Yoga Break: Surya Namaskara A

Friends who are just getting into yoga often ask me what poses or sequences they should be practicing in order to start building strength, increasing flexibility, and getting the hang of things in general. While it’s true that no body is alike and what for one person comes easily might be challenging for another, my answer is usually to start with Sun Salutations, or Surya NamaskaraThis sequence of postures is pretty much the foundation of hatha yoga, and it contains everything you need to start getting your body used to the flow of a yoga practice, both in the realms of strength and flexibility.

I’m an Ashtangi, so in my own daily practice (which, I’ll be honest, I’ve kind of been being a bit lax on) I start off with five rounds of Surya Namaskara A and then follow that with five rounds of Surya Namaskara B. Only then, after my body is nice and warmed up, do I continue on with my standing and seated postures. If you’re used to scrolling through the fancy contortionist Instagram feeds (what I like to call yoga porn), the poses in Surya Namaskara might not look very interesting to you. BUT! Rest assured that these poses are the foundation, that all the muscle engagement and physical alignment we learn in this sequence will come back up over and over again as you advance in your practice. What’s more, the rhythm of flowing through Sun Salutations with your breath is quite meditative once you get into it. You might even find yourself doing 108 rounds on the next equinox or solstice!

Because it’s so important to get this sequence down correctly, there’s no way in hell I’m going to try to explain all the poses to you guys in one post! So, I’ll outline Surya’s Namaskara A’s order of poses (along with breath pattern) here and then in the coming weeks, we’ll look at each of the Sun Salutation elements in depth. That way, we can concentrate on the alignment and feel of each individual posture by itself while you start to weave them together into a fluid whole in your home practice.

Surya Namaskara A:

  1. Samastitih (equal standing)
  2. Urdhva Vriksasana (upward salute)   inhale
  3. Uttanasana A (forward fold)   exhale
  4. Uttanasana B (half lift)   inhale
  5. Chaturanga Dandasana   exhale
  6. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog)   inhale
  7. Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)   exhale; hold for 5 rounds of breath
  8. Uttanasana B (half lift)   inhale
  9. Uttanasana A (forward fold)   exhale
  10. Urdhva Vriksasana (upward salute)   inhale
  11. Samastitih (equal standing)   exhale

I know, I know. All those long Sanskrit words probably look overwhelming, but you don’t need to memorize them! It’s definitely enough to know the rough English translation of the posture! However, if you practice around Ashtangis long enough, I have a feeling you’ll start to pick up on more of the Sanskrit names then you would have thought…

If you’re feeling feisty and you want to go give these whirl before next week, there are about a million great YouTube videos out there to get you going! I’ll be posting my own photos and content over the next several weeks, though, to help you get your alignment down and to keep your body safe in the poses. It’s gonna be fun!

Love and light and all the good vibes, guys.

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