Eka Pada Pranamasana is a balancing asana.
The major musculo-skeletal effects of this asana are on the bones and the postural muscles of the legs and spinal column. Maintaining balance is a process of fine-tuning a group of muscles and their antagonists.
In this asana, all the muscles supporting the spine from the head to the tailbone, and the muscles supporting the leg from the hip to the smallest toe joint, are activated. They act and counteract each other until a perfect harmony of all muscles is established. This muscular harmony creates the balance and is an example of perfect teamwork. The muscles are actively contracting without moving any joint, which means they do not change their length while contracting. The isometric contraction strengthens the muscle more efficiently and also strengthens the bone it is attached to.
This asana reinforces all the postural muscles and bones of the legs. It is therefore useful for people of all age groups, including sports people, and for those suffering from osteoporosis. When the hands are raised above the head in the final position, the muscles supporting the shoulder joint are also activated.
The act of balancing involves sensory input from the eyes, skin and labyrinth, the special sense organ for balance situated in the middle ear. Balancing involves a lot of information circuits, using many areas in the brain. However, the main governing centre in the nervous system is the cerebellum. Eka pada pranamasana stimulates many areas of the nervous system, making it particularly useful for growing children.
There are no specific effects on the respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine or reproductive systems. It may not be safe during the later months of pregnancy as balancing may become difficult due to the large weight in the abdominal area. It may not be safe for the aged as the nervous reflexes are not quick enough to maintain balance without external help and as the bones may be brittle injury should not be risked.
Eka pada pranamasana sharpens awareness and concentration. It keeps the mind in the present moment, because without focused awareness, balance is immediately lost. It also calms and introverts the mind and is therefore useful for students and others keen to improve mental performance. It is generally practiced at the end of a series of asanas because it prepares the mind for pranayama and pratyahara practices.
In ancient times many rishis performed penance standing in this asana. Children and adolescents enjoy this asana. Hyperactive children who have a very short attention span particularly benefit from this asana. Sustaining eka pada pranamasana helps develop willpower and is therefore useful for people with addiction problems or low self-esteem.