A yoga asana guide

Yoga is not about twisting your body up like a piece of spaghetti but maintaining awareness in the movements and can be practiced by anyone, whatever state of mind or health. The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’, signifying to join, combine or unite, by bringing together the body and mind in harmony through breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures. This makes for a strong, clear mind which decreases stress, anxiety, and the need for external validation. So of course, brings about healthy and sound living. In addition, a clear mind increases self-awareness, focus, disciple, physical health, emotional stability, memory, and the ability to empathize with others. It can improve posture, increase flexibility, build muscle strength, boosts metabolism, helps in lowering blood sugar, increase blood flow, keep diseases at bay, and increase self-esteem. So why are you not doing it? I would like to introduce you to a quick but very effective set of postures to get you started, called Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation.

We all know how important the sun is and love to feel its heat and vitamin D, but it’s more than just that. The sun has been a source of both spirituality and vitality on the earth since time immemorial. Its significance can be traced from Mayan, Egyptian, Aztec, Tibetan, and Indian civilizations to the ones that emerged later. Spirituality apart, there is also a logical reason behind the sun’s prominence.

Scientifically, the sun radiates energy to the earth in the form of heat and sunlight – without which life couldn’t have sustained here. Sparing just 10 minutes for yourself every day can have dramatic changes in various aspects of your life. Hence, Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation, has a range of effects on the human body. There are many variations of the sun salutation, but usually, it consists of 12 postures for the 12 cycles of the sun. I will explain one cycle where in step 4, the left leg goes back first, and in step 9, the right leg comes forward, and in the second set in step 4, the right leg goes back and in step 9, the left leg comes forward. Confused? All it means is steps 4 and 9 are the same posture. So you work one side of the body in the first set and the other side in the second, which makes one cycle and your goal is to do six. Don’t force anything, listen to your body and flow with the movement. Maybe at first, you are unable to do the full posture but I’m sure after a week you’ll be jumping out of bed and whacking out a sun salutation in 10 minutes.

Surya namaskar or sun salutation.

1. Pranamasana (Prayer pose)

Stand straight, keep your feet together and balance your weight equally on both feet. Expand your chest and relax your shoulders. As you breathe in, lift both arms up from the sides, and as you exhale, bring your palms together in front of the chest in a prayer position.

2. Hastauttanasana (Raised arms pose)  

Breathing in, lift the arms up and back, keeping the biceps close to the ears. In this pose, the effort is to stretch the whole body up from the heels to the tips of the fingers.

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: You may push the pelvis forward a little bit. Ensure you’re reaching up with the fingers rather than trying to bend backward.

3. Hastapadasana (Standing forward bend)

Breathing out, bend forward from the waist keeping the spine erect. As you exhale completely, bring the hands down to the floor beside the feet.

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: You may bend the knees, if necessary, to bring the palms down to the floor. It’s a good idea to keep the hands fixed in this position and not move them until we finish the sequence.

4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)

Breathing in, push your left leg back, as far back as possible. Bring the left knee to the floor and look up.

Tip to deepen this stretch: Ensure that the right foot is exactly in between the palms.

5. Dandasana (Stick pose)

As you breathe in, take the right leg back and bring the whole body in a straight line. Try to bring your whole body close to the floor, by bending the elbows.

6. Ashtanga Namaskara (Salute with eight parts or points)

Gently bring your knees down to the floor and exhale. Take the hips back slightly, slide forward, rest your chest and chin on the floor. Raise your posterior a little bit. The two hands, two feet, two knees, chest, and chin (eight parts of the body) should touch the floor.

7. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)      

Slide forward raise the chest up. You may keep your elbows bent in this pose, keep your shoulders away from the ears. Look up at the ceiling.                                        

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: As you inhale, make a gentle effort to push the chest forward; as you exhale, make a gentle effort to push the navel down. Tuck the toes under. Ensure you’re stretching just as much as you can and not forcing your body.

8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog pose)

 Breathing out, lift the hips and the tail bone up to bring the body into an inverted V pose.

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: If possible, try and keep the heels on the ground and make a gentle effort to lift the tail bone up, going deeper into the stretch.

9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)

Breathing in, bring the right foot forward in between the two hands. The left knee goes down on the floor. Press the hips down and look up.

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: Place the right foot exactly between the two hands and the right calf perpendicular to the floor. In this position, make a gentle effort to push the hips down towards the floor, to deepen the stretch.

Step 10. Hastapadasana (Standing forward bend)

Breathing out, bring the left foot forward. Keep the palms on the floor, bend the knees if necessary.                                                                                                                                                 

  Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: Gently straighten the knees, and if you can, try and touch your nose to the knees. Keep breathing.

11. Hastauttanasana (Raised arms pose)

Breathing in, and slowly roll the spine up. Raising your hands above your head, pushing the hips slightly outward.

Tip to deepen this yoga stretch: Ensure that your biceps are beside your ears. The idea is to stretch up more rather than stretch backward.

12. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

As you exhale, first straighten the body, then bring the arms down into prayer position. Relax in this position and observe the sensations in your body.

Congratulations!! You have just completed one set of Surya Namaskar. Now balance your body with another set bringing the right leg back first in step 4, and the left leg forward in step 9. If you manage to do one cycle today, that is brilliant, then tomorrow go for 2 cycles and so on until you can complete the full 6. Remember do not force or rush anything, and just let your body flow. Once you have finished, lay down flat on your back, close your eyes and relax your whole body for a few minutes as new energy revitalises your whole being. Roll over onto your side and gently push yourself up into a sitting position. give yourself a big hug for taking 10 minutes to make a better start to your day.

Have a great day.


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