Happy Winter Solstice!
It’s the shortest day of the year, the official start to Winter, and you just might be looking for a way to celebrate.
A common tradition for yogis on the occasion of the solstices (winter and summer) and sometimes the equinoxes (spring & fall) is to practice 108 sun salutations or a fraction of that number like 9, 27, 36 or 54. 108 is an auspicious or favorable number which is connected to the roots of the ancient practice. (To learn more about the significance of 108, check out “Why 108 Sun Salutations” by Cora Wen.)
Sun salutations are the foundation of Viṅyāsa Yoga for Flow Yoga. Variations “A” and “B” are included at the start of the of the Aṣṭaṅga Primary series (and others). They are concrete examples of linking the breath to movement, with each pose tied to an inhale or exhale. In both series you jump back into yoga push-up and jump forward from down dog, so the practice of traditional sun salutations can become very challenging very quickly.
The graphics below show the series of poses for each salutation. (“Samasthitih” means same standing or the starting position. The subsequent words are the counts in sanskrit; ekam = one, dve = two, etc.)
There is also a variation that I am fond of that I refer to as Sūrya Namaskār C or Sun Salutation C. This is a kinder, gentler variation that I often use as the base for my home practice and for some classes. It follows a familiar pattern, but instead of jumping back, you step into a low lunge. Instead of yoga push-up you can practice knees, chest, chin or if you are looking for more challenge add a traditional viṅyāsa with the push-up, upward facing dog and down dog, but stepping back replaces jumping. Overall, it ends up be a gentler, more subtle practice that I enjoy.
Here’s the pattern based on one breath per movement, but feel free to hold each pose for several breaths and move through the sequences a little more slowly.
Finally, any of these variations can be the catalyst for a home practice. If you have been tempted to unroll you mat at home, I encourage you to try it. Take one of these salutations and practice it as is, or use them it a template to add in a few extra poses. Let your creativity and what your body is asking for offer direction for where the practice takes you.