Once you have practiced the Surya Namaskars and can remember the order doing 5 of each without stopping, it is time to start building the sandwich. You are ready to learn the Standing poses. A teacher will tell you how far to go, but generally you will start with the first two or three poses in a lesson to practice for a week. The next time another one or two might be added until eventually you will go from Padangusthasana (forward fold) to Virabhidrasana 2 (Warrior 2). I’ve listed these poses below in orange. Again, it is important to pay attention when to inhale and exhale. Each of the standing poses is held for 5 “ujjaiyi” breaths. (See links in Resource section below.)
You will also begin to add more poses to the closing sequence. I’ve listed new closing poses to add in pink.
- Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salute A), 5 in a row
- Surya Namaskar B (Sun Salute B), 5 in a row
- Padangusthasana and Padahastasana
- Utthita Tikonasana and Parivritta Trikonasana
- Utthita Parshvakonasana and Parivritta Pashvakonasan
- Prasarita Padottanasana A,B,C and D
- Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana A,B,C and D
- Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana
- Virabhadrasana A and B
- Bridge Prep sequence
- Salamba Sarvangasana
- Karna Pidansana
- Matsyasana (with straight legs)
- Shirsasan Prep sequence
- Yoga Mudra, 8 slow breaths
- Padmasana, 10 very deep, slow inhales and exhales.
- Tolasana (also called Uplitihi), hold for 10 breaths
- Shavasana, rest for 10 or more minutes to end your practice
When you can add all those parts to the sandwich, it is time to move on. This will likely take many months of practice both to memorize as well as have changes in your body to have physical access.
Learn a little Sanskrit
If you studied the Niyamas you might remember the 4th one, Svadhyaya, refers to self study and the study of sacred texts. Hopefully you already have a practice of studying a text that is sacred to you (like the Bible for example.) Don’t stop that study, but challenge yourself to add the Yoga Sutra. It is not a religious text (although some Religions use it). I was surprised how practical it is. To me, it is more like reading a fascinating psychology book, and it helps me to study myself in a new way. Here is a free, online pdf that I have enjoyed using. This version is straight forward with little commentary. You can find many translations and commentaries on the Yoga Sutra with a Google search.
Ashtanga Yoga Limbs 4, 5 and 6
The next three limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are
- Pranayama- Mindful Breathing
- Pratyahara- Turning the senses inward
- Dharana- Concentration
These are all practiced during Asana practice. Listen to your breath more as you learn more of the practice, that’s Pranayama. You are also doing Pranyama each time you do the second to last pose, Padmasana, with the 10 deep, slow inhales and exhales. If you want to learn more Pranayama, ask your teacher about it.
The time I think most about Pratyahara during Asana practice is when I am in Shavasana (rest at the end), especially if there is noise when I’m home and my kids are in the next room. Can I pull my senses in and focus on myself instead of them? Obviously, this is a very useful practice in life off the mat too.
When you first learn yoga, there might be a lot of talking and instruction. As the practice is memorized, it is ideal to practice in silence and use Dharana- concentration (focus), through the practice. Can you stay with your Asana practice without letting your mind wander off the mat?