Purna surya namaskar – a gentle sun salute
A gentle variation of a popular yoga sequence provides the ideal scenario for teaching participants and students to link the breath with postures while warming the body, says John Ogilvie.
The Surya Namaskar – or Salute to the Sun – sequence of yoga asanas provides the perfect opportunity to teach participants and students to link the
breath with postures while warming the body. The sequence below, developed at Byron Yoga Centre, is a gentle variation of
Surya Namaskar and is suitable for all levels, especially beginners, who can safely benefit from its invigorating effects.
This variation is ideal when taught in an open class, as it instructs beginners on the gentle modifications to traditional Surya Namaskar, while at the same time providing a warm-up for more advanced practitioners in their progression towards Surya Namaskar A and B and stronger postures.
(Tada = Mountain; Asana = comfortable seat) (photo 1)
All asana (yoga postures) emerge from the perfect symmetry of Tadasana. We start from the foundation of the feet and work our awareness up through the spine to the crown of the head. Stand with the big toes and ankles touching. Evenly distribute the weight in your feet between the ball and the heel. The body should begin to feel more alive, as the inner arches and shin bones lift. The front of the thighs and kneecaps lift. Gently activate the core muscles. Activate the arms by placing the hands in line with the hips, out at about 20 degrees, with the finger tips pointed. Feel the prana – or life force – moving through the hands. Allow the shoulders to soften away from the ears. Draw the chin slightly toward the chest, parallel to the floor, the back of the neck lengthened and the throat relaxed. The drishti, or gaze, is forward, to infinity. Inhale to the base of the feet, feeling the breath move to the lower lungs, filling and expanding the back and sides of the lungs.
(Urdhva = raised, upward; Hasta = hand) (photo 2)
Now turn the palms out and on an inhalation raise the arms above the head, shoulder-distance apart and palms facing toward each other. Keep the shoulders drawing away from the ears and the shoulder blades moving down toward the kidneys. If the shoulders allow, bring the palms together in Namaste, or prayer, position. If there are no neck issues, take the gaze up, beyond the tips of the fingers, keeping the forehead soft. Exhale into;
Adho Mukha Uttanasana
(Intense stretch and forward bend) (photos 3 & 4)
Bend the knees if there is any strain on the lower back as you rest the hands onto/towards the floor. Fingertips are in line with the toes. Relax the head and neck. Inhale (photo 4) and as you look forward, with the fingertips resting in line with the toes and bending the knees if you need to, lift your chest and lengthen your torso as the crown of the head moves away from the legs. Exhale, then perform;
(Lunge variation) (photo 5)
Step right foot back and rest into the right knee. The left knee is aligned over the ankle. Inhale and raise the head, looking forward, keeping the fingertips on the floor, shoulder-width apart as you stretch up onto the fingertips, keeping the left knee bent and aligned directly over the ankle. The weight is in the thighs rather than collapsing into the arms. Lift the chest and heart centre and drop the shoulders away from the ears. The back of the neck is long. Exhale and step the left foot back into;
(Child’s Pose) (photo 6)
Draw the buttocks onto the heels as the torso comes to the thighs and the forehead moves towards the floor. Keep the hands stretching forward and the palms face down. Toes point away from the body, the feet are in plantar flexion. Inhale, as you move into;
(The Cobra) (photo 7)
From Balasana come up onto your hands and knees, bend your elbows, gently swoop the chest between the hands and rest the pubic bone on the floor. Keep the navel resting on the floor. Spread the fingers, keeping the elbows bent and drawing in toward the torso. Lift the chest and drop the shoulders away from the ears, looking straight ahead. The feet are hip-width apart. Minimise the weight resting on the little toe side of both feet. Exhale and press back into;
Adho Mukha Svanasana
(Downward Facing Dog) (photo 8)
Keep the hands shoulder-width apart with the fingers evenly spread as you press the weight down in the third knuckle of the index finger. Position the feet hip-width apart, and move the toes in toward each other, so the feet are parallel to the edge of the mat. Keep the upper back broad and move the shoulders apart and towards your buttocks. Relax the head and the neck. Inhale into;
(Lunge variation) (photo 9)
Do this by stepping the right foot forward into a low lunge (as described above). Exhale as you step the left foot beside the right foot (photo 10) (as described above in Adho Mukha Uttanasana). Raising the arms up over head, inhale into;
(as described above) (photo 11).
Then exhale and lower arms back into;
(photo 12), and then repeat on the left side.
One of Australia’s most respected yoga teachers, John is the founder of Byron Yoga Centre, where he heads up the teacher training program. The yoga taught at Byron Yoga Centre is called Purna, meaning integrated or complete. The Purna Surya Namaskar is taught on the Byron Yoga Centre Teacher Training courses as part of Level One courses and the Certificate IV in Yoga Teaching. For information on courses, visit www.byronyoga.com