Sivananda Yoga Class

 

THE SUN SALUTATION (SURYA NAMASKAR)

In Hindu mythology, the sun god is worshipped as a symbol of health and immortal life. The Rig Veda declares that “Surya is the Soul, both of the moving and unmoving beings”. The Sun Salutation originated as a series of prostrations to the sun. Traditionally, it is performed at dawn, facing the rising sun. In time, each of the twelve positions came to have its own mantra, celebrating aspects of the sun’s divinity.

The Sun Salutation is a graceful sequence of twelve positions performed as one continuous exercise. Each position counteracts the one before, stretching the body in a different way and alternately expanding and contracting the chest to regulate the breathing. Practiced daily it will bring great flexibility to your spine and joints and trim your waist. It limbers up the whole body in preperation for the Asanas (postures) as taught by Swami Vishnu-devananda.

Sun salutation

One round of Sun Salutation consists of two sequences, the first leading with the right foot in positons 4 and 9, the second leading with the left. Keep your hands in one place from positons 3 to 10 and try to co-ordinate your movements with your breathing. Start by practicing four rounds and gradually build up to twelve rounds.

  1. Stand erect with feet together and hands in the prayer position in front of your chest. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed. Exhale.
  2. Inhaling, stretch your arms up and arch back from the waist, pushing the hips out, legs straight. Relax your neck.
  3. Exhaling, fold forward, and press your palms down, fingertips in line with toes – bend your knees if necessary.
  4. Inhaling, bring the left (or right) leg back and place the knee on the floor. Arch back and look up, lifting your chin.
  5. Retaining the breath, bring the other leg back and support your weight on hands and toes.
  6. Exhaling, lower your knees, then your chest and then your forehead, keeping your hips up and your toes curled under.
  7. Inhaling, lower your hips, point your toes and bend back. Keep legs together and shoulders down. Look up and back.
  8. Exhaling, curl your toes under, raise your hips and pivot into an inverted “V”shape. Try to push your heels and head down and keep your shoulders back.
  9. Inhaling, step forward and place the left (or right) foot between your hands. Rest the other knee on the floor and look up, as in position 4.
  10. Exhaling, bring the other leg forward and bend down from the waist, keeping your palms as in position 3.
  11. Inhaling, streach your arms forward, then up and back over your head and bend back slowly from the waist, as in position 1.
  12. Exhaling, gently come back to an upright position and bring your arms down by your sides.

The Sivananda Yoga class offers a complete practice focusing on breathing, relaxation, and gentle stretching, that can be both challenging for advanced practitioners and relaxing for beginner students. The class begins with Pranayama, or breathing exercises, followed by sun salutations and leg raises to warm up the body. Then come the 12 basic asanas, or postures, starting with headstand and ending with standing postures. There can be any number of variations to these postures, but the basic structure is always kept the same.

 

12 BASIC ASANAS

Asana practice is one of the eight limbs of classical Yoga, which states that poses should be steady and comfortable, firm yet relaxed, helping a practitioner to become more aware of their body, mind, and environment.

exercises1

Headstand (Sirshasana)

exercises7

Locust (Shalabhasana)

exercises2

Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)

exercises3

Plough (Halasana)

exercises4

Fish (Matsyasana)

exercises5

Sitting Forward Bend (Paschimothanasana)

exercises6

Cobra (Bhujangasana)

exercises8

Bow (Dhanurasana)

exercises9

Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

exercises10

Crow (Kakasana) or Peacock (Mayurasana)

exercises11

Standing Forward Bend (Pada Hasthasana)

exercises12

Triangle (Trikonasana)
The 12 basic poses or asanas are much more than just stretching. They open the energy channels, chakras and psychic centers of the body while increasing flexibility of the spine, strengthening bones and stimulating the circulatory and immune systems. Along with proper breathing or pranayama, asanas also calm the mind and reduce stress. With regular practice one can ensure overall physical and mental health and the possible prevention of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis. In time, performing the poses slowly and consciously becomes a mental exercise in concentration and meditation.