Saluting the Sun

A few years ago I was in horrible back pain, what I didn’t yet realize was the escalation of fibromyalgia, and was inspired to contact a yoga therapist for help. She was amazing and in a couple of months I went from having to walk my hands down my legs to even attempt to touch my toes to being able to move with a little more fluidity and less pain. I spent a couple of years in varying degrees of pain before I learned how to heal in that particular stage of becoming, but here is what she taught me and what I still practice. It is a beginning exercise but incredibly healing, and just as in baseball, spring training is always about returning to fundamentals.

Surya Namaskara A is a series of 12 asanas that awakens and enlivens the body. One usually does 3-5 cycles of the series, which can be done in 5 minutes. The effect is more profound than any morning routine I’ve ever found.

Here are two videos that closely approximate what I was taught, the first focusing on breath awareness and the second on form. When I began we had to make some adjustments to accommodate my pain and stiffness but Abby always reminded that our first focus was breath and if we added an intermediary movement that it involved a pairing of inhale and exhale so that the breath was properly preserved in each of the following movements.

Here is a shorthand version that can be printed as a reminder once you have the form and breathing down and no longer need the videos. To help me, Abby wrote “inhale” and “exhale” under each of the asanas in the printed piece if I forgot that my torso position could tell me which I should be doing, but this one has it nicely typed underneath each.

Once you understand the principles of posture and breathing (and don’t forget to smile in gratitude and breathe in bliss – just as you would never eat toxic food, don’t breathe in toxic air), you can find videos on youtube explaining how to do Surya Namaskara B. The combination of the two awakens every part of you, preparing you to digest food, move comfortably through your day, think reasonably about problems that confront you, address stresses that may arise, connect with your family and colleagues, and do any further exercises.

Some helpful tips Abby corrected for me: When you place your hands on the mat, always lay them flat, fingers splayed wide, in no way arched. If you pull your palms up because your wrists are tight your hands bear awkward pressure. Adjust your movements if any movement causes pain but always remember your foundation.

And when you breathe, draw the breath in through your nose with your mouth closed, imagining the air circling through your sinuses and being driven deeply down inside of you, through your chest and on into your stomach. Always breathe into the stomach, with it pooching out and moving in, not your chest. Then imagine oxygen being taken to the parts of your body that are communicating needs to you in pain. When you breathe out, open your mouth and make a sound (it should be audible), sort of like a whispered “ha” long and drawn out and just this side of actually engaging your vocal chords. Imagine releasing all that you no longer need in the process.

Through the practice of first awakening and thanking my bed for my rest, sun salutations, a drink of warm water to refresh my body after sleep and restart the “fire” within, I never awaken sorry that it is a new day. I wish you a joyful day. Namaste.