Home Practice: Surya Namaskar, Ardha Anuvittasana

Surya Namaskar

As I mentioned last week, each posture has three bodily cues to move into the correct alignment:  Press points, extensions and energetic extensions.  Press points generally press into the mat or toward the ground.  Extensions are generally directed upward and energetic extensions generally connect press points to extensions.  In the image at the left, I have added a dark arrow for the press point, a white arrow for the extension and a black arrow with a dotted line for the energetic extension.

A Little Sanskrit

Most teachers use the English posture names with an occasional Sanskrit name here or there.  These Sanskrit names are almost always compound words.  Last week’s posture, Pranamasana, is a compound of pranam which means bow/prostration/prayer/salutation and asana which means posture/seat/dwelling.  Pranamasana is commonly called Prayer Pose.

Some postures don’t translate well from Sanskrit to English.  Anuvittasana is one such posture where anuvitta means found or obtained and asana again means posture.  Also different traditions will call the same posture by different Sanskrit names and even teachers in the same tradition might use slightly different names.  I call this ardha anuvittasana, half standing backbend, because anuvittasana in Surya Namaskar is a slight backbend.  Others might simply call it anuvittasana or standing backbend.

With all these differences and variations, why not always just use the English names?  I feel that learning the Sanskrit names emphasizes that this is a learning process and not just another exercise routine.  It also connects you to a tradition that is thousands of years old—even if some of the postures aren’t—again reminding us that this is more that just touching our toes.

Ardha Anuvittasana, Alignment

Start with feet close together† and the hands in prayer position.  Stand tall, inhale.  Keep the eyes on the fingers and extend the arms straight overhead.  Drop the tailbone toward the heels and firm down through the buttocks and inner thighs.  Press into the feet and lift the heart, extending the chest up.  Keep the palms together† as you extend out through the fingers and press the hips forward.

The energetic extension, the imaginary elastic we are stretching, is from feet up the front of the body, through the crown and out the fingers.

Ardha Anuvittasana, Intention

This is the first vigorous posture of Surya Namaskar.  Our body is our best friend, use this posture to say, “Hello!”  Feel the buttocks, thighs and feet waking.&nbsp Feel the spine and arms stretch, the neck relaxing back, the throat opening.


How does your breath affect this posture?  Start in Pranamasana and inhale as you extend the arms overhead as directed above.  Now hold the pose for five slow breaths and then return the arms to the sides on an exhale.  Close your eyes and notice what you feel.

Open your eyes and return to Pranamasana and exhale as you extend the arms overhead, follow the directions above as outlined, holding the pose for five slow breaths and then returns the arms to the sides on an inhale.  Close your eyes and again notice what you feel.

What differences did you notice between inhaling to extend and exhaling to release versus exhaling to extend and inhaling to release?  I would love to hear your observations, share them below!

Jai Bhagwan!

†Varies from what is shown on the chart.