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A sashtanga namaskar is one of the many types of namaskar, where is which all the body parts or angas touch the ground. This type of namaskara is also commonly known as the "dandakara namaskaram" and "uddanda namaskara".
According to the theory, the word "danda" means "stick". Therefore, the dandakara namaskaram is where the person doing the namaskara lies on the ground just like a fallen stick.
This pose is done because a fallen stick resembles the thought of 'helplessness', where isn which it is a way of sending a message to the Lord Lord that you are as helpless as the fallen stick and in turn have take his refuge. This sashtanga namaskar is also a symbol of sharanagati in the Lord's feet.
In some ways, it is also believed that this namaskara is a form of destruction of ego. It is said that when we tend to fall from a standing position, we get injured and when positioned in a seated position, one can still get injured.
But, when it comes to the sashtanga namaskar position, there is no possibility of the person falling at all, therefore there is no form of injury.
Sashtanga namaskar is also related to a process where one's ego is removed and in turn he develops a form of humility. When the head is brought down by others, it is a disgrace. If we bring it down ourselves, it is reward and an honour.
When this namaskara is done to a sanyasin/elders/guru, it only means that the latter is a "carrier" of your prayer to God, the Almighty. The person who on the other end that recieves the namaskar must not be of the opinion that the namaskar belongs to himself. However, he should understand that he must carry the namaskara towards the Lord & pray to the Lord for the welfare of the person doing the namaskar.
So, how is the Sashtanga Namaskaram done?
The Sashatanga is where one lies down flat on the stomach with eight limbs touching the ground. The eight limbs are chest, head, hands, feet, knees, body, mind, and speech. This namaskaram is generally done by men.
Do women do the Sashtanga Namaskaram?
According to the scriptures, the reason why women should not do the Sashtanga Namaskaram is because the womb and the breasts of women should not touch the ground.
Why The Woman Is Not Allowed To Do The Sashtanga Namaskaram?
Women do only the panchanga namaskaram and not the Sashtanga Namaskaram. The panchanga namaskaram is done when the woman kneels down with palms joined together or touching the feet of the revered one in front. According to the scriptures the Sashtanga Namaskaram is not done because the womb and the breasts of women should not touch the ground. The breast is a part of the woman's body which creates within itself the nourishment for the foetus and the womb holds the life of the foetus. Therefore, it should not come in contact with the ground.