The two asanas that we will subsequently describe are excellent asanas for improving the health and strength of the lower back. They are called shalabhasana (locust pose) and ardha shalabhasana (half locust pose). Many beginners may find shalabhasana a little difficult at first because it requires contraction of the lower back muscles,, a function that is rarely utilized in day to day activities. If you find shalabhasana too difficult, or even impossible, you should perform ardha shalabhasana instead. This is a far easier asana and will prepare your back muscles for eventual mastery of shalabhasana.
SHALABHASANA (LOCUST POSE)
This asana is so called because the legs are raised in the final position to imitate the tail of a locust. It is also commonly known as the grasshopper pose for the same reason. It is an excellent backward bending asana which has a specific influence on the organs, muscles and nerves of the pelvis, abdomen and chest. It is also particularly noteworthy for the fact that it is one of the few asanas that gives a direct massage to the heart.
Shalabhasana complements bhujangasana (cobra pose), for bhujangasana exercises the top part of the body, while shalabhasana correspondingly exercises the lower half of the body. For this reason try to perform them one after the other.
Place a blanket on the floor. Lie flat on the ground, face downwards.
Your legs should be straight with the feet together; the soles should point upwards. The arms can be placed either beside the body or under the body; the palms can face downwards, upwards or may be clenched. The choice of the position of the hands and arms is left to the discretion of the practitioner through his own personal experience.
Keep the chin in contact with the ground throughout the practice. The shoulders should be as near as possible to the floor and remain so throughout the practice. Relax the whole body. Close your eyes. Breathe out deeply. Then inhale deeply, hold your breath and raise both legs, keeping them together and straight. The elevation of the legs is produced by applying pressure on the arms and contracting the lower back muscles. Hold the legs in the raised position while retaining your breath. Try to stretch your chin in front of you as much as possible but maintaining contact with the ground (this will give the best possible stretch to the neck muscles and nerves). Hold the final position for as long as you can without straining. Then slowly lower the legs and exhale. This is 1 round. Relax the whole body. Allow the breathing rate to return to normal. Then breathe out deeply, breathe in deeply, and raise the legs again to repeat another round.
Breathing, awareness and duration
Exhale deeply and then inhale deeply while lying flat on the ground. Retain the breath while raising the legs and holding the legs in the final position. Exhale after you slowly lower the legs and breathe normally while relaxing the body.
Be aware of the breathing and movement throughout the practice. While resting between rounds remain aware of your breathing pattern and the relaxation of the whole body.
You can practise shalabhasana as many times as you wish, though three rounds is a reasonable number. Without straining, try to hold the pose for as long as possible.