Yoga Clinic Sun Salutation B
And we continue our practice! Sure, it may be Mardi Gras today, but I have a feeling many others will take care of that subject just fine without my input, thank you.
So let’s talk yoga
I am not a certified yoga teacher, though I am a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Please understand that you assume your physical activity at your own risk. These posts are meant only as a helpful reference, and should not overrule the teachings of certified practitioners.
Sun Salutation B Introduction
Sun B is where yogis get to have a bit of fun. Sun B can take many many forms. In fact, at Core Power, when you take a C2 class, Sun B is completely at the discretion of the teacher. Typically (and please note, this is a vast generalization), Sun B follows a “warm up” of Sun A (repeated a few times) and it is the Sun B that sets you up for the purpose of the class as you work up to your peak pose. I will explain more of this next week in the concluding yoga clinic, but for now, let’s break down a basic Sun B Vinyasa sequence.
Sun Salutation B Sequence
Sun B follows much of the same flow as Sun A, but with one notable exception: instead of Tadasana (Mountain Pose), you begin in Utkatasana, or Chair Pose.
Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
Sad face, my picture for Utkatasana did not make it.
If not already set up for chair, proceed from Tadasana to Chair by lowering into a squat. Literally. Change NOTHING about your stance apart from hinging at the hips and knees.
Mistakes to watch out for, and tips to correct and improve:
- First things first—before moving out of Tadasana, re-establish that base by reasserting your feet—see the Tadasana pose for more explanation!
- One of the biggest mistakes that I see (and I’ve been there, too!) is leaning too far forward as you sink down (in an attempt to get lower or to counter balance the squat). Lean forward only as much as you would in a weight room!
- Pretend, or indeed, work on the pose by doing so, that you have a bar either across your shoulders (that you are holding with your hands) or extended above your head, and squat like you would in a weight room. That will help you get used to the movement and the dual hinging motion and balancing your weight.
- Next do this with your knees and feet together. Sink your weight into your heels—in fact, you should be able to lift those toes off the mat! As you sink, keep your toes in view (but not by leaning forward), and continue to keep your weight back. Engage your glutes, quads, and core to help keep you balanced—equal pull in all directions.
- Another HUGE mistake that I often see here is overarching of the back. You are not a duck, don’t sit like one. Go back to my Tadasana pose and re-read the tips regarding your lower back and then apply these here. You might want to think even more about tucking your tailbone. I still catch myself sitting with my booty out like she do it in the mirror and then have to correct it by bringing my tailbone and glutes underneath me. Use your lower core and glutes to “scoop” forward into your quads. It sounds silly, but trust me, you will feel it. Hamstrings provide stability and counter tension to help you stay standing.
- You know what I am going to say about your upper body—keep those shoulders rooted into your rib cage! Same Tadasana arms, eyes forward (if you look down, other than to check your toes, it will throw you forward).
Utkatasana -> Sun A (minus Tadasana), stopping at Downward Facing Dog.
Sun B Warrior II Sequence
The sequence I am taking you through is the “standard” one that Core Power follows. But as I said previously, this can vary widely. However, these poses are foundational and show up time and again, so they are good for explanation.
Downward Dog transition to Three-Legged Dog (Tri Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward Facing Dog Splits)
Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog is “simply” the raising of one leg back and up. Like Tadasana is “simply” standing 😉
- This sequence “always” starts on the right. Something that I picked up from a long ago teacher was to bring your knee forward (also works your core, natch), and then to sweep my right leg back and up. Keep your foot flexed (remember, you are “still” in down dog, right?) and “kick” the back wall where it meets the ceiling. You will feel it in your hamstrings, so be gentle (as you should be with everything) the first time through.
- EVERYTHING, and I mean it, everything about the rest of your body should remain in down dog (see Sun A explanation). The biggest, and I mean BIGGEST mistake, that I see here is that people go for height with their lifted leg, rather than correct form. I cannot stress this enough:
- Keep your hips parallel to the ground. Do not rotate your pelvis open and point your toes because you think that it will get you extra credit to have the highest feet and show off your nail polish. No one cares, and they would prefer you keep that area to yourself, thank you. Having a mirror for this is extremely helpful—you will find that you need to correct much more than you think in order to maintain your hips to the ground. Honestly, it simply takes proper practice.
Three-Legged Dog Transition to Low Lunge (Anjaneyansana)
- Scoop your belly and chest up (like a cat) and place the previously raised foot between your hands. The goal is to never touch the ground until you are placing that foot flat down (maintain the down dog flex!).
- Keep the rest of your body engaged throughout, neck straight (don’t look forward). Optimally, the rear leg will be straight.
Low Lunge Transition to Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
One way of thinking about this part of the sequence is that you are “opening” or “blossoming” up into Warrior II. I will break this down, but in my experience, I have found it helpful to shift my rear foot position as I rise, rather than statically fixing things piece by piece. I also have no shame in rising up a bit higher and easing into a proper Warrior II, particularly if I am not warmed up yet.
- The forward foot will remain the same, the rear foot will pivot away from your center line about 45*-60*, perhaps even 90*. When looking in the mirror, your front heel should line up with the arch of your back foot.
- Legs and Knees:
- Maintain as much of the low lunge position you had earlier as possible. The front knee should not go past your toe.
- HUGE point here: Keep your knee on line with your foot instead of letting it fall in, out, or wherever. Mirrors for this are imperative until you have it right. Think of keeping the nub of the interior of your knee just to the right of your right big toe—ie, you should be able to see toenail, and your thighs rotated up and out (think again about opening, rather than collapsing). You will feel this in your outer thigh potentially.
- Now is the time to show your business to the class (but really, it is pointed down). Aim to have your hips as straight front to back and side to side (like cross hairs), and avoid scooping out your booty like a duck. Keeping your tailbone pointed down will help protect your back, avoid booty outage, and also will help you iron out your hips by engaging you glutes and lower core (which will also make you more solid over all).
- Where should your shoulders be? You guessed it—rooted. But this time, also sweep your arms and chest open, and do the same things with your shoulders that you are doing with your hips—open and on line (and directly lined up from the side as well).
- Arms are open and powerful (engage your triceps) but gentle. Palms face ground. I think this is such a graceful pose—I find power in the beauty and softness of it, as well as the strength.
- Look forward like a ballerina.
Warrior II Transition to Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
- From W2, tilt forward as if your arms are made of rope and someone is pulling you forward. When you are as far forward as possible, “tick tock” your arms and reach for the sky and ground (lower arm to the inside of legs). Turn your head and look at your raised hand, palms same directions as hips.
- Common mistake—many think that this is about the act of reaching the ground, but it is actually about the expansion of your side body. **same with triangle** Am I flexible enough to get my hand flat on the ground? Sure. But if you notice, I don’t. Rather, I go for the “angle” (hence the name) and line from foot to head, sink into my front hips and lunge—this is a fantastic hip opener for me when I wake up!—and then I lift my ribcage up up up until I feel a stretch in my obliques. Use your lower oblique to help push you into the opposite one (by lifting up). Otherwise, follow Warrior II.
Extended Side Angle Transition to Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)
- From ESA, rotate your torso up and back (like you are on a wheel), and seek the counter stretch of ESA on the other side of your body. Gentle but engaged arms and push/pull to the rear wall/ceiling junction, hands shine down like a ballerina, gaze up to the raised hand.
- You can either keep you lower hand to your back leg or go for a gentle bind, which will also help you stay open through your torso and chest. I prefer to go for the gentle bind, myself, by bringing by lower arm behind my back.
- RECOMMIT TO YOUR LUNGE, FOOLS. Ideally, you should only move from the waist up in this pose.
Reverse Warrior Transition to High Plank
- Windmill your arms down to either side of your front foot as you pivot on your rear foot and release your heel from the floor so that it can face forward. See previous explanation for pointers. Scoop back up like a cat and try to bring the front foot back without swiping it on your mat (this is a lot of core work and back opening).
High Plank Transition to Chaturanga or Ekapada dandasana
- Two options: return to high plank and proceed through Chaturanga, or go through Ekapada (which is my preference), by keeping your previously forward foot raised (engage your glutes and hammies) through your Chaturanga until you get to Up dog, when you are again with equal weight on feet and palms.
Chaturanga back to Down Dog, repeat other side, complete sequence detailed in Sun A explanation, but end back in Chair pose rather than Tadasana.
Again, please remember that I am only explaining one version of Sun B (there are unlimited) and I am not going as into modifications as I could be. Do not push your body too far or too fast—do what you can, until you can progress further! And remember as well, the first time through may be blegh, but once you are nice and warmed up (especially with your hips) as well as stronger, you will find that you can do much more!
My final post next week will look at Triangle as well as discuss how to incorporate these poses into your practice and life. I know it was a long one today, thank you for sticking around! Happy Mardi Gras!
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What do you struggle with in this sequence?
What are you doing for Mardi Gras, if anything?