I heard an interesting fact the other day. That the Number 1 New Year’s Resolution each year is to; “Get Healthy” and/or “Lose Weight”. I usually try to make this my number two, followed by my usual No. 1, which is to read and chant more. Hatha yoga is not something I promote as a means to self realization or increasing God consciousness, for that there is the higher practice of bhakti-yoga, but it is effective in this age for maintaining some semblance of good health and circulation.
This body is our temple, so keeping it clean, strong and healthy, is our duty and responsibility. With this in mind I share with all of you, this nice description of the sun salutation and overview of some the movements. The bulk of this post including the nice images, came from the web page Sensational Yoga Poses so thank you to Neil Keleher for some of the text and drawings.
Sun Salutation / Surya Namaskara
By tradition, at dawn, the yogis practiced greeting the sun with a salutation. A yoga session is incomplete without it. An ideal exercise to get you moving, Surynamaskara welcomes the new day, preparing for the asanas, heating up the body, toning up the muscles, quickening and intensifying the respiration and cardiac rhythm. The sun salutation is the foundation of your practice, it establishes the connection of movement and breath, uniting body, mind, and spirit.
Not only is the sun salutation a preparation for the rest of your yoga practice, but it is a complete exercise within itself. Surya namaskara tones up the digestive system s by the alternate stretching and compression of the abdominal region. It massages the inner organs, stomach, liver, and spleen. It activates digestion and aids in reducing constipation. Synchronizing breath with movement, the lungs are thoroughly ventilated and the blood oxygenated, creating a detoxifying effect. The sun salutation steps up cardiac activity and blood flow throughout the system, which is ideal for the health of the body. By stretching and bending the spinal column, this sequence of movements tones up the nervous system. Toxins are easily eliminated through the skin, lungs, intestines, and kidneys. Immunity to disease is increased by strengthening its potential breeding ground.
Concentration and the maintenance of an uninterrupted rhythm throughout the succession of the sun salutations are key. Synchronize breath with movement and connect with the rhythm, your own internal rhythm.
Start by practicing three rounds.Gradually increase to five or six.
Sun Salutation A
Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskara) has ten “breath-linked” movements. Each of these movements is done with either an inhale or an exhale.
If you like you can hold any of the poses for a few breaths. Just make sure that you move into the next pose with the “defined” breath phase (either an inhale or an exhale as required.)
Breathing and Staying Relaxed
One way of approaching sun salutation A is to stay as relaxed as possible as you move. Generally, the more relaxed you are the more you can focus on feeling your body. You can notice excess tension and release it. You can then work on using the minimum amount of effort to do what you are trying to do. This can be especially true if you want to feel relaxed and energized after you practice instead of worn out and tired.
So that it is easier to use your breath, focus on gradually lengthening as you inhale, in whatever pose you are doing or moving into. Relax as much as you can while exhaling while still holding the shape of the yoga posture that you are doing.
Sun Salutation B
Sun Salutation B Broken Down
After having learned the A version sun salute, two extra poses that you need to be aware of when doing Sun Salutation B are Chair Pose (Utkatasana), and Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1).
Chair Pose (utkatasana)
Chair pose is the first and last position of sun salutation B.
While standing, whether you have your feet together or apart, orient your feet so that your toes point straight ahead. Roll your shins outwards so that the outer edge of your foot presses into the floor. At the same time root through the base of your big toe. (Check out “foot exercises” for more information on “foot activation.”) Try to keep these actions as you bend your knees. If you do so then your knees should stay at the same width as your feet. If your toes are pointing straight ahead, then your knees should also.
With your arms by your sides activate your feet and practice bending your knees while keeping your feet active.
Inhale bend your knees.
Exhale and stand back up.
So that you can stay balanced front to back, practice feeling the fronts and back of your feet. While standing, shift shift your body forwards or back slightly so that your weight is pressing evenly through your heel and your forefoot.
With your feet active and your weight centered, practice bending your knees as you inhale. So that you stay balance reach your hips back and your chest forwards so that your weight continues to press evenly through the fronts and backs of your feet.
To prevent your knees from going to far forwards, you can reach your pelvis back. You can imagine you are trying to reach back to sit down on a chair. To keep your weight centered over your feet, you’ll have to balance this action by reaching your ribcage forwards more.
After practicing keeping your feet active and your weight centered, focus on lengthening your spine as you bend your knees. But first practice this while standing.
Sinking Down and Lifting Up
While standing, you can practice lifting your ribs away from your pelvis. Do this movement slowly and smoothly while inhaling. Then exhale and relax. Next try to lift your ribs, and once you start inhaling, push your pelvis back and bend your knees.
Sink down (with your pelvis) and lift up (with your ribs) at the same time. As you bend your knees, smoothly lift your arms. Try to use the movement of your hips to initiate the movement of your arms.
When standing up from this pose, as you do at the end of sun salutation b, try to find the same feeling but in reverse. You can imagine using your arms to pull your body upright, or your arms floating down while your body floats up. Try to make the parts of your body work together both while sitting down in the pose and while standing up.
Practice this as many times as you like, inhaling into utkatasana, and exhaling to stand up.
Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana) is another pose that is used in Sun Salutation B.
In Warrior 1, one leg is forward and the other leg is back.
Your front knee is bent while your back knee is straight. You reach your arms up above your head. You do this posture twice in Sun Salutation B, once with the right leg forwards and once with the left leg forwards.
To get into this yoga posture while standing, step your left leg back so that your right leg is forwards.
Turn your back foot out about 30 degrees and position your feet so that your heels are about hip width apart (form side to side). If you have no problems with balance then you can also try positioning your heels on the same line.
Start with your knees straight and turn your hips square to the front. As in utkatasana, roll both shins out so that the outer edges of both feet press into the floor. Press down through the base of each big toe.
From here, bend your front knee while keeping your pelvis square to the front. Ideally your front thigh is level with the knee over the middle of the foot (when viewed from the side.) Slide your front foot forwards, or backwards, as you need to.
While holding the pose, inhale and reach your ribs up away from your pelvis. Exhale and relax. Then, as you inhale, reach your arms forwards and up. Reach your shoulders forwards and up as you do so.
Then repeat with your other leg forwards. When doing sun salutation b, you step into warrior 1 from downward dog.
The nice images I used for post came from the web page Sensational Yoga Poses so thank you to Neil Keleher for the drawings.