Caption: man standing sunset
Ahhh the age-old question… or is it?
A quick google search and you’d believe that sun salutations are some ancient meditative form of asana practice and they actually are, although maybe not in the way you’d imagine. Prostrations or Namaskars have been around in different cultures for, well, ever!
What are these “prostrations” you ask? Have you ever been to a church or temple and in some way formulated a bow to the overriding deity? In particular, namaskars in a sun salutation context have been referenced in Hindu scriptures over 3,500 years ago. These prostrations are forms of moving meditation offered at sunrise or sunset, they symbolise a surrender to that which is greater than ourselves.
Early prostrations incorporated dance like movements, mudras and often mantras.
“In fact, from a sequence of dance-like poses referenced in the Pashupata Sutra to the first-ever sequence of poses called “50 Bodily Poses” detailed in the Nishvasa Tantra, the oldest evidence of vinyasa was found in early Tantric scriptures dating back to the fifth century. The 11th-century Jayadrathayamala Tantra referenced a lively ritual that resulted in the performance of mudras and playful dance forms called Karana, sacred forms similar to yoga poses. Karana was eventually replaced by the word “asana” in Hatha Yoga manuals as early at the 13th century and brought into the 19th century by guru Matsyendranath.”
This greatly contrasts the well-known, athletic vinyasa practice of mass outdoor gatherings come June 21st. This stronger physical practice became popularised through the advent of some of the more prominent Hatha yoga practices such as Ashtanga.
So, should we be practising sun salutations and how should we practice?
This next part of the bog is nothing more than complete personal opinion.I’ve gone through many stages of views on practice. From rigidly authoritarian, to wild dis-abandon, to a softer practice what you feel outlook.
There is nothing wrong with practicing 108 strong Surya Namaskar A’s or B’s with a good teacher and some building up to the practice. You can in fact join our queen of the vinyasa flow Steph on June 7th 2020 for one of her building up sessions ready for summer solstice. Learning the techniques for strength and knowing your limits is key to successfully navigating the intensity of the practice.
Alternatively, you could try experimenting with less rounds, more fluidity and join our pre-recorded course on “Introducing Mantra into Hatha Sun Salutations” for self-practice throughout June. Each week you will be sent a video and notes containing the weeks practice. This will include a breakdown of key movements and possible variations. We will progress over the weeks incorporating breath and mantra to culminate in a fluid, adaptive Sun Salutation flow that offers you the space to discover a more meditative practice.
You could even do both. Go wild!
Ultimately, Sun Salutations give a guide, allow that access to a rhythmic, meditative, dance like flow and if nothing else will definitely build up some summer strength!