RICHARD ROSEN’S ASANA BREAKDOWN No.6: ASHVA SANCHALANASANA ← Back to Blog

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There doesn’t seem to be any agreement on a Sanskrit name for this pose. The most common name is Ashva Sanchalanasana, literally “to move about on a horse,” and so called the Horse Rider’s Pose. I suppose the legs here represent the “horse”–maybe we can visualize the long back leg as the horse’s “tail–the forward angled torso the “rider.” Swami Rajarishi Muni calls this the “Wide Step Pose (urukramasana), Shri Yogeshvara Nand Parmhansa calls it eka pada dvi hasta baddhasana, which he translates as Hands-on-foot Posture, though I don’t really understand how he gets that English rendition. My kindergarten Sanskrit suggests “one foot two hands bound posture.”  Yogrishi Vishvketu calls the back-leg-straight variation Hero Pose (vira asana), and when the back knee is bent to the floor he calls it Horse Pose (but no “rider”); oddly, the Sanskrit word he uses for “horse’ is cetaka, which as far as I can find, means “sentient,” but not “horse.”

For our purposes we’ll call the straight-back-knee pose High Lunge, the back knee bent to the floor will be Low Lunge. 

FROM UTTANASANA

1. With an inhale, lift your front torso to Half Standing Forward Bend (ardha uttanasana), bend your knees and with an exhale step your left foot back toward the back edge of your mat and put the ball of the foot on the floor (some teachers may prefer to step the right leg back first). Step back far enough so that your right knee can form a right angle, with your knee aligned over the ankle (so your shin is perpendicular to the floor) and, ideally, the underside of your right thigh parallel to the floor. If you’re tighter in the hips and groins, then your thigh might be slightly above parallel. 

 2. After stepping back with an exhale, lay your torso on the right thigh and with an inhale lengthen the top of the sternum (manubrium) forward. Look straight ahead. Let the head of the right thigh bone sink under the torso’s weight, but at the same time, against the firmness of the tail bone, press the left thigh actively toward the ceiling. Reach your left heel as close as you can to the floor. 

 3. When you’re ready to move into Downward Facing Dog, exhale and step your right foot back beside the left. Keep the pelvis heavy as you do. 

FROM DOWNWARD FACING DOG

4. To return to Lunge from Downward Facing Dog during the Sun Salutation sequence, inhale and step your right foot forward between your hands. Then straighten right knee and swing your left leg forward. Be sure to keep that leg straight and strong as you return to Uttanasana. 

Contraindications

  • Any serious knee injuries 
  • With neck problems look down at the floor instead of straight ahead 

Benefits

  • Stretches the groins
  • Strengthens the legs and arms 

BEGINNERS’ TIP

Often beginners have a difficult time lightly stepping the back foot between the hands from Downward Dog. If this is the case, support your hands on a pair of blocks when you step forward. The added space between the torso and floor can make the step much easier. 

HINTS FOR SUN SALUTE (surya namaskara)

1. Sun Salute (hereafter SS) can be done rapidly for exercise, or more slowly as a meditation. 

 2. When coming into the Standing Forward Bend from Raised Arms at the start of the sequence, don’t bring the arms forward and down; rather, swing them off to the sides as if making a swan dive. Similarly, when returning to Mountain Pose at the end of the sequence, sweep your arms again out to the sides (or bring your hands to your hips). 

 3. When moving from Four-limb Pose to Upward Facing Dog, try not to push your torso up and back, compressing the lower back. Instead, lift your torso up and forward and lengthen the tail bone toward the heels. 

 4. To move from Upward Facing Dog to its Downward complement, generate the movement by pressing back on the heads of the thigh bones. Let the arms and torso “stream away” from the legs. 

 5. Watch your breath carefully. Whenever folding the front torso exhale, when opening the front torso inhale.