Surya Namaskar – Sun Salutations, a guide to these full body dynamic sequences

A guide to Sun Salutations, Surya Namaskar, Salute to the Sun

Surya Namaskar – or for you sanskrit-phobes, Sun Salutations, are the full body dynamic workouts of yoga. If you only do 10 minutes of yoga per day – make it these sequences!

Those of you who have been to a yoga class will already be familiar with these set sequences as they should be included in all but Yin and Restorative styles of yoga in some form and variation.

There is so much importance in these sequences, which originally stem from the Vedic traditions of chanting to the sun each morning.

I would like to point out once again here that Yoga is much more than the physical practice of asana (postures) but it is this side of yoga that people normally start to practice first. And that’s cool! We all started somewhere – the importance is that you made the decision to start.

If you learn these two sequences then you have a good basis for starting a yoga practice and you will be targeting all the larger muscle groups in the body, which is why they are so important to learn.

But before you begin to learn the sequence it is vital to mention that you need to use the BREATH correctly whilst doing this to get the benefits. Breathing in yoga happens in and out of the nostrils with the mouth closed.

 Nasal breathing  (as opposed to mouth breathing)  increases circulation, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, slows the breathing rate and improves overall lung volumes. (Swift, Campbell, McKown  1988 Oronasal obstruction, lung volumes, and arterial oxygenation. Lancet 1, 73-75).

You should aim for the inhale and exhale to be the same length (we often exhale longer than we inhale) so to begin just sit or stand with the spine tall and practice just breathing for 5 inhales (count in your head 1,2,3,4) and 5 exhales.

Then start the sequence with an INHALE (remember the inhale should be at least 4 counts in length, so that will give you time to perform the actions)

 

Thank you to: http://ashtanga-yoga-zurich.tumblr.com/post/102711106445/suryanamaskara-ab-sun-salutation-ab-the-start for this drawing and great explanation
Thank you to: Ashtanga Yoga Zurich
for this drawing and great explanation

I will describe here the postures (without using the sanskrit terms) and scroll down for a video of me demonstrating the postures:

Start with feet together, standing tall, ground into the floor with the feet, relax the shoulders.
1. Inhale, take the arms up above the head, look up to the thumbs.
2. Exhale, fold forward from the hips, place the hands flat on the floor outside of the feet (knees can be bent to start.
3. Inhale, lengthen through the spine, look up, try to straighten the legs.
4. Exhale, bend the knees and jump back into high plank and lower or if strong enough, straight back to low push up (Chattugranga).
5. Inhale, push through the shoulders to raise the back into a prone postition, relax the shoulders.
6. Exhale, push back and up with the hips into an upside down triangle.* Try to bring heels to the floor. HOLD AND BREATH (1 inhale, 1 exhale) 5 times.
7. Inhale, look to the space between the hands and try and jummp the feet into that space, lengthen the spine and look up.
8. Exhale, fold the body over the legs, drawing the ribs onto the thighs.
9. Inhale, push into the floor standing up, reaching arms over head as in (1).
10. Exhale, bring arms down by sides, to start again from (1).

Repeat the whole sequence (from 1-10) 5 times.

Sun Salutation B:

1. Inhale, bend the knees, sweep the arms low to tthe floor, then keeping the knees bent reach the arms up above the head and gaze to the thumbs.

2. Follow Sun Salutation A from 2. up to 6.* then:

7. Inhale, pivot the left foor inwards and lower the heel to the floor (mat), stepping the right foot up to the space in between the hands. Push into the floor with the feet and raise the body and arms up, gaze goes to the thumbs.

8. Exhale, lower back down and release the right leg so you are in ahigh plank. Lower to the low plank

9. Inhale and push shoulders up to raise the back into a prone postition, relax the shoulders.

10. Exhale, push back and up with the hips into an upside down triangle

11. Inhale, pivot the right foot inwards and lower the heel to the floor (mat), stepping the left foot up to the space in between the hands. Push into the floor with the feet and raise the body and arms up, gaze goes to the thumbs

12. Exhale, lower back down and release the left leg back so you are in a high plank. Lower to the low plank

13. Inhale and push shoulders up to raise the back into a prone postition, relax the shoulders.

14. Exhale, push back and up with the hips into an upside down triangle. Try to bring heels to the floor. HOLD AND BREATH (1 inhale, 1 exhale) 5 times.

15. Inhale, look to the space between the hands and try and jump the feet into that space, lengthen the spine and look up.

16. Exhale, fold the body over the legs, drawing the ribs onto the thighs.
17. Inhale, bend the knees, reaching arms over head as in (1)
18. Exhale, bring arms down by sides, straighten the legs to stand tall and to start again from (1).

If all that seems confusing I (will) be putting together a basic video of me demonstrating the sequences with some annotations, but I cannot stress enough that you find a class and go and be instructed under an experienced yoga teacher.

I will be covering classes in Cheltenham, UK, throughout December and January – so watch this space (blog) for details coming soon!

****DON’T FORGET IF YOU SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG YOU RECEIVE A FREE YOGA FOR SNOWBOARDING BROCHURE*****

 

My guide to Yoga in Canggu, Bali

Ubud is known as the yoga capital of Bali, however when for this visit I didn’t have the time to head to Ubud. I needed to be nearer the city, and wanted to have a surf, so I knew Canggu was the place I needed to see. Naturally I looked into the places to practice as I wanted to experience new shalas and teachers.  Canggu is fast becoming the next stop on the yoga map for Bali.

I only visited two centres and practiced Mysore Ashtanga with KPJAYI authorised teachers in both. So this guide is somewhat potted, but if you are an Ashtanga practitioner then you will be interested in these two centres both with authorised teachers.

Serenity Eco Guesthouse

 

Serenity Eco Guesthouse Canggu Bali

 

This place is an eclectic mash up of cafe, chill out areas and a beautiful garden and grounds. It is close to the beach (Fisherman’s Beach) and also has surfboards for guests. They offer a packed timetable, and a range of rooms for all budgets. The guesthouse is laid back, with spaces to chill and relax, and has two shalas and a pool for guests too!

 

Mirror Wall at Serenity Eco Guesthouse Bali

 

What I liked best about the place was it’s Eco approach, and how things around the place were labelled so you knew what herbs were growing, what water filtration they were doing, etc. I didn’t see any of the rooms so can’t comment on those, and the shala I practiced in was with a tiled floor and a good size to fit about 15-20 people in.

 

labelled eco gardens serenity bali canggu

 

The vibe in the room was very relaxed, I think there were quite a few beginners. Fernando has a strong presence and gave me some good adjustments.  They offer all kinds of yoga classes all day, a single class drop in costs 100k (about £6) it gets cheaper the more classes you take.

 

Bamboo in gardens serenity eco guesthouse Bali

 

IMG_20160811_123923

 

Samadi Bali

 

it's not the way you look at it quote, samadi bali

 

cow facing shala at Samadi Bali

 

At the other end of the spectrum from the hippy vibe at Serenity is the beautiful ’boutique’ shala and centre of Samadhi Bali. An instagrammer haven. It is on a beautiful road full of rice fields and it is stunning from the entrance to inside. It has a beautiful, wooden floored shala with a modern architecture feel with nice little Indian and Balinese touches, a good restaurant and a wonderful shop (I literally could have bought everything in that shop!)

The grounds are landscaped with lush plants and foliage, and it also has luxury (but pricey) rooms and a spa. I didn’t see these but can only imagine they are as good as they look on the website.

 

ground of Samadi Bali

 

leading to shala, Samadi Bali

 

I took another Mysore Ashtanga class here with the owner, Damien De Bastier, who studied and was authorised by Sri. Pattabi Jois, he had a few assistants in the room so you got more attention for adjustments and alignment cues than at Serenity.

Damien has a wonderful nature and he was so active in the room, he was flying around helping every person in there. There was a lovely energy in the room and there was a wide range of levels from beginners to advanced practitioners.

 

Mysore Ashtanga practice with Damien at Samadi Bali

 

They also have a full daily schedule of classes, Ashtanga being the primary focus but also Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin and some Yoga for surfers sessions.

If I ever own my own place, this is the kind of place I want it to be – beautiful, relaxed, classy!

prayer tree at Samadi Bali

 

Places I didn’t visit but have heard good reviews about are:

The Practice – heard it has a stunning shala with views over rice fields.

Desi Seni – heard this place is very beautiful and good reports on teaching here.

I’ll report back on those next time!

The Yoga Retreat – Koh Phangan

‘Because I knew you
I have been changed for good’

(lyrics from For Good, Wicked the Musical, Stephen Schwartz)

So after my short holiday in Goa I hopped over to the Thai island of Koh Phangan where my good friends, Teresa and Kes Kennard, have a yoga retreat. They had offered me the chance to work on the retreat as a teacher and I had offered to help them with their online presence and social media.

The Yoga Retreat is a very special place nestled in the jungle in the North West of the island, but only a short distance from the beautiful bay of Haad Salad. When I say it’s a very special place I really, really mean this, not just because I work there or my friends own it, but because it has a wonderful energy and since arriving here in April I have seen it make such a positive impact on so many people’s lives that I feel it really deserves that accolade.

Focusing on Ashtanga Yoga the retreat offers daily Mysore style classes and beginner’s courses with KPJAYI Authorised teachers, so you can see why I took up the offer to work here with them, to continue to practice 6 days a week on the beautiful jungle shala with experienced, authorised teachers.

 

set up for yin practice

 

They also offer daily Hatha Flow classes (of which I teach on Friday’s) and Saturday’s and Sunday’s I teach a restorative Yin Class to work the connective tissue and fascia so to support people in their Ashtanga practice (let’s get those hip and hamstrings open!)

At the risk of sounding like I’m writing a review, the food on the retreat is some of the best food I’ve eaten. EVER. Deserving a post of its own, and definitely stealing some recipes for my health and nutrition posts, they offer vegan, vegetarian and raw options for the health conscious yogi…..cacao bowl breakfast, hummus salads, vegetable wraps, cacao and avocado mousse, raw pad thai, I mean seriously good stuff…mmmm I’m getting hungry and I only just had my cacao bowl!! (Have I overused the work cacao here?!)

 

veg wrap

 

So, yes the yoga is phenomenal, the food outstanding, but the real thing I love about working here? The people I have met. This is the joy of not only yoga, but travel, like-minded people from all over the world coming together and firm new friendships being made.

I have connected with people here who I hope to be friends and stay in touch with forever. A yoga retreat is a very transient business, which can be hard as you are always saying goodbye to somebody. You have to rejoice in the fact that you met in the first place, and that somehow you have made a positive impression on each others lives. And of course, now we have social media we can keep in touch with each other all over the world daily so in fact they only ever leave you in a physical presence.

 

run and jump bottle beach

 

the gang at sunset july 31 2016
*photo credit Fee Saxby

 

looking out at sunset happy beach

 

If I have tempted you with my story, then you can find out more about the packages on offer ‘change your life yoga’ here

 

Yoga – the beginners guide

So, if you have read some of my previous posts you will know that I am currently attempting to be an ‘Ashtangi’ meaning I am studying the asana from the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series, along with trying to guide my life through the Yamas and Niyamas, adding in a sprinkling of Pranayama and topping it with a tiny sprinkle of meditation (or Dhyana). So that’s me, and I will go on to write more about the eight limbs, what they mean to me and how you can introduce them into your daily lives in further posts.

But what about if you are new to ‘yoga’ and are confused with all the different options and styles available to you at your local yoga centre/gym/community centre etc?

Well I will try to explain the more popular, or well-known styles so that you may be able to make an informed decision if you want to start practising yoga. But right here right now I will state that I strongly encourage you to START practicing yoga. It may be the best decision you ever make. Don’t worry too much about the types of yoga styles, just find a class and go to it!

‘I really regretted going to that yoga class’ – said no one, EVER!

Yoga is both a physical and mental practice, and also please remember that it is called ‘practice’ for a reason…there is no end to it, you are always practicing and working towards something, hopefully that something will be your improved physical and mental health and a new outlook on life and becoming a better person, ergo making you life have a positive impact on the world.

PLEASE NOT THAT FOR THE REST OF THIS POST I AM REFERRING TO PURELY THE PHYSICAL SIDE OF YOGA, THE ASANA, OR POSTURES. This is just the start of the ‘yoga’ journey but as it’s the start, it’s a pretty good place to begin.

 

opening chant

When you first start to research yoga and it’s forms, you will come across the terms ‘Hatha’ ‘Vinyasa’ ‘Yin’ and of course ‘Ashtanga’ also maybe ‘Jivamukti’, ‘Forest’ or ‘Anusara’ Plus many more self-made styles which hopeefully the studio provides a descrition for (I’m talking Slow Flow, Power Vinyasa, Funky Flow etc) so it can be extremely confusing.

Everyone needs to start somewhere and I would recommend that your entry-level class needs to be a ‘Hatha’ or even may simply be called ‘Beginners’ yoga. The term Hatha in itself is confused, sometimes referred to as the physical or ‘asana’ side of yoga. It is these postures that prepare the body and mind for meditation (yep, that’s the real reason we are all doing this) and so therefore ALL types of physical yoga can be refered to as Hatha.

Generally if a studio is advertising a class as ‘Hatha’ you will learn the basic yoga positions and become familiar with the Sanskrit terms of those positions (asana) in a slow-paced class that focuses on less asana and works at a steady pace, making it perfect for beginners.

Vinyasa yoga, or Vinaysa Flow is using the basic principle that ‘vinyasa’ essentially means linking breath with movement, so these class will generally work more with flowing poses (asana) together with the breath, sometimes working on up to five postures or more on one side of the body before you repeat it on the other side. These classes are a bit more physically challenging than a Hatha class and are great for stepping up your yoga practice, trying out more challenging postures and will also appeal to somebody who likes a more cardio based workout.

 

dancer close up

 

Ashtanga is the most physical of the yoga styles, and I will post many more entries about this style. I do believe it can be adapted for the beginner but don’t be alarmed to realise that it is a very physically challenged set of asana and it may have helped you to have tried the other two styles (Hatha and Vinyasa) before you try this style.

Yin Yoga, created fairly recently (late 1970’s) compared to other styles, as a perfect fit to the more ‘Yang’ styles of yoga above it works on the fascia, or connective tissues that lie over the top of the larger muscles and postures are held for anywhere between 3 and 20 minutes and therefore can be used to help with flexibility and also works the para-sympathetic nervous system bringing you to an almost meditative state during the class.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as in these modern consumerist times we are always conjuring up new terms and styles to catch the ever distracted population’s imagination. So, you may have to wade through the studio’s website to find out what kind of yoga exactly your ‘Slow Jamz Funky Floor Flow’ class is.

There are of course many other different styles of yoga and you can google away at your heart’s content to find out a style that appeals to you, but this is meant as a beginner’s guide and as I have already said, I hope if you don’t already tread it, this guide will help you take your first steps on the path of yoga. Your welcome 😉

 

thanks to bizarrocomic.blogspot.com for the image
thanks to bizarrocomic.blogspot.com for the image

What Yoga Means To Me

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I have been pondering on this question for some time now. I think that the answer is that it is going to mean different things to me at different points in my life.

For the moment I am living and breathing a yoga lifestyle. I literally eat, sleep, repeat YOGA

Pattabi Jois describes yoga in his book, Yoga Mala as ‘upaya’ meaning path, or a way in which we follow or a means we can attain something. I think this is a great description

For me, like many others I know, I started practicing yoga as a way to exercise and stretch my body and compliment by dancing. Then, as I retired from dance and began teaching I always tried many different other forms of exercise, HIIT, the Gym, Insanity, Spin, Running, Cycling, Pilates and kept coming back to Yoga. I did enjoy most of those others too but they didn’t keep me long-term.

When I started going to Cheltenham Yoga and Pilates 4 years ago I really started to take things a bit more seriously. Firstly I loved how I felt physically after a class and also because in Shavasana I felt it was the only time (with a busy job and trying to renovate a house, a social media addiction etc) I got to truly have some time just to be present. And I found going to the studio a calming and restorative experience.

Then the opportunity to train as a teacher arose at Ella and Fleur, something i had been meaning to do for some time and so I signed up and well – let’s just say that changed my life. The training definitely took me on that path to which Pattabi refers to…again, coming into it from a purely asana aspect, i was pleasantly surprised when I started to enjoy the spiritual aspect. I found the history and philosophy of Yoga in all it’s forms, dating aback to the Veda’s and Upanishads totally enthralling.

I found a connection with my chakras and even began to enjoy the odd Aum here and there! I learnt that Yoga means so much more than a good workout, so much more than the asana.Friends and family could see a difference in me and I started to love something as much as I loved dance.

Of course, all this came about just when I was going through one of the toughest times in my life, and I can attribute the teacher training to something akin to therapy for a broken heart. It gave my life a purpose when I felt all was lost. And it gave me something to focus on that wasn’t the pain of heartache

It gave me a new identity when I really needed to be reborn. And maybe most importantly it taught me that I am good enough, where I am right now. I am striving to be the ‘best version of me’ and all those other corny motivational quotes.

And then I made the decision to come on my own path, to journey to the self, and I had a new romance, with Ashtanga. Which brings me to where I am now, if you are new here you can read my online diary of my yoga journey here: from Mysore to present

So, what does Yoga mean to me? Yoga is a lifestyle, it’s MY lifestyle. I’ve given up a career in education and left friends and family at home to pursue this lifestyle now. It’s not just asana (postures) it’s a way of life. It’s my way of life. It has made me reflect on the life I had, the person I was and make some positive changes. I feel healthy and happy and have a true sense of who I am. I’m working on my practice and myself everyday. Practice and ALL is coming.

headstand in Goa