Monday, December 10, 2012

Easy Sun Salutations. Beginners' Tips for Suryanamaskar A & B

Sun Salutation A.
Photo from here.

Sun Salutations can be difficult when you are a beginner but there are some tips my amazing teacher has shared with me that have been valuable to me and helped a lot. It's fun how sometimes just a small tiny modification can make things easier.
As my teacher always says in each and every practice "You must not suffer when practicing Ashtanga. You must feel that your body is working but not too much, you do not want to make your life harder than it already is, you want to make it easier and better. So bring your intelligence in the classroom and modify whatever asana you need to or rest in child's pose whenever appropriate".

So here is what he got me through in one of the private lessons I took with him:
First of all a tip for the palms. Whenever your palms are on the floor during the surya namaskara, your hands should be looking straight forward, fingers apart from each other. The thumb should be placed in such a way that exactly at the center of the palm there will be a small gap between your palm and the floor. To understand what I mean place your palms pushing each other like you would push the floor, fingers apart.
Now create a small gap by adjusting your thumb and the area call Mount of Venus. That’s the gap you want to create on the mat.  This technique alters the way your body weight is distributed resulting in less strain to the wrists since your forearm muscles work more.

Uttanasana B (Trini): In the beginning of your practice, unless you are really flexible, you will probably not be able place your palms on the ground and this is fine. I use to place my hands either on my shins or on the floor by bending my knees and when I was jumping back I did it all by using my feet. The jumping back should come from controlling the abdominal muscles though and in order to do that you need to have a very strong grounding by your hands (and well, of course, work on your abdominals). So the alternative is this: When you look up keep your legs straight and place your hands further away on the mat, shifting you weight to your upper body, arms and shoulder blades. Then exhale and try to jump back by lifting the legs and keeping the abdominals working. You will realize that this way you upper back, hands and abdominals work a lot more!

Chaturanga Dandasana (chatuari): The trick to stay just above the floor without touching it is carefully (given the fact that you have already practiced for some time and have strengthen your arms, back and leg muscles) is to keep all you body muscles active and pay great attention to the alignment of elbows: they should be close to your body and right above your wrists. The most common mistake (one I did too) is to have them way behind which puts extra strain on the wrists.

Chaturanga Dandasana allignment.
Photo from here.

Transition from Upward Facing Dog to Downward Facing Dog: should be always be done by toes roll. I had a very hard time with that and as it appears now, the whole thing was mental. I just thought about it too much and was afraid I would hurt my toes. Well, think of your whole body transitioning not just the toes rolling! It is that simple! Push the floor away with your hands, have your abs engaged and help a bit with your legs (quads) and that’s it.

Transition from Downward Facing Dog to Warrior 1: a nice alternative for my first transitions was to first turn the back foot outwards and then drive the other foot in front in a lunge instead of doing it simultaneously. In my first flows when moving from down dog to warrior I found myself losing balance easily. The turning of the back foot before you enter the warrior provides excellent grounding and the transition is more solid and balanced.

Please notice that this post is not suggesting you should change your routine, or that this is the right way to practice. These were tips I did not do myself at home but were given to me from my teacher on a private lesson (so he might gave different tips to people with different body types) and applied by his guidance and assistance. This post should be regarded as a journal entry addressed to myself. What works for me may not work for you and I will not take responsibility for any possible injury from applying the above mentioned techniques.


  1. Great tips! Love what your teacher say at the lessons about not having to work too hard and to work with modifications. I find self-regulation so hard... I always push myself despite having/risking injuries.

    1. I really feel you! I do not push myself to hard when practicing yoga, however I have done a lot of things in my life like swimming, water polo, dancing, running etc and I really used to push myself to the limits, many times feeling worn out and exhausted.
      However, I remember when I first started researching yoga that I read about Yoga Sutra 2.46 that states "Asana is a steady, comfortable posture", or in another translation "Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation". I keep that it mind ever since, and it has acted as my safety net for the times I feel I might cross the line and push harder than what I should.

    2. Yes, over here we just say to push to your edge, where you are working at an active level, but you are not over-exerting. I know all this in my head, but when it comes down to it I have to really practice self-control and not try to "compete" with the other yogis in the class. Practicing at home has been a good way of combating this.

    3. I agree. Maybe this is why I do not feel "competitive" in yoga, my first encounter with it was at home. Still sometimes I may feel an urge to "compete" when I am at the studio, you know, look what the others do, how they do it and compare myself to them. I guess it is human nature? Or not? Anyway, at these times I just focus to my drishtis and avoid looking what others are doing. :)

    4. Not sure if it's human nature, but it's definitely in my nature (and yours too) :) I consider it all part of my personal development, working on bringing my practice more inward.

  2. (I told ya I would stop by!) Great tips! I have weak wrists (as I mentioned in the post you read ;) ) so I used to steer clear of moves that I felt put a lot pressure on them. I'll have to go back and reevaluate how I do things, now. Maybe it'll get me back into yoga like I'd like to be :) Great job!

  3. Great teacher = great tips! Thanks for stopping by!
    Oh you can definitely try it, it may work for you. My wrists used to hurt if I was let's say staying in plank pose for a more than 5 breaths. However, when I started really opening up my fingers apart, grip a bit the floor and do this trick I mention above the strain disappeared! :)


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