Sun salutations are a fundamental part of every practice in yoga, an yet no two are the same. I learned this early on when I first started practicing yoga, a few years back, I didn’t know much about yoga, but I knew a sun salutation, and so when I met up with a cousin of mine who was also a yoga enthusiast and a little more involved with yoga than I asked her if we could go do some yoga together and I could follow along to her flow. She told me absolutely and we went off to go practice. Upon arriving and getting started she said that she thought we should start off with some sun salutations to get the body moving, blood flowing, and our breath well connected with our movements. No more than two cues later, I was stopping her and in my “infinite” knowledge of yoga was correcting her practice. She then told me to show her what I did when I did a sun salutation and adapted hers to mine. When we returned home I asked her why she would have tried to teach me something wrong when she knew I wasn’t as knowledgeable as she. That’s when she showed me that in her practice she knew of 4 different variations of sun salutations, and that yoga was not about the perfection of anything. I felt pretty dumb after that, and I didn’t really want to admit that she was right. It was not until some while later when yoga became a part of my daily life that I discovered just how right she was and how everything from sun salutations to crane pose have millions of different names, variations and modifications which although create a language barrio at times allow for infinite learning opportunities. Due to may love for a woman named Kino MacGregor and her ability to move her body through yoga I have been attracted towards ashtanga yoga for some time and would like to one day learn this practice. In the Ashtanga practice there are two versions of the Sun salutation, Surya Namaskara, and they are differentiated by A and B.
Surya Namaskara A is what I learned when I first started yoga and it is a fairly rudimentary which I actually use as a teacher as the first flow that I teach my beginner students as they make a transition into vinyasa style classes.
Start in a mountain pose with equal standing lifting the entire body up, keeping the shoulders back and heart somewhat open. Take one or two breaths before beginning, in order to get a feel for your breath in that moment. As you inhale, lift the arms up above the head, palms together. Exhale fold forwards keeping the back flat and legs long. Lift your head up as you inhale to a flat back. Planting the hands onto your mat, exhale and either step or hop back into a plank position. Inhale. As you exhale slowly lower to a low plank and then roll forwards into an up-dog position as you inhale. Exhale pulling the hips up high and rolling back on the toes into a down-dog. Spread your fingers like a ducks feet with the middle one pointing forwards and thumbs pointing towards each other, while pulling your heals into the mat. Stay in your down-dog for five breaths, and then bringing the weight back into your arms, step or hop the feet back up to the top of your mat. Fold deeply exhaling and lift your head up as you inhale to a flat back. Exhale fold forwards, and then rise all the way up, arms leading, inhaling until you land with your arms above your head, palms together. As you exhale return to your first pose in equal standing and prepare to repeat the flow.
Surya Namaskara B is not too different from A in that it starts off the same way. As a matter of fact I normally use Surya Namaskara B as the second flow I teach students because of the similarities it has to A and how they feel as though they are able now to take more poses to a flow. I feel as though it gives confidence and promotes the idea that a flow can change as you change and that you can add poses to any pre-created flow. It is slightly more advanced in the fact that there are more poses to remember and you are now separating one side from the other which adds another memorization point so that what you do to one side you do to the other. But even with this, it is still a fairly simple and fundamental flow, which is great for beginner yogis to learn, and more advanced yogis to be humbled back to basics.
To start come from your equal standing then bending your knees to chair pose, lifting the hands above the head palms together as you inhale. Exhale fold forwards keeping the back flat all the way down. Lift your head up as you inhale to a flat back. Exhale forward folding deep. Plant the hands and step or hop the feet back into a plank. Inhale. As you exhale slowly slower into a low plan and the roll forwards and upwards into an up-dog position as you inhale. Exhale pulling the hips up high and rolling back on the toes into a down-dog. Spreading the fingers and pulling the heels back. Turn the left foot out so that the toes are pointing towards the left and bring the right foot up between the hands. Rise up to warrior one as you inhale. Hands meet above the head palms together before you exhale and bring your hands back down to the mat. Turn back onto your left toes and return the right foot to the back of the mat. Exhale coming to a low plank position. Inhale rolling into an up-dog, and exhale into a down-dog. Turn your right foot now outwards bringing the left foot forwards and placing it between the hands. Inhale as you rise up to warrior one hands above the head palms together. Bring the hands back down to the mat as you exhale. Turn back onto your toes on your right foot and return the left foot to the back of the mat. Exhale to a low plank. Inhale as you roll into an up-dog, and then exhale into down dog. Hold your down-dog for five breaths before shifting your weight back to your arms and either stepping or hopping back up the top of your mat. Lift your head inhaling to a flat back and exhale fold forward deep. Bend the knees and then bring the hands up above your head palms together inhale as you rise to standing. Exhale lower your arms and return to your equal standing pose.
~Strengthens the entire digestive system
~Invigorates the nervous system
~Develops the lungs, gives you wind and prevents tuberculosis.
~Improves the quality and circulation of the blood.
~Stimulates glandular activity; gives a new vivacity to the glands. Owing to the stretching and compressing movements of the throat and neck the thyroid gland is stimulated and any tendency to goiter is obviated.
~Improves the color and function of the spleen
~ Strengthens the neck, shoulders, chest, arms, wrists, fingers, back, stomach, waist, abdomen, intestines, thighs, knees, calves and ankles.
There is a lot of wrist weight bearing in these flows, however if you do have problems with your wrists you can take things down to your forearms as well as drop on to your knees while in plank to help evenly distribute your weight. Another thing about this flow is that the hardest part is the hopping forwards and backward, which is optional and only suggested form intermediate or advanced yogis. As I stated before it is a fundamental flow that is intended for everyone.