On the eightfold path of Classical yoga, the asanas, or positions, are one of the physical ways, along with pranayama, or regulated breathing, to attain samadhi, or self-enlightenment. Yoga asanas can be performed standing up, seated or lying down; they can be structured in terms of how they’re performed and in which order, such as in Bikram yoga, or free-flowing and at the whim of the yoga instructor. However, yoga asanas are all designed to ultimately challenge the student’s flexibility and motor control.
The surya namaskar, or sun salutation, series of yoga asanas is ideal for the beginning student.
- Position One: Stand with your feet together and your palms pressed against each other at chest level then slowly inhale.
- Position Two: On the exhalation, bend forward at the waist and place your palms against the floor alongside your feet.
- Position Three: While keeping your palms against the floor, move your left leg behind you so your toes and kneecap press against the floor as you inhale then arch your neck and extend the chest upward and outward with your right leg bent.
- Position Four: Hold your breath as you lift your left kneecap then extend your right leg behind you, lined up with your left leg, then lock out your arms and legs in a straight line.
- Position Five: As you exhale, bend your elbows, knee and head to the ground so they touch, along with your upper chest. This is the ashtanga pose as eight areas of your body are touching the ground.
- Position Six: Inhale, straighten out your arms and arch your back while keeping your knees and toes pressed into the floor.
- Position Seven: Hold your breath as you press your chin downward then push your body backward so your heels remain pressed against the floor as your hips rise.
- Position Eight: Continue to hold your breath as you assume Position Three in reverse, with the right leg behind you and your left folded in front.
- Position Nine: Exhale as you move your right leg forward to align it with your left, lock out both legs and press your forehead to your knees.
- Position Ten: Inhale and return to Position One.
Although this series of yoga asanas is the most basic, it can be challenging to those who are unconditioned and stiff. Just take your time to develop your flexibility and breathing techniques and it will all come together.