21st June is celebrated as International Yoga Day. Today we look at Suryanamaskara.
The name Surya Namaskar is from the Sanskrit सूर्य Sūrya, “Sun” and नमस्कार Namaskār, “Greeting” or “Salute”. The name identifies the sun as the soul and source of all life.
Surya Namaskar is a sequence of around twelve asanas connected by jumping or stretching movements, varying somewhat between schools. In Iyengar Yoga, the basic sequence is Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana, Uttanasana with head up, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, and then reversing the sequence to return to Tadasana; other poses can be inserted into the sequence.
Suryanamaskara sculpture at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi India
The suryanamaskara is a relatively modern rendering of ancient sun salutations, and also a derivative of Surya Kriya, a way of aligning yourself with the sun and a much more refined process which needs enormous attention in terms of the geometry of the body. It involves a certain level of breath and powerful activation of energy.
hashankasana resembles a ‘Hare’ in its final stages and hence the name. Since it has a calming effect on the body and mind, it is also called Sashankasana, Sashanka meaning moon in Sanskrit.
It is a popular posture to cure any back related troubles and when practiced regularly can be a boon to tired backs and those with back-related pain. It is a beginner’s pose and can be performed by all age groups.
A variation of Shashankasana is Balasana. In Sanskrit, bala means child and asana refers to one’s posture. Thus, this pose is also called Child Pose. It is a ‘counter’ asana for many asanas and is performed preceding and following Sirsasana as it is a resting pose. If perfectly performed, the body faces the floor in foetal position (thus the name). It is also called Garbhasana (or womb pose).
The name comes from the Sanskrit words भुजङ्ग bhujanga, “snake” or “cobra” and आसन asana, “posture” or “seat”, from the resemblance to a cobra with its hood raised.
The pose is described in the 17th century hatha yoga text Gheranda Samhita. In the 19th century Sritattvanidhi, the pose is named Sarpasana, which similarly means Serpent Pose.
The Cobra Pose opens up the shoulders and the neck, stretches muscles in the shoulders and chest, strengthens the arms and also helps treat constipation. It can be significantly useful at relieving discomfort in the muscles of the back, neck and abdomen. Just a little time spent in Bhujangasana goes a long way; especially towards reducing stress and anxiety. It is part of the sequence of yoga postures in Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutation.
Padahastasana is a variation of Uttanasana (उत्तानासन) or Standing Forward Bend.
Pada (पाद, Pāda) = leg, foot
Hasta (हस्त, Hasta) = hand
Asana (आसन, Āsana) = pose, posture, seat
Pada-Hastasana (पादहस्तासन, Pāda-Hastāsana) = feet-on-hands-posture
Padahastasana or the Hand to Foot pose is part of Sūryanamaskāra or the Sun Salutation series. It appears as the 3rd pose and the 10th pose in this series.
How to practice Padahastasana
1. Stand tall in Tadasana.
2. Step the feet hip-distance apart with arms at your side.
3. Exhale and bend forward at the hips while lengthening the spine.
4. Bring the arms down, palms under the feet. If this is not possible, try to bring your hands down and grasp your ankles.
5. Compress the big toes down into the thumbs of the hands.
6. Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
7. To exit the pose, release your hands out of the feet and come back to your initial position (Tadasana).
The name Baddha Konasana is relatively recent, but the pose is medieval, as the meditation seat Bhadrasana (from भद्रा Bhadra, “throne”) is described in the 15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Bhadrasana denoting ‘auspiciousness’ is a posture that brings the Muladhara or Root Chakra to life. This asana is performed in a seated position and can be held for extended periods of time as it is fairly comfortable. The defining characteristic of the pose is a thorough lengthening of the spine and how it allows the shoulders to drop down in a relaxed manner.
The name comes from the Sanskrit words vajra, a weapon whose name means “thunderbolt” or “diamond”, and asana meaning “posture”.
Vajrasana or Thunderbolt pose is considered to be the best sitting posture, for practicing breathing exercises and meditation. In India, a lot of people sit in this asana after eating their meals. This is a great posture for smooth digestion.
From my background in martial arts (Kyokushin Karate), I recognise this asana being practised in Japan from centuries – its called seiza. The ankles are turned outward as the tops of the feet are lowered so that, in a slight “V” shape, the tops of the feet are flat on the floor and big toes overlapped, the right always on top of the left, and the buttocks are finally lowered all the way down. Depending on the circumstances, the hands are folded modestly in the lap, or are placed palm down on the upper thighs with the fingers close together, or are placed on the floor next to the hips, with the knuckles rounded and touching the floor. The back is kept straight, though not unnaturally stiff. Traditionally, women sit with the knees together while men separate them slightly. Some martial arts, such as karate, may prescribe up to two fist widths of distance between the knees for men.
Read more here: https://www.rohitghai.com/vajrasana/
One of the most recognizable yoga asanas, Vrikshasana has been identified in Indian relics dating back to the seventh century.
In ancient times, wandering holy men called sadhus would meditate in this posture for long periods of time as a practice of self-discipline.
In some traditions, the pose is called Bhagirathasana, to honor a great yogi king from India who—legend says—stood on one leg for a long time to appease the Hindu god Shiva and to be allowed to bring the sacred river Ganges from heaven to earth. “This posture represents the intense penance of Bhagiratha,” says Kausthub Desikachar, son and student of the yoga master T.K.V. Desikachar and chief executive of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Madiram in Chennai, India. “It’s supposed to motivate us to work toward our goal even if there are many obstacles in the way.” That doesn’t mean you have to stand on one leg for years. “The point is to make a dedicated effort to one’s practice,” he says. “It makes us strong, it enhances our willpower, and we achieve amazing benefits.”
Read more at https://www.rohitghai.com/vrikshasana/