Salutation to the Sun
by Dana Shamas
This is the first in what I hope is a monthly series of articles about some aspect of yoga written by local yoga instructors and yoginis.
Happy Summer Solstice! June marks the full swing of summer and SUN. Summer solstice is the brightest day of the year - the longest day of the year, the most hours of sunlight. Here in Texas we feel it in full force. In our yoga practice, we look to the outside world - nature, to give us guidance and reflection on our inner world. I love to use this time of year - our outer brightness to remind us of our inner brightness. In modern life, we tend to focus on experiencing the world through external sources or cues - what are others doing, what should the yoga pose look like - literally how light shines on the outside. Yet in many cultures light has long been a symbol of consciousness, and consciousness cannot be seen but rather felt and experienced - allowing your internal cues to guide your experience. (This is the kind of yoga we teach at Bayou Bliss.)
In yoga, though there is the physicality and ‘look’ of the pose, as you move and become aware of how your body is moving, our awareness shifts from sight to feeling. Feeling is the predominant practice and teachings of yoga. Feeling your body, feeling your breath, feeling through each sensation that arises. As we journey into our bodies and into feeling we begin to expand our awareness and experience consciousness. We can actually begin to feel, understand and know our own inner light.
Most yoga practices begin with a Surya Namaskara, Sanskrit for ‘salutations to the sun’. Many ancient cultures revered the sun as a primal source of power, after all without it we could not sustain life on earth. This dynamic sequence symbolically honors the outer sun, and the inner sun - our consciousness. Sun Salutations allows practitioners to literally light up their body and being. The physical practice engages all major muscle groups and moves almost every joint in the body, warming up the body, lubricating the joints and getting rid of what is stagnate.
Once you are comfortable with the physical movement, linking the breath and the movement builds a bridge to inner consciousness and awareness. So often people experience a sense of lightness - physically, mentally, and emotionally - at the end of their practice. This is the aim of yoga, and the sun salutations are intentionally designed to create this connection and lightness, connecting further with your inner light and Truth.
So much of the time we spend hunched over a computer, a phone, a steering wheel - shoulders rolled forward, chest looking down. Our own inner light is dimmed by just our posture. This gets translated into your yoga practice with shoulders rolling forward in common pose like Tadanasa/mountain pose and plank, key features in Surya
Namaskara. Physically this misalignment can lead to shoulder pain or injury. And so often we try and force things to be better - force those shoulders to pull back or stand up straight. However, when we look at nature, when we look at the sun - we are reminded that it simply shines, no force required.
In your yoga practice this month, I encourage you to think of your inner brightness shining as bright as the sun. Ground through your feet, lift up through your inner thighs and lower belly, feel the midline of your body and lift through the crown of your head up to the sun. Feel that inner lift in the body, and take a deep breath into the whole body. Notice how the chest brightens and lifts and the shoulders naturally fall down the back. Allow yourself to shine forward front, that place of inner strength and brightness.
Another exercise: find the midline of the body, take a deep breath, place one hand on the sternum and one hand on the crown of the head, take a deep breath in. Let/Feel your sternum rise as you length up through the midline of the body. Keep that inner lift as you exhale. Repeat 2 more times. Notice how your body feels. Notice how the wholeness of you feels.
Here at Bayou Bliss we offer The OM Practice as one of our main sequences. This is a sequence that is available to all levels of practice from beginners to advanced, for all ages, and all bodies. The practice can be modified to meet your needs as it is intended to support you through all phases of life and designed to help you move with and enjoy your inner light. This practice teaches you how to move with YOUR body without pain, for you to live in more freedom and create a fuller life. Come visit the Bayou Bliss Yoga Studios as we practice together to shine towards our inner light!
Bayou Bliss Yoga
808 W Main Street
Houston, TX 77006