As winter settles it can be difficult to keep active and vitalised. Levels of energy can drop quickly and one of the best ways I know to keep the pranic energy active is through the practice of Surya Namaskara or “salute to the sun”.
This practice combines several asana or postures into a series of 12 movements each designed to stimulate different parts of the body and in this way all the body systems are massaged, charged with energy and finally relaxed.
The sun in Surya Namaskara represents your inner light…it helps you to recognise the radiance and power within yourself…your potential to expand beyond the known into higher realms of clarity and consciousness.
Care must be taken to become familiar with each pose and maintain the correct alignment so slow practice is best to begin with. This can be accompanied with slow rhythmical breathing to strengthen, stabilise and to take the awareness within the body (pratyahara). Once you are familiar with the practice you may wish to practise more quickly, making the practice more energising and revitalising.
The practice of Surya Namaskara can be modified to suit different levels of yogic experience and different physical abilities. (you could talk to your teacher about this)
This practice is both a physical and mental practice as you need to concentrate on the transition from one posture to the next and counting the number of rounds you have decided to do. Swami Niranjan suggests that 4 rounds each day is sufficient for general health and wellbeing whilst practising 10 rounds each day will lead to higher levels of spiritual development.
You may have experienced practising Surya Namaskara whilst mantras have been repeated for you and if you can learn these they will strengthen and uplift the mental state making the practice a complete sadhana.
It is wise to always rest in Shavasana after completing the practice of Surya Namaskara. This allows the full benefits of the practice to be integrated as the para sympathetic nervous system is able to “kick in” so to speak after the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (stimulated by the practice) and the body is brought back into balance. Resting until the heart rate and breathing returns to normal is recommended.
For more information on solar energy and the practice of Surya Namaskara see the following link:
Home practice is one of the key elements to integrating yoga into your life. It is often something which people find difficult to apply and the reasons vary from “not enough time’, “nowhere quiet and comfortable to practice” to “I can’t remember all the poses” and “I just don’t know how to sequence practices”.
Some of these may sound familiar to you if you have been putting off starting your own yoga practice at home. You may well be attending weekly classes but have just not got around to finding time to explore yoga yourself in your own home. One of the most rewarding things I have done is to establish a routine of home practice for myself. Sure there are times when I am too tired or not well enough but that is ok because Yoga is about listening to your body (but be careful that you are not listening to your mind..which has the habit of finding reasons why this or that is no good or not working!)
So how do you go about it? Well the important thing is to begin….set aside a short period of time each day either early morning, or late afternoon. Do not restrict yourself with unrealistic expectations like “I will do a one and half hour class every day before I have breakfast. (this may be quite easy to do at the ashram where you do not have your other obligations of family and work) Start with a shorter session but try to allow enough time for a few asanas as well as some breathing practices and or relaxation. This may even be making sure that you allow yourself 5-10 mins lying in Shavasana at the end of your other asanas.
Find a space that feels right. It does not have to be huge. You can enhance the energy and atmosphere with a candle and some incense if you have some. I have set up a small yoga room in one of the spare bedrooms but I often just go outside especially if the weather is good. ( I find that nature is the best atmosphere for me)
Let your body tell you what poses are right for you on each occasion. Some will be repeated perhaps each day but sometimes you will just feel like doing one pose more than others. Begin with gentle movements and warm the body up then try to balance the practices out a little with a few forward and backward bends, a couple of standing asanas, a twist and if inversions suit your body an inverted pose to increase the flow of blood to your brain (it is also a great way to gain a new perspective on something!)
Swami Niranjan suggested the practices of Tadasana, Tiryaka Tadasana and Kati Chakrasana as excellent general practices for the spine.
I like to do at least some observation of the natural breath at the beginning and end of my practice and usually incorporate at least one other pranayama or breathing practice. (A good one for beginners is abdominal breathing )
Do not despair if you find that your practice is a little erratic at times…show compassion to yourself …just roll out the mat once again and begin with stillness. There is a great article in the current issue of Australian Yoga Life Magazine….sequencing a home practice if you would like to read more.
These asanas rely on gravity to bring the trunk of the body forward. In many the hands are raised above the head such as in Pada Hastasana (hand to foot pose). Forward bending asanas loosen up the back, gently stretching the back muscles and separating the vertebrae whilst the compression in the abdominal area provide a gentle massage for the digestive system. An exhaling breath is used as you bend forward activating relaxation and there is a general sense of letting go.. “surrendering to the moment”. When bending forward it is important to lead with the chest, to use the abdominal muscles to support the lumbar spine and to bend from the hips not from the waist.
Of course care must be taken with forward bends to ensure that you do not force the back to bend further than its present flexiblity will allow. Forward bends also put some stress on the lumbar spine particularly as you pass through the 20 degrees so people with lower back problems especially disc problems need to seek advice from a qualified yoga teacher and may need to check with their doctor. Often the practices can be performed in a modified way with shorter levers and for those people with high blood pressure you can ensure that the head does not move below the heart.
Forward bends such as Shashankasana (pose of the child) can be very soothing and are often a good way to release anger.
Forward bending poses should be followed by a backward bending pose to balance the practices out. A good one especially for beginners is also a relaxation pose known as the Crocodile pose (Makarasana)
Some useful links for yoga and the management of back pain are http://www.yogamag.net/archives/2000/cmay00/back1.shtml
Posted in Asana, Uncategorized
Tagged asana, breath awareness, forward bends, health, healthy-living, letting go, lumbar spine, Relaxation, yoga, Yoga postures