Regeneration Yoga [Home Edition]
sun salutation A
MOvements AND POSITIONS
By Sara Beccari, Ashtanga Vinyasa teacher
Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic practice, a moving meditation. For all those who want to keep fit while staying home, every Thursday morning there will be new video pills by yogi Sara Beccari. She will teach us new positions and exercises every week.
In accordance with measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Dpcm 22/03/2020), unfortunately it has not been possible to record the video lessons with Sara Beccari as previously planned and communicated. However, REGENERATION YOGA’s weekly appointment will still be part of Manifattura Tabacchi’s blog and will offer detailed explanations of Ashtanga Yoga positions and their benefits.
In this second post we will explore how to begin practicing Ashtanga Yoga, the moment in which we instill the rhythm and state of mind for the upcoming lesson. All of the positions that we will learn as we advance are no more than an extension and an improvement of the movements we learn at the very start of the practice, that is, during the Sun Salutation.
Surya means ‘sun’ and namaskar is a salutation signifying respect and honour towards the holiness present within each of us. This exercise is what provides a solid base for our practice. It is a dynamic coupling of breath and movement whose goal is to begin a curative process of cleansing and toning of the body, mind, and senses (yoga chikitsa, or yoga therapy).
Our breath in Ashtanga guides us in a practice of meditation in movement, whereby we learn in time, to relax the parts of the body that are not engaged in the position. We thus feel lighter, freer, and learn to experiment in personal expression.
SURYA NAMASKARA A
Saluto al sole A
Advice for beginners: While performing the movements of Sun Salutation A, concentration is fundamental for pairing a breath with each position or transition from one position to the next, without ever holding our breath. From the outset, we will use bandha (the energy barriers explained in the first post) to protect our backs and maintain a correct posture.
It is also important to root our feet to the floor when we are standing, and when we have our hands placed on the ground, they, too, must be firmly rooted. We must keep in mind that all that we place on earth must be rooted, as occurs in nature. We may imagine ourselves as a tree whose roots extend beyond our yoga mats and ground themselves into the earth.
The 7 positions (asana) and the 9 movements (vinyasa) which comprise Sun Salutation A
The feet are parallel, heels separated, weight distributed evenly over the sole of the feet, legs active, coccyx turned down and pelvis retroversed, the neck is soft, the gaze relaxed and the lips smile slightly.
As we position ourselves in Samasthiti, feet united, we inhale while raising our arms and uniting the palms of the hands over our heads.
The arms are open above the head and the palms of the hands unite without blocking the neck and shoulders, the gaze turns upwards.
Tip: if you have problems in the cervical area, avoid lifting the chin to look upwards — just look upward with your eyes.
While exhaling, we fold our bodies forwards bringing the hands to the ground near our feet, legs outstretched.
For beginners: the legs can be bent if you find that placing the hands on the floor is difficult.
Hands are placed on the ground, legs outstretched (or bent if necessary), the gaze is turned towards the bellybutton.
Tip for expecting mothers: place your legs hip-width apart to ease pressure on the belly.
While inhaling, we lengthen the spinal column, raising the head, and bring our gaze to the horizon.
The back is lengthened forward, the spinal column is elongated. If the legs were already bent, in this position we will keep them bent to elongate the back. Place the hands on the tibias and elongate the spinal column forwards, gazing ahead.
Exhaling, jump or walk back and position yourself isometrically in relation to your mat, keep your hands and feet on the mat in resistance to the floor. This should generate a strong contraction of the muscles. From this position, while exhaling, bend the arms.
Tip: it is very important not to hold your breath. If one exhale is not enough, take another breath and try coordinating the end of the exhalation with the moment you finish bending the arms.
For beginners: if this exercise is too intense, try performing it with knees placed on the floor.
Hands are placed far apart on the ground, the feet parallel to one another, elbows are flexed leaving the arms close to the body. The body should be led downwards, while trying to maintain a parallel position in relation to the ground.
Tip: this movement should not strain the spinal column, especially the lumbar zone.
For beginners: a common mistake is first lowering the pelvis when our arms are not strong enough. If this is the case, bend the knees to the ground, and lower your body parallel to the ground. Your arms will gradually become stronger as we continue to practice.
While taking a deep breath in, straighten the arms and rotate the ball of the foot. Place the back of the foot on the ground.
Tip: while transitioning from movements 4 to 5, try to keep the knees elevated, if possible.
URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA
Rotate the feet and place them on their backs. Press them to extend the legs with the knees raised from the ground. While the hands push, we extend the arms to open the chest.
TIPS for beginners: make sure not to draw the neck into the shoulders, and to keep your chin tipped upwards.
ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA
To perform the ‘downward facing dog’ position, we place the hands shoulder-width apart. The feet should be hip-width apart. The shoulders move down, away from the ears, and the shoulder blades relax towards the gluteus muscles. The spinal column elongates, and the neck is free and relaxed.
We hold this position for 5 complete breaths.
Exhaling, we push the hips upwards to enter the ADHO MUKHS SVANASANA (downward-facing dog) position. We elongate the spinal column from the tailbone to the tip of the head.
After the last downward-facing dog position (‘adho mukha svanasana’) we repeat the preceding positions in order to return to the initial one.
MOVEMENT 7 (SAPTA)
We walk or jump in order to bring our feet forward towards our hands, while our gaze looks to the horizon. Our back is stretched forward and our feet come to meet our hands, returning us to the ARDHA UTTANASANA position.
MOVEMENT 8 (ASTAU)
While exhaling, we bring our chest toward our knees, if possible keeping our legs straight, otherwise only slightly bent, and we return to the UTTANASANA position.
MOVEMENT 9 (NAVA)
While inhaling, we return to a standing position, extending the arms above our head and joining the hands. We gaze at our joined palms, and we return to the position of URDHVA VRIKSHASANA.
To end the sequence, while exhaling, we bring our hands back along our body and return to the position of SAMASTHITI.
At this point we are ready to execute the next sequence.
The repetition of the five Sun Salutations A coincides with the initial phase and preparation to the practice of yoga.
Having returned from a trip to Mysore, a city in India’s Karnataka region, where the Ashtanga Yoga discipline was born and developed. Sara has been practicing since 2009. In 2013 Sara moved to New York where she attended the Eddie Stern School of Ashtaanga. She was a direct disciple of Yogi Sri K. Patthabi Jois, founder and teacher of this practice. In 2015, Sara continued her studies as a teacher of the practice at the Ashtanga Yoga School in Vienna where Yogi Guruji Manju Jois (son of Sri Pattabhi Jois) was her mentor.
Sara teaches at the Scandicci Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga school following the tradition of the Mysore style. Her aim is to communicate the passion she feels about Ashtanga Yoga. It is her source of inspiration and she wishes to share this with others and continue her personal growth.