Sasankasana: Rabbit Pose

I have a stiff neck, due to a combination of years in the scrum (playing rugby) and heredity.  My grandmother can no longer rotate her neck far enough to look behind her as she is driving.  My mom’s neck is getting tighter and tighter as she ages.  My hope is that by practicing Yoga, treating my body well, and being aware, I will be able to stave off the immobility my grandmother struggles with daily.
For this reason (in addition to how lovely it feels!), rabbit pose is one of my favorite spine stretching asanas.  I find that it lengthens my upper and middle trapezius, rhomboids, and all the muscles along the back of my neck.
To come into this asana, I kneel in Vajrasana and grab my heels (wrists rotated to face the ground, thumbs on the outsides of my feet).  In this step, it is important to keep your knees together and on the ground, buttocks resting on the ground between the heels.  I then roll forward through my spine (like I’m curling over a beach ball) until the crown of my head is on the ground.  Once my head is on the ground, I scoot my knees (still holding my heels) towards my forehead, until they bump against my face.  I’m still holding my heels, so my back is arched from the lower thoracic all the way through the cervical spine.  Once here, I hold for as long as is comfortable (stretching comfortable, so not easy…).  I keep my triceps brachii and deltoids contracted so that my arms are helping my deepen the stretch throughout.  It’s also helpful to tighten your glutes to raise the back of your hips higher towards the ceiling.
If you have an injury in your shoulder or rotator cuff, this asana is not for you, as it will strain the muscles that are already stressed.  This asana is beneficial for people with stiff spines, tight shoulders, and dizzy heads.  It increases the flow of blood and prana to your brain and neck and improves the flow of energy to the ajna chakra.  It also tones and strengthens the muscles of the arms, shoulders, back, thighs, and neck.
This asana is one of my favorite ways to counter a headstand or to improve my mood and mental function any time!

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