I’ve been experiencing a love/hate relationship with surya namaskar B, or sun salutations B, for awhile now. I love all the poses individually. Put them together with a single inhale or exhale each though and something goes awry.
For quite a long time last year, I would include a round or two of surya namaskar B in each of my home practices. I hated every minute of it. It was just part of the curriculum I had to get through to practice the poses I really loved.
Then surya namaskar B disappeared entirely from my practice. I didn’t notice. I certainly wasn’t missing it. No, not one little bit.
Almost as suddenly as it disappeared from my practice last fall, it reappeared early this year. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I just found myself sinking into one or two rounds each practice and really observing it in a way I hadn’t before. My mind would scatter, my breath would become forced, and my jaw would set. I was powering through.
Yoga Sutra II.46 instructs sthira sukham asanam. Asana is a steady, comfortable posture. It is about finding the balance between effort and ease in a yoga posture. It is pushing against your edge while remaining relaxed and engaged. When you find that beautiful balance you sink into the present moment.
My practice of surya namaskar B was all about sthira, the effort of the series of poses, and I was moving through them as a means to an end. Jaw set, I was exploring an edge but with an agitated mind. Allowing myself to relax into the effort that the poses required was the furthest thing from my (agitated) mind. I wasn’t even coming close to practicing yoga because my asanas were missing a vital component.
My practice of surya namaskar B was missing sukha, the ease, comfort and relaxation that would complete the already present sthira. These days I’m cultivating more sukha by slowing down in the series. I’m giving myself a few breaths in certain poses so that I have time to sink in, to observe whether the impulse suddenly shifts to just getting it over with. If that impulse does arise I take a few more breaths to consciously encourage myself to relax before letting go and moving on.
Getting to a place where I could observe what was coming up in my practice was in itself a huge step forward. In the previous year I just knew I really didn’t like surya namaskar B and so I unconsciously began avoiding it. Being able to recognize where I was truly starting from made it that much easier to identify what was missing and focus on growing that within my practice.
Because yoga is a practice both on the mat and off, I’m now starting to think about how this shows up in my day-to-day life. Where do I try to power through a situation without finding the ease that might exist in the center of the storm? Am I pushing against the edge of what may be comfortable for me in order to grow? It’s an interesting investigation indeed.