Category Archives: Sun Salutations

Om Alone

Such a punny title. There are many reasons to practice yoga at home, not least of which is the cost of attending classes at a studio. Studios can be over-full, and you’ll struggle to find an inch to lay out your mat. Parking can be a nightmare, especially if your studio is in a busy city center. You may encounter expressionless holier-than-thou clones who can practically balance on their noses, causing you to feel inadequate. Who can achieve nirvana under these circumstances? I’m not anti-studios but I am pro home and at home you can avoid these distractions and you don’t have to share your space. Need further convincing?

At home:

  • You can’t miss a class because you schedule them.
  • You determine the amount of time you spend yoga-ing.
  • You can practice whatever pose you want, however many time you want and for whatever amount of time you want.
  • You develop a deeper awareness of yourself and your mental and physical state without a teacher’s guiding voice.
  • You may KNOW that yoga is not competitive but you will feel more comfortable exploring challenging poses when you are alone.
  • You will become more capable of suiting your practice to meet your needs.
  • Are you sensing a theme? YOU.
So stay home to get a toned and limber body and a stress-free mind. Be sure to get in a least a Sun Salutations in each day and a full 45 minutes routine two to three times each week. Attend classes to have a trained teacher check your alignment two to four times each month. At these supplemental classes, pick up a few new poses to add to your home routine.

Create Your Yoga Space

Pick a quiet space, where noises from the street, your neighbors, or living mates won’t reach you. Bring in decorative elements like a buddha statue and candles and incense. Play meditative music to set the mood. Make sure there is plenty of space around your mat and the area is clutter free.

Make a Date with Your Mat

Classes are generally 90 minutes long but it’s okay to practice in shorter increments. Most yoga teachers agree that practicing for 20 minutes each day is more beneficial that practicing for 90 minutes once or twice each week. Making yoga a habit gives you feedback about your body and mind, which can help improve your practice. So schedule time for yoga each day just like you schedule time for work and spending time with your family.

Have a Plan

Before you lay out the mat it can be helpful to decide which poses you’d like to explore further and which parts of your body you’d like to focus on. Pay close attention when you do go to class and think about how you can use what you learn at home. Notice the sequence your teacher introduces poses in, how long you hold each pose, when inhales and exhales are used. Talk to your teacher for suggestions and advice about how to get the most out of your home practice. Write down notes to help you remember. Find resources on the Yoga Journal website or my personal favorite, Yoga Downloads. Learn the basics for creating a pose sequence and how each pose is set up. Then you’ll have a good foundation when you actually get on your mat.

Create a Sequence

Building a sequence from scratch can be daunting so focus on parts of your body, which would benefit from some attention. Make sure you have a quiet beginning and end. Sun Salutation are another great place to start to get the body warmed up before moving into more focused poses.Yoga Journal has a yoga sequence builder, so use that to help you get some ideas. The more you practice at home the more you will gravitate toward a certain group of poses. Keep this sequence as a backup for days you are too tired or too busy to come up with an original sequence.

Just Do It

Incorporate yoga into your daily life. It’s okay to watch TV or do a crossword while flowing into poses. It’s okay to do a Sun Salutations while you wait for the laundry to finish. Do what you can, when you can, where you can. Become more responsive to your own needs and let yourself fall in love with practicing at home.

Sun Salutations

It’s Workout Wednesday and about time for another post about yoga…

All around the world, many cultures have long viewed light as a symbol of consciousness and self-illumination. In The Origins and Historyof Consciousness, Erich Neumann wrote, “The world begins with the coming of light, opposition between light and darkness has informed the spiritual world of all peoples and molded it into shape.”

The only source of light for most of human history was, of course the sun, and today it remains our primary source of light. The Hindus called the sun Surya and they revered it as both the physical and spiritual heart of our world and the creator of life itself. They called the sun the “eye of the world” (loka chakshus), which was regarded as a pathway to the divine.

One important way many Hindus honored the sun was and is through the asana sequence known as Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations. Namaskais a Sanskrit word, which can be derived from namas, meaning “to bow to” or “to adore.” The placement of joined-hands touching the heart at the beginning and end of each sequence shows that only the heart can know truth.

Ancient Yogis believed that each person replicates the world around, including “rivers, seas, mountains, fields… stars and planets… the sun and moon” (Shiva Samitha, II. 1-3). Therefore the practice of Sun Salutations allows each person to share their inner sun with the sun which shines down upon them.

There are many variations of Sun Salutations but generally it consists of eight basic postures in a similar order as follows, with alternating inhales and exhales as transitions between poses (Photos courtesy of Yoga Journal dot com):

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)
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