This is the complete prostration to a teacher or an elderly person. It is a namaskar performed with the full body, face down, forehead touching the floor. The eight parts of the body (ashtaang) lie flat in rod-straight posture on the ground: (dandavat).
Shandilya -Smriti describes the eight parts that must touch the ground in total reverence, in a shloka. These are: both (2) feet, both (2) hands, head, mind(heart), intellect (forehead) and the Ego (individuality). The idea is that, “ I pay reverence to you in great humility and bow before you, not only with my gross body but also my subtle body (mind & intellect), as well as my ego: (my idea of my individuality).
Swami Chinmayanandaji explained it thus: when you stand tall, your ego (shadow) is generally longer and more exaggerated than a picture than you. Indicating that in our arrogance we generally overestimate ourselves! When we kneel down the ego (shadow)also reduces itself to match our humility. But when we lower ourselves further and prostrate with all eight compositions of the body, there is no shadow at all. We have decimated the ego!
This Pranam is generally done to God, Guru, parents or those we revere. It is a physical dramatisation of a mental attitude of worshipful respect and total surrender. This loving gesture immediately translates into love, tender compassion and blessings generated in the mind of the respected one towards the one who prostrated and compels him to reach out in love and bless him with outstretched hands. God or Guru neither needs nor is benefitted by our prostration. If you desire to Receive, your hand has to be lower than the hand of the Giver!
Prarthna Saran, President Chinmaya Mission New Delhi. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org