Getting Creative with Surya Namaskar

 
 

Our Sankalpa or Intention

Total release into free flowing fluidity. To feel the unadulterated freedom and ease in consciously moving every muscle and every joint throughout the flow. Not holding back in the exploration of each movement and allowing the mind to ripple across the thoughts without control. Like a massage for your entire body, mind and soul.

Level

Intermediate to Advanced

Sequence

1. Tadasana, Mountain pose

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Grounding through all 4 corners of the feet, Pada bandha (foot lock). Drawing up through the kneecaps. Mula bandha (root lock) activated by lightly lifting the pelvic floor. Uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock) draws all North, South, East and West points of the navel toward the spine. Ribs tucked. Armpits and palms peeling open outwardly. Shoulders open and away from the ears. Jalandhara bandha (chin lock) activated by tucking the chin. Drishti (gaze) at the horizon or above.

Modifications for injury

Feet at hip width if managing an ankle, knee or hip injury.

Physiological and Anatomical Benefits

  • Improves posture

  • Strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles

  • Encourages body awareness

  • Great posture to scan the body and notice agni (fire) building in the body

  • Relieves sciatica

  • Reduces flat feet

Anatomical focus

A strong standing posture, to lengthen the spine, ground and open the chest. Supination of forearms.

 

2. Ardha Chandrasana, Crescent Moon pose

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Inhale: lengthen from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Arms overhead, hands clasped. Index fingers pointing to sky. Gaze past upper arm at the ceiling.

Exhale: stretch laterally to RHS

Inhale: centre

Exhale: stretch laterally to LHS

Modifications for injury

Gaze ahead if neck is stiff or sore. Feet at hip width if managing an ankle, knee or hip injury.

Physiological and Anatomical Benefits

  • Stretches and opens the sides of the body

  • Improves core body strength, balance and concentration

  • Strengthens the ankles and knees

  • Improves circulation

  • Energizes the entire body by freeing the muscles and nerve plexuses of the spinal column. Increased flexibility and mobility of the spine generates a healthy spine.

Anatomical focus

A standing posture aimed at lengthening and lateral flexion of the spine.

 

3. Standing Anahatasana, Heart opening pose

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Inhale: lengthen spine to sky, hands to base of spine/sacrum.

Exhale: puff chest, tilt chin up, draw belly upward.

Modifications for injury

Gaze ahead if neck is stiff or sore. Feet at hip width if managing an ankle, knee or hip injury.

Physiological and Anatomical Benefits

  • Opens the shoulders and chest for easier respiration

  • Compresses the thymus to boost immune function

  • Massages the kidneys and adrenals for waste removal and hormonal balancing

  • Stretches and increases mobility of the spine

  • Opens your Anahata chakra to increase receptivity and gifting of love to oneself and others

Anatomical focus

A standing posture with a backbend component (extension of spine and shoulders).

 

4. Anjali Mudra, Salutation Seal (transition pose between anahatasana and goddess pose)

Inhale: hands at heart centre

 

5. Utkata Konasana, Goddess pose

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Exhale: step right foot down the mat about 3 hip widths, toes pointing outwards. Squat to capacity, pushing knees backwards and pelvis forwards. Knees in line with toes, not tracking over ankles.

Inhale: arms lift overhead in line with ears. Shoulders away from ears. Drishti at horizon or above.

Exhale: arms straight, left heels to come high on toes.

Repeat arm movements for 2 inhale/exhales.

Modifications for injury

Hands at heart centre for any high blood pressure (HBP) or shoulder injuries. No lifting heels if any ankle, knee or hip injuries.

Physiological and Anatomical Benefits

  • Stretches the hips, groin, chest and adductor muscles.

  • Strengthens the shoulders, arms, upper back, core muscles, glutes, adductors and quadriceps.

  • Tones and strengthens the core muscles

  • Heats the body and increases circulation

  • ‘It’s postures like this that really do evoke a sense of being proud of the strength your body has and loving the skin you’re in right now – research into body language even shows that wide-stance, open positions like this do literally increase a sense of confidence and self-worth.’

Anatomical focus

Standing posture that is great for opening the hips, as well as boosting core and leg strength. Abduction and external rotation of hips. Flexion of shoulders.

 

6. Parsvottanasana (right hand side - RHS), Intense Side Stretch

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Inhale: hands at heart centre, straighten legs, swivel to face right foot (back of mat). Ensure hips are square. Lengthen through spine.

Exhale: fold from the pelvis over right leg. Micro bend in front knee to avoid hyperextending.

Stay for 1 inhale/exhale

Modifications for injury

Only go halfway if any back injuries or HBP

Physiological and Anatomical Benefits

  • Calms the brain

  • Stretches the spine, shoulders, hips, and hamstrings

  • Strengthens the legs

  • Stimulates the abdominal organs

  • Improves posture and sense of balance

  • Improves digestion

Anatomical focus

Standing and forward bending posture. Flexion and extension of the hips. Flexion of spine.

 

7. Anjaneyasana RHS, Low Crescent Lunge

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Inhale: slide back foot down the mat and lunge. Arms overhead.

Exhale: frame front foot

Modifications for injury

Hands at heart centre if any HBP. Weight supported by blocks under both hands for any knee or hip injury.

Physiological and Anatomical Benefits

  • Builds proprioception by using the eyes, ears and muscle memory.

  • Training the Globus Pallidus, a part of brain that fires and remembers different movements. The more movements your brain can remember, the more likely you are to prevent falls.

  • A weight bearing pose to increase osteoblast & osteoclast production.

  • Helps to relieve sciatica by stretching the hip flexors and the psoas muscle that is the number one cause of undiagnosed lower back pain.

Anatomical focus

A standing and hip opening posture. Flexion and extension of hips. Extension of spine. Flexion of shoulders.

 

8. Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana RHS, Three-legged Downward Dog

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Inhale: press hands into the ground as you hinge and lift the right leg to the sky

Modifications for injury

Ensure hips are level, bend in lower knee if needed. Use Adho Mukha Svanasana as gentler option.

Physiological and Anatomical Benefits

  • Quiets and focuses the mind

  • Strengthens the arms and shoulders

  • Stretches the hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors

  • Heart is higher than the head, therefore the brain receives a fresh supply of nutrient rich blood which stimulates the hypothalamus and pineal glands (‘master’ glands of the body)

  • Develops confidence in balance

Anatomical focus

A forward bend, standing and inverted yoga posture. Flexion of hips and shoulders. Dorsi flexion of ankles.


 

9. Palankasana RHS, Plank

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Exhale: shoulders over wrists. Right leg remains raised

Inhale: push back to 3 leg downward dog (step 10) with the right leg still raised

Modifications for injury

Dropping the knees for any wrist or shoulder injuries (post recovery)

Physiological and Anatomical Benefits

  • Heats the body, builds agni (digestive fire)

  • Weight bearing in the arms for maintaining bone growth

  • Strengthens the arms (triceps), wrists, and spine

  • Builds core strength

  • Strengthens and lengthens the neck muscles

  • Improves posture

Anatomical focus

Core strength and arm balancing posture. Extension of the wrists. Slight dorsi flexion of ankles and internal rotation of shoulders (to dome upper back).


 

10. Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana, Three-legged Downward Dog

As above in point 8

 

11. Utthita Parsvakonasana RHS, Intense Side Angle pose

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Exhale: step right foot between hands, back foot at 45 degrees

Inhale: lift the torso, heart shining to the ceiling. Right hand grounds inside right foot, as left arm sweeps overhead

Exhale: frame front foot

Modifications for injury

Lower elbow resting on knee if full pose is not suitable. Upper hand placed on base of spine for sore shoulders. Gaze at lower hand for tightness in neck.

Physiological and Anatomical Benefits

  • All standing asana are great for flat feet

  • Supports the internal organs such as the kidneys, adrenal glands, digestive organs, liver, pancreas, spleen, and more! By compressing the organs and supplying fresh, oxygenated blood to these areas upon release.

  • Creates a grounding sensation

  • Strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, and ankles

  • Stretches the adductors, spine, waist, chest, intercostals, and shoulders

  • Stimulates abdominal organs to aid digestion, absorption, elimination and reproduction

Anatomical focus

A standing posture. Lower arm: extension of wrist, abduction of shoulder. Upper arm: abduction and external rotation of shoulder. Back leg: inversion of ankle, abduction of hip. Front leg: flexion of knee, flexion and abduction of hip. Lateral flexion of spine.

 

12. Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana RHS, Standing splits

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Inhale: bring the weight into the front foot

Exhale: tilt the pelvis and the torso forward as the left leg hinges backward (extension)

Stay for 1 inhale/exhale

Modifications for injury

Upper leg remaining at pelvis height for tight hips. Bend in standing knee for tight hamstrings and lower back.

Physiological and Anatomical Benefits

  • Calms the mind and switches the body into the Parasympathetic state

  • Stimulates the liver and kidneys for waste removal

  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and thighs

  • Strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles

  • Stretches the hamstring, quadricep and adductors

Anatomical focus

Forward bending and standing posture. Upper leg: plantar flexion of foot, extension and external rotation of hip. Lower leg: flexion of hip, extension of knee. Flexion of spine and shoulders.

 

13. Uttanasana, Standing forward fold

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Exhale: feet meet, fold, bend knees, hands on fingertips

Stay for 1 inhale/exhale

Modifications for injury

Bend in knees for tight hamstrings and lower back.

Physiological and Anatomical Benefits

  • Stretches the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves

  • Strengthens the thighs and knees

  • Massages the internal organs and helps to improve digestion

  • Aids in cleansing mucous and stale air from the lower lobes of the lungs

  • Relaxes the central nervous system to the PSNS state and helps to calm the mind

  • Helps relieve stress and insomnia

  • Helps relieve symptoms of menopause

Anatomical focus

Forward bend. Extension of wrists. Flexion of hips and spine. Flexion or extension of knees, depending on how far you are into the pose. Flexion and external rotation of shoulders.

 

14. Standing Anahatasana, Heart opening pose

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Inhale: stack vertebrae to standing, hands brush sides of body.

Exhale: hands come to support the spine at the sacrum, heart puffs up and out

Modifications, benefits and anatomical focus as above in point 3.

 

15. Tadasana, Mountain pose

Alignment, breath cues and precautions

Inhale: tuck chin, palms open by the sides

Modifications, benefits and anatomical focus as above in point 1.

 

Repeat left hand side (LHS)

 

By Alyssa McLeod

 

References

Gaia. 2016. Goddess Pose Yoga: Utkata Konasana | Gaia - My Yoga. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.gaia.com/article/goddess-pose-utkata-konasana. [Accessed 17 October 2016].

Yoga Journal. 2016. Mountain Pose | Tadasana | Yoga Pose . [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/mountain-pose/. [Accessed 17 October 2016].

Yoga Basics. 2016. Crescent Moon Pose • Yoga Basics. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.yogabasics.com/asana/crescent-moon/. [Accessed 17 October 2016].

Yoga Journal. 2016. Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana | One-Legged Downward-Facing Dog Pose. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/one-legged-downward-facing-dog/. [Accessed 17 October 2016].

Yoga Journal. 2016. Plank Pose | | Yoga Pose . [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/plank-pose/. [Accessed 17 October 2016].

Yoga Journal. 2016. Extended Side Angle Pose | Utthita Parsvakonasana | Yoga Pose . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/extended-side-angle-pose/. [Accessed 18 October 2016].

Yoga Journal. 2016. Standing Split | Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana | Yoga Pose . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/standing-split/. [Accessed 18 October 2016].

Gaia. 2016. Standing Forward Bend - Uttanasana | Gaia - My Yoga. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.gaia.com/pose/standing-forward-bend-uttanasana. [Accessed 18 October 2016].