SUN A/SURYA NAMASKAR A A series of postures that are used at the beginning of our practice. Each movement is done on an inhalation or an exhalation using a warming breath. There are several variations to a Sun A. The sequence below is used in our Vinyasa practice at the Hot House. We begin in Mountain Pose.
THE MAJESTIC STEADINESS OF A MOUNTAIN BASIC STANDING POSE
1. TADASANA/MOUTAIN POSE
STANDING TALL WITH STEADINESS *Feet together or as close enough where you're comfortable and steady. *Close your eyes-bring your awareness to the connection between your feet and earth. *Shift weight gently between ball mounds and heels until you feel balanced and rooted. *Your body weight should be evenly distributed across your feet. *Your contact with the earth is as full and wide as possible. *Now open your eyes and gaze to infinity. *Bend your knees slightly to awaken the legs. *Straighten your legs slowly, bring the knees directly over the ankles and the hips directly over the knees. *Draw your attention to your spine. *Move the top of the front thighs back slightly. *Open the area right at the top of the thighs where the legs join the trunk of the body. *Draw the pubic bone in toward the core of the belly, so the bottom protrudes slightly. *Balance this movement by neutralizing the tailbone to bring your tush back into line. *Gently lift the chest away from your belly. *Feel the spine extend upward through the crown of your head. *Allow your shoulders to soften and drop away from your ears. *Let your arms be loose and relaxed beside your body, palms facing in toward your thighs. *Draw the chin slightly toward the throat, allowing the back of the neck to lengthen. *Relax the throat. *Press down firmly through your feet into the earth. Notice the equal and opposite flow of energy upward through the spine. *Rest here a moment, residing in your newly uncovered posture.
...and that's just standing...
**Allow the arms to stretch skyward from the side body. *Spiral pinky fingers in and the thumbs away. *Send your gaze up through the hands. *Shift your hips a touch forward, lengthen through the spine, send your gaze back.
EXHALE AND FOLD FORWARD
forward fold variations-uttanasana
CALM THE NERVOUS SYSTEM & COUNTER ILL EFFECTS OF STRESS. FOLDING FORWARD TAKES THE MIND TO A MORE RECEPTIVE AND INTUITIVE STATE.
2. DEEP FORWARD FOLDS/UTTANASA
SEND YOUR HEAD BELOW YOUR HEART TO HARMONIZE YOUR BRAIN CHEMISTRY
Uttanasana/Standing Deep Forward Fold
*Stand in Mountain Pose. *Inhale as you open your arms wide, bringing the palms together above your head. *Hinge at the hips to fold forward with arms lengthening forward and away from the tailbone. *If your back is strong keep the legs straight as you fold forward. *Bring your hands to the floor beside your feet. *Bend your knees to create a connection between your hands and the earth. *Allow legs to lengthen with each breath.
*If you touch the floor easily, walk your hands back and press more of your palms into the earth. *Allow the back of your neck to remain long * Tuck chin slightly toward your throat to create space in the back of your neck. *Remain here for several long breaths. *Enjoy the lengthening of the spine with each exhale as the crown of your head moves closer to the earth.
INHALE AS YOUR CROWN AND TORSO LIFT HALFWAY...
CONTINUE TO LENGTHEN YOUR SPINE, AND STRETCH THE HAMSTRINGS WHILE TONING AND LENGTHENING YOUR ABDOMINAL OBLIQUES.
3. URDHVA MUKHA UTTANASANA/HALFWAY LIFT
EXTEND THROUGH THE NECK AND LENGTHEN YOUR SPINE FROM CROWN TO TAIL.
Urdhva Mukha Uttanasana/ Halfway lift
*From standing forward bend, place hands on shins OR keep your fingertips together as you guide them to the floor to the outer edges of your feet, in line with your toes. *Inhale as you lift your torso halfway up to a flat back. *Gaze just beyond your toes to lengthen the back of your neck. *Press your tail back and your chest forward. *Extend and lengthen your spine. *Drop your shoulder blades down your back and away from your ears.
**EXHALE AS YOU LAND YOUR HANDS AND STEP BACK TO PLANK POSE.
STRENGTHEN THE ARMS AND WRISTS. TONE THE ABDOMINAL MUSCLES.
4. KUMBHAKASANA/PLANK POSE
THE UPPER BACK IS EXPANDED FULLY. THIS INCREASES OXYGENATION OF THE MUSCLE TISSUE AND RELEASES TENSION HELD BETWEEN THE SHOULDER BLADES.
MODIFY BY LOWERING KNEES TO THE MAT.
*From halfway lift... *Land hands, shoulder with distance apart, at the top of mat. *Walk or step feet to the back of the mat. Feet are inner hip distance apart. *Lower knees to the floor for set-up. *Push strongly through the palms of the hands as if you are lengthening your arms. *Press the vertebrae between the shoulder blades up toward the ceiling, so that the skin between the shoulder blades widens and the upper back broadens. *Maintain length in the back of the neck by facing don and slightly tucking chin toward the throat. *Gaze is soft and steady just beyond the top edge of the mat. *Fully engage your abdominals by hugging the belly in toward the spine.
*Tuck toes under and lift the knees up. *Bring hips into line so that everything from the back of the crown through the sacrum to the heels are on one plane.
*Be mindful of sinking hips-if you are collapsing into a valley, reestablish the workings of you abdominals to firm them. *If your tush lifts your body into a mountain shape, check that your shoulders are correctly positioned. *Shift weight forward so shoulders line up over wrists...you may need to walk your hands a bit forward. *Hug-in you navel toward your spin from pubic bone to lower ribs. *Lengthen the tailbone toward the heels. *Press the palms evenly toward the floor. *Hold for 5 breaths.
**FROM PLANK YOU MAY LOWER DOWN TO FOUR-LIMBED STAFF POSE/CHATURANGA DANDASANA OR (skip to #6) LOWER ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE MAT AND SET-UP FOR COBRA.
STRENGTHEN THE ARMS, WRISTS, AND SHOULDERS WHILE TONING THE ABDOMEN.
5. FOUR LIMBED STAFF POSE/CHATURANGA DANDASANA
*From plank pose, firm belly and move your shoulders forward of your fingertips. *At the same time, bend elbows to right angles.
**The chest needs to move forward to avoid the feeling of a crash landing.
*Maintain a direct line of energy from crown to heel. *Hug the belly to prevent sagging in the posture and pain in the lower back. *The tush should be on the same plane as the rest of the body. *Provide a bit of space between the elbows and the torso. *Stay for 10 breaths or more.
**LOW PLANK REQUIRES TREMENDOUS CORE STRENGTH. **SIMILAR TO HIGH PLANK, LOW PLANK CAN BE MODIFIED BY LOWERING THE KNEES TO THE MAT.
*FROM LOW PLANK- 2 OPTIONS FOR THE SUN A SEQUENCE: 1. LOWER DOWN TO THE FLOOR. CHEST HITS THE MAT FIRST AND PREPARE FOR BABY COBRA/BHUJANGASANA OR 2. SEND THE TOPS OF YOUR FEET TO THE MAT, RAISE YOUR TORSO TO FIND UPWARD FACING DOG/URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA.
OPEN THE CHEST, STIMULATE THE DIGESTIVE ORGANS, INCREASE MOBILITY IN THE VERTEBRAL COLUMN.
6a. BABY COBRA/BHUJANGASANA
*Lie face down on the floor. *Place palms next to chest wall under shoulders, fingers facing forward. *Press tops of legs, from toe nails to waist, into mat. *Tuck you tailbone under so the pubic bone presses into the floor. *Lift knees straight off the floor while keeping the tops of the feet pressing down. *Inhale and lift the chest upward without using any pressure at all on the hands. *Hold pose for a few breaths.
*NOW WORK ON MOBILIZING THE BACK
*Press the palms to the floor and continue to curl the spine up off the floor. *Keep the inner legs and feet together as you press the pubic bone into the floor and move the back arching action a little higher up into the middle back. *Pull back with the heels of the hands, so it feels like you are pulling your chest forward, through the arms. *Keep the shoulders soft and move down the back as you straighten the arms. *Tuck the chin in toward the throat so the back of the neck remains long. *Stay here for a few more breaths, expanding the chest on the inhalation and lengthening the spine on the exhalation.
**When you combine this pose with a hissing sound on each inhalation and an awareness of the line of energy from the perineum to the sacrum, it becomes a mudra, Serpant Seal.
6c. UP DOG/URDVHA MUKHA SVANASANA
*STRENGTHEN THE WRISTS, SHOULDERS, OPENS THE CHEST, WORK THE WHOLE SPINE.
*BEGIN WITH BELLY ON THE FLOOR/MAT.
*Place the palms down by the side of the body so that the fingers point forward and are in line with the shoulders. *Keep the elbows close to the body. *Have the feet hip width apart. *Tuck toes under.
**Inhale, press the palms into the floor, lift the body off the floor slightly. *With the help of hands and feet, drag the hips forward as you roll forward over the toes so the tops of the feet are resting on the floor. *Straighten the arms and lift the chest forward. *Keep the legs straight and active. *Activate your front thigh muscles to lift the knees off the floor. **KEEP TUSH RELAXED!! *The weight of the body rests only on the top of the feet and on the palms of the hands. *Roll the shoulders down and back. *Keep lifting the chest forward and up. *The muscular action with the arms is that of isometrically dragging the hands back toward your hips. *This helps move your side ribs forward through the upper arms so the chest will open farther. *Tilt the head back gently and gaze gently skyward.
ROLL BACK OVER THE TOES WITH AN EXHALATION, LIFTING THE HIPS BACK, INTO....
THE LOOK AND FEEL OF A DOG HAVING A GOOD STRETCH...
7. DOWNWARD FACING DOG/ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA SPINE, HAMSTRINGS AND SHOULDERS ARE STRETCHED VIGOROUSLY.THIS INVERSION DELIVERS BLOOD FLOW TO THE HEAD.
*Place feet hip width apart with legs straight and strong (avoid locking knees). *Press the palms evenly into the floor and move our chest closer toward your thighs as you press the sitting bones of the buttocks upward, lengthening the spine. *Move hips back and up, away from wrists. *Utilize your fingertips, knuckles and the pads of your hands for pressure, at the same time provide a slight lift for the wrists. *Once maximum upward extension of the spine has been reached, focus on opening the backs of the legs. *Press down through the heels and fully straighten the knees without locking them. *If the soles of the feet come fully to the floor, step feet farther back to give yourself more of a challenge. *Rotate shoulders externally. *Allow the upper arms to move away from the ears. *The crown of the head comes closer to the floor creating length for the back of the neck. *Tuck chin slightly and gaze softly toward navel. *If the body wants to adjust, allow the movements to be alignment-based rather than fidgeting. *Find the stillness in the pose as the breath moves the blood and oxygen through the body.
**Remain in this pose for at least 10 breaths in the first Sun A. ***Repeat the 'SUN A' sequence at least 3 x's to get the blood flowing in the body.
FROM DOWN DOG, LOOK FORWARD BETWEEN YOUR HANDS BEYOND YOUR MAT. TAKE SEVERAL STEPS/TAKE TWO STEPS/OR... LEAP LIGHTLY TO THE TOP OF YOUR MAT. BEGIN AGAIN...
THE 'SUN A' POSES ARE DESIGNED IN THIS ORDER TO SUSTAIN A SUCCESSFUL PRACTICE AND CULTIVATE A WARM BREATH. WITH PRACTICE, THE SEQUENCE BECOMES A GRACEFUL, SMOOTH FLOW.
EACH MOVEMENT IS DONE ON AN INHALATION OR AN EXHALATION USING UJJAYI PRANAYAMA BREATHING TECHNIQUE.
THE UJJAYI PRANAYAMA- IS A WARMING BREATH IN AND OUT YOUR NOSE. USING THIS BREATH THROUGHOUT YOUR PRACTICE INVITES EXPANSION IN THE CHEST AND LUNGS, RATHER THAN BALLOONING OUT THE BELLY.
UJJAYI MEANS 'VICTORIOUS' OR 'EXPANDING'. PRANAYAMA DEFINES LIFE FORCE OR BREATH.
UJJAYI BREATHING ALSO PRODUCES A SOFT SOUND IN THE BACK OF THE THROAT. PARTIALLY CLOSE THE GLOTTIS SO A SOFT HISSING SOUND IS HEARD DURING INHALATION AND EXHALATION. THIS CONTRACTS THE THROAT AND HELPS REGULATE THE FLOW OF AIR.
ENERGIZING/VICTORIOUS BREATH, UJJAYI PRANAYAMA, WILL FUEL YOUR ASANA PRACTICE. OVER TIME YOU MAY NOTICE THE SOUND OF THIS BREATH MIMICS A OCEANIC LIKE VIBRATION. A WAVE-LIKE SOUND THAT CALMS THE MIND AND WARMS THE SPIRIT.
"It all starts with an inhale, right mom?" Celia Wolfman