forward bend, keep the right foot between the hands on the floor and extend the left leg back as you slowly lower yourself into a deep lunge. The left knee should come in contact with the ground, and the foot should be relaxed and plantarflexed (push toes out as far away from the shin as you can) so that the dorsum (top of foot) is touching the ground. Further stretch in posture can be achieved by arching the trunk or spine backwards and looking upwards with cervical extension. This increases the stretch in the left groin and anterior trunk while allowing deep hip flexion on right side. The shoulders should be relaxed or depressed with chest pushed out for pectoral stretch. Assuming this posture from the previous one involves large body movement and hence takes practice for smooth and graceful execution.
• Muscles: As you lower to the floor by bending(flexing) the right leg at hip and knee joints, the psoas, pectineus, and hip flexor synergists as well as adductors contract to keep the bending leg knee in line with the toes. The hamstrings contract at the right knee and dorsiflexors of the foot provide continued forward flexion of the knee and ankle joints. As always, the trunk stabilizers (transverse abdominus and multifidi) keep the spine neutral during the move. The extensor muscles of the right hip- the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, long head of biceps femoris, and the semimembranosus and semitendinosus- work in synchrony. The quadriceps extend the left knee and the plantar flexors allow the dorsum of foot to come in contact with the ground. If the pose is further deepened through trunk extension, the erector spinae contracts, and the latissimus and lower trapezius helps depress the shoulder blades with the palms open and hands firmly on floor.
• Breathing: During the transition of posture from hasta padasana to ashwa sanchalanasana, breathe in deep and long, even when you arch your back. This posture contains breathing in and out. In the final posture, chest is pushed out, arching the back, and so the anterior lobes of the lungs fill up with air in the alveoli for gaseous exchange. Breathe out as you hold the pose or transition to next posture.
“Om Bhanave Namaha”
I bow to thee, one who diffuses light.
"Om Adityaya Namaha"
I bow to thee, who is God of gods.
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.