Sun Salutation A, or Surya Namaskara A, is a yoga sequence created in modern times but its fundamental principles are linked to the Vedic age.
It is one of the most popular salutation sequences used by itself as well as a part of other sequences and systems of yoga asana.
Read on to find out:
- Meaning and Origins of Sun Salutation A
- Physical and Physiological Benefits of Sun Salutation A
- Poses Included in the Sun Salutation A Sequence
- How to Practice Sun Salutation A
- Ways to Make Surya Namaskar A Accessible
- Other Salutations Sequences
- Why People Practice 108 Sun Salutations
Meaning and Origins of Sun Salutation A
Sūryanamaskāra translates directly from Sanskrit as Surya: sun and Namaskar: salutation, and in this case the A has been utilized to differentiate this sequence from the other Surya Namaskar sequences that we will discuss later.
The Vedas, an ancient text written between the 10th and 12th centuries BCE, has spells, conjurations, and chants, some of them directed to the veneration of the Sun and the fire as a source of health and prosperity.
These texts depict rituals of salutation to the Sun that may have served as a source of inspiration for the practice of the various Sun Salutation sequences that we use today.
To dive deeper into the origins that trace Suryanamaskara, check out the book “The Yoga Body” by Mark Singleton.
Sun Salutations as they are practiced in Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga, and other asana styles, were created in the 1930’s by Krischnamacharya, who made them an integral part of the Mysore system of Asthanga yoga.
Physical and Physiological Benefits of Sun Salutation A
Surya, the Sun, relates to the element of fire (agni) and to the masculine energy that all beings have within, contrasting the so-called feminine energy, or Chandra, the Moon.
The Sun energy is hot, strong, resilient, powerful, authoritative, and bright.
The intent is to harness these energies within the practice and within ourselves.
Sun Salutation A has many benefits, for the physical body:
1. Warms the body up quickly
2. Tones and strengthens the muscles of the entire body
3. Enhances flexibility and mobility
4. Increases stamina
5. Promotes cardiovascular health
6. Can support weight loss
Other Benefits of Sun Salutation A
Yoga has benefits way beyond the physical body, and Sun Salutations are a great way to experience some of these benefits while letting the mind think you’re just getting a great workout.
Sun Salutation A can help you:
1. Harmonize body and mind
2. Reduce stress and anxiety levels
3. Find a meditative state while moving
4. Build mental strength and resilience
5. Develop discipline and focus
6. Awakens Agni, the digestive fire.
Poses included in the Sun Salutation A Sequence
Sun Salutation A is composed of 8 asanas:
1. Tadasana (mountain pose)
2. Urdhva Hastasana (extended mountain)
3. Uttanasana (standing forward fold)
4. Ardha Uttanasana (half standing forward fold)
5. Palakhasana (high plank pose)
6. Chaturanga Dandasana (low plank pose)
7. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog)
8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog)
How to Practice Sun Salutation A
Surya Namaskara A can be practiced at any pace you’d like, depending on what your emphasis may be, as well as how you may feel at the time you choose to practice.
In the Vinyasa tradition, the practice is performed at a one-breath-per-movement pace.
Here is how to practice it:
1. Come to the top of your mat, feet parallel to one another, with your arms by your sides, palms facing forward, in Tadasana. Give yourself a moment to arrive and center. Breathe.
2. Inhale, lift your arms up into Utthita Tadasana, extend through the side body.
3. Exhale, fold forward into Uttanasana.
4. Inhale, slide your hands up your sheens, create a long spine, into Ardha Uttanasana
5. Exhale, step back to your high plank pose, draw your navel toward your spine, ground into hasta bandha and the strength of your entire body.
6. Inhale in your palakhasana.
7. Exhale to lower down through Chaturanga Dandasana.
8. Inhale, press up into your Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, opening up the front of your body.
9. Exhale, send your hips up and back toward your downward dog position.
10. Take 3 to 5 breaths in Adho Mukha Svanasana
11. Inhale as you soften your knees and gaze between your hands
12. Exhale as you step or float your feet to the top of your mat, parallel to one another, hips-distance apart.
13. Inhale lift to Ardha Uttanasana.
14. Exhale to fold into Uttanasana.
15. Inhale, lift your arms out and up, lift your entire body into Urdhva Hastasana.
16. Exhale as you bring your hands together in Anjali Mudra in front of your heart.
That completes one round of Sun Salutation A. Feel free to repeat the sequence as many times as you’d like.
Ways to Make Surya Namaskar A Accessible
Sun Salutations, including Sun Salutation A, are a staple in modern-day yoga classes.
Both practitioners and teachers can bring modifications, variations, and adaptations to make the practice mold to our needs, wants, and intentions, instead of forcing ourselves to perform postures and sequences “as they should“.
Here is a way to explore Surya Namaskara A in a way that is more accessible.
Grab some blocks if you have them!
1. Come to the top of your mat, feet parallel to one another, blocks in front of your feet, and with your arms by your sides, palms facing forward, in Tadasana. Give yourself a moment to arrive and center. Breathe.
2. Inhale, lift your arms into Ardha Hastasana and extend through the side body.
3. Exhale, fold forward into Uttanasana, place your hands on the blocks, and relax your head down.
4. Inhale, slide your hands up your sheens, and create a long spine, into Ardha Uttanasana.
5. Exhale, step back to your high plank pose, lower your knees to the ground, draw your navel toward your spine, and ground into hasta bandha. Option to make fists with your hands if the wrists feel sensitive.
6. Inhale in your knee plank.
7. Exhale to lower down through knees, chest, and chin.
8. Bring your hands underneath your shoulders. Inhale, press up into your Bhujangasana, opening up through the front of your body, and squeeze your elbows gently toward your ribcage.
9. Exhale, as you send your hips back and find a tabletop position or a puppy pose, or even a child’s pose.
10. Take 3 to 5 breaths in whichever asana you chose.
11. Bring your hands to your blocks, Inhale and gaze between your hands.
12. Exhale as you step one foot to the top of your mat, and then the other, bringing them parallel to one another, hips-distance apart.
13. Inhale lift to Ardha Uttanasana with your hands on the blocks.
14. Exhale to fold into Uttanasana, bend your knees and relax your head. It doesn’t matter how close your hands get to the floor. You have blocks to lift the ground to you!
15. Inhale, lift your arms out and up to Urdhva Hastasana.
16. Exhale as you bring your hands together at the heart center.
Practicing the Sun Salutation A sequence with all or any of these modifications can truly be a way to make this energizing practice more accessible to practitioners.
Other Salutation Sequences
There are several other types of Sun Salutations that, like Surya Namaskara A are designed to welcome the day, awaken the body and mind, and help us stay healthy.
Here are some of the most popular Salutations:
There is also a Salutation that invokes the contrasting energies to the Sun Salutation sequences, and it is called Chandra Namaskar, the Salutation to the Moon.
Moon Salutations call in the energies of softness, coolness, rest, and groundedness.
Why People Practice 108 Sun Salutations
The number 108 is considered sacred in the yogic tradition.
For example, there are 108 Upanishads, as well as 108 beads in a Japa mala, 108 are the number of sacred points in the body in Ayurveda, and according to astronomy, the distance between the Earth and the Sun is about 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
Traditionally, yogis practice 108 Sun Salutations at the change of the seasons as a devotional or Bakhti practice. It is a sacred time to reflect, let go, and create space for the upcoming season.
The practice of 108 Surya Namaskar is often broken up into 9 rounds of 12 Sun Salutation A or Classical Sun Salutations, and the practitioner will dedicate each round to something sacred in their life.
Sun Salutation A is a great sequence to use as a warm up or as a complete, full-body yoga practice. It can be performed at your own pace, with accessible variations, and you can choose how many repetitions to do.
Check out this article for more detail on each of the asanas that make up the Sun Salutation Sequence.