In India, a traditional wrestler, or pahalwan, spends all of his time training for the sport and does thousands of Hindu pushups, or dands, and Hindu squats, or deep knee bends. He’s also devoted to his guru, consumes large amounts of butter, milk and almonds and is celibate, according to the “Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation” by Thomas Green and Joseph Svinth. While modern Indian wrestlers do hundreds of Hindu pushups, you only have to do a set of 10 reps to feel the burn. This compound exercise will strengthen your back and increase the flexibility of your spine.
Type of Exercise
A Hindu pushup is a compound body-weight exercise that engages all of your major muscle groups, including your back, abdominals, hips, shoulders, arms and legs. It also massages and tones your internal organs. Because you use deep breathing, the Hindu pushup will strengthen your diaphragm and increase your lung capacity. To perform the pushup, you have to flex and extend your back, which builds all of the muscles in your back as well as your spinal stabilizers. You have to remain aware of your body position throughout the range of movement.
To perform a Hindu pushup, begin on all fours with your feet spread wider than shoulder width apart. Place your hands closer to your feet than a standard pushup so your butt sticks up in the air. Your body should form a V shape. Inhale deeply and lower yourself to the floor, bending your arms. Lead with your chest with a swooping movement. When you reach the bottom of the movement and your hips are near the floor, straighten your arms, arch your spine and lift your head. Exhale and lift your body back to starting position by swooping forward and up.
Variations and Tips
To increase the intensity of the exercise, lift one leg slightly off the ground while performing the pushup. You can also alternate lifting one leg at a time. Keep your movement throughout the exercise fluid and controlled. Avoid diving down quickly or exploding back up. Don’t allow your hips to touch the ground. Focus on deep breathing, which is the opposite of what you may be used to doing for traditional pushups. Take a deep breath when you push down, and exhale fully when you push up. Begin by doing a set of eight to 10 reps, working up to three sets.
Because your back arches like a cobra during the exercise, you need a flexible spine to perform Hindu pushups. Warm your body with light aerobic exercise, such as cycling on a stationary bicycle or jumping rope, for five to 10 minutes before performing these pushups. You also need to be strong enough to do a traditional pushup. You can’t modify a Hindu pushup by doing it from your knees. If you have or are recovering from shoulder, back or spinal injuries, avoid this exercise.
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Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.