The Ashtanga Practice Artwork
Season 4 - Episode 9

Pratyahara: Sun Salutation B

40 min - Practice


Enjoy the subtle delights of the inner world. David shares the fifth limb of Yoga, Pratyahara—a process of recovering or reclaiming of the senses. With the help of Shelly, David guides us through a practice breaking down Surya Namaskar B (Sun Salutation B). He adds some new standing postures and introduces inversions, exploring variations of Sirsasana (Headstand) and Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand).
What You'll Need: Mat, Blanket (2), Block (2)


Read Full Transcript

(waves roaring) Greetings, welcome to session five of our Exploring Ashtanga Yoga course. So today, we've got a action-packed day. We're gonna work with the second sun salutation, so it's Surya Namaskara B. They keep upping the ante on you, so that one's a little more challenging. 17 positions, and they're gonna look at a few more new standing postures, and get an introduction to inversions, to shoulder stand and head stand.

Today's limb is Pratyahara, which I call it, reclaiming or recovering the senses. So you've got the five senses: the eyes, the ears, the nose, the mouth, the skin. And classically, Pratyahara is called withdrawing the senses. But I like recovering, because it's part withdrawing and part recovering, so that when you recover your senses, you claim them again. You claim your sense of listening, your sense of seeing.

It's kind of an amazing revelation to use your senses meditatively, to perceive reality and perceive what's happening inside your body, and for creating your asanas, your postures and your breathing. And there's a very important, the fifth limb of yoga, it's right in the middle. We'll get started, and we're gonna invite Shelley on to help us with Surya Namaskara B. So we'll do one Surya Namaskara A just to go through that. Stand in Samasthitihi.

And my teacher, Pattabhi Jois, he did it with counting in Sanskrit, so we'll give that a go today, all right? It only gives you the position in Sanskrit and the breathing. Okay, so here we go. Stand in Samasthitihi and, (speaking foreign language), inhale. So reach the arms up, (speaking foreign language), exhale.

(speaking foreign language), inhale. Lift the head and chest, get ready. (speaking foreign language), jump back. (speaking foreign language), inhale. So lift up the chest and then, (speaking foreign language), exhale.

Roll over the tops of the feet and come back to sixth position and withdraw the senses, so kind of interiorize your awareness by listening to the sound of the breath inside the body. We're steadying the gaze somewhere up between the inner legs. So even the skin, your skin, all the whole layer throughout the body tracks inward so that you're feeling what's happening in the microcosm, the interior of the body, as you press the thighs back and stamp the hands into the earth to elongate the spine. Here we go, crouch, get ready. (speaking foreign language), jump, inhale.

That's seventh position. (speaking foreign language), exhale, fold. That's eight. And (speaking foreign language), inhale, reach the arms up, plant the hands together evenly, and return to Samasthitihi. Okay, so Surya Namaskara B, it builds on the sun salutation A, so it's a lot of similarities, but one difference is you bend the knees and reach up.

Okay, so let's just look at this position for a little moment. Take the arms down, and it's like a downhill skier. Want to get into a nice powerful half squat. Shelley, can you squat? Squat all the way down.

Touch your seat to your heels, even if that means lifting the heels up. Like that, yes. Okay, so try that, and then stand up to Samasthitihi. Okay, so this Utkatasana's right in the middle of that. Okay, so come down to the middle and do it, and then straighten the legs, so you want to do it by driving the thighs forward.

Yes, so come up, and then go into a half squat, drive the thighs forward and stop, reaching down with Samasthitihi arms and lifting up the chest, and then back up to Samasthitihi, back to the squat. Up, down, up, and come to the destination each time. Down, and enjoy that moment there in that squatting position. And then sweep the arms up overhead. And enjoy.

Okay, now the transition to second position. You simultaneously project your spine out and straighten your legs. And try that again. So we'll try it a couple of times. Watch me for a sec.

So you've got this position here, right? And then you're gonna (blows air) straighten and fold. Okay, so lets try it. So bend your knees and project the spine out, and straighten and go into your fold. Okay, come back up, and let's try that one more time.

Reach the arms up as you bend into a half squat, then forward and stop in second position. Then inhale, lift the chest, get ready, jump back to Chetuari position. So you see, it's just like Surya Namaskara A. Inhale, lift the chest, and exhale. Pull the hips back.

Okay, now we have a difference, so we go angle the left heel in and step the right foot between the hands. Okay, so look at that step. It's challenging to do. Take it back again. We'll practice it a little bit.

And you can make it easier on yourself if you go up on your fingertips. So go up on the fingertips, and then angle the left heel and step the right foot right between the hands and step it back. Okay, and so you can do it pressing the hands or lifting up on the fingertips, as you like. Here we go, step again. And then notice, you want to come in to your lunge, so you're gonna come up into Warrior one, and you want the thigh parallel to the ground with the knee over the ankle.

And so that's the length of step you wanna create. So let's look at this position. So she's got the Samasthitihi arms so that we can focus on the feet and the legs and the pelvis. And this is a really challenging asana, so we'll look at the full expression of it, but then we will also give you some options and modifications. All right, so you're in your position, you're trying to get your thigh parallel to the ground with the knee right over the ankle, so you gotta be concerned with the length of your stance.

And you want the long back leg. Okay, and then the pelvis is as close to neutral as possible, but the position itself will throw the pelvis forward, and so you are lengthening your coccyx. So it gets long and you lift up the navel. And then the hips are going towards a square. Okay, so to make it easier, you can not lunge so far, but remember that you're lunging and making the thigh go down and forward, rather than up and out, even if it doesn't come all the way down.

Okay, another thing you can do, is you can slightly bend the back knee and lift the heel, and that can kind of give you a little more pelvic freedom in the position. Okay, so you gotta figure out your option, how you wanna do it. And then the arm action. It's like first position in Surya Namaskara all over again, it's a grand reach, a (roaring inhale). Come up, and with a brilliance you reach from the shoulder all the way up through the fingertips.

And when you take that position in Surya Namaskara B, it's a whole move, and that completes your move. And so that's a radiant reach out to the side. Come up, Shelley. We'll go through and try the second side. I imagine your thigh is burning by now.

(Shelley laughs) Okay, so the exit is to lower the arms, plant the hands, step back, and lower into Chaturanga. And then inhale, upward facing dog, exhale, pull the hips back, and step. Angle the right heel to the middle and step the right foot between the hands. Okay, and then come up, take Samasthitihi arms, stand down your body with your eyes and fix up the different variables. So the thigh is tracking straight from the hip to the knee, you're going as low as you can in that lunge, although you can overlunge, you can go too low, right?

You only want that thigh parallel, and so you have to stabilize the back leg if you can get the full lunge. And then you're squaring the hips, lifting up the navel, and enjoying that super grounded standing pose. And then externally rotate the arms and (roaring inhale) reach up with the brilliance and enjoy. Then exhale, plant the hands, step back, and lower. So there's a rhythm.

Then inhale, lift up the chest. Exhale, pull the hips back, and finally at last, there's five breaths here in downward facing dog. So she's got the hands stamped down, the knuckles are alive, the fingers are alive. She's pressing back through the legs and the feet are awake to the ground. And then crouch as you empty the lungs and spring.

Lift up the chest, breathe in expansively. Exhale, fold. And again, bend the knees, ride your thighs forward, and return to Samasthitihi. Okay, so at home you can go back and play the different segments over again to notice the details and to practice things. So we're gonna flow through one Surya Namaskara B, and see if you can put it together, the challenge of the moves.

Okay, so here we go, bend the knees. Go into a half squat, lift the navel, lift the chest. Reach up through the arms, exhale. Straighten and fold simultaneously. Breathe in, look up, roll back the shoulders, get ready, and jump to Chetuari position.

Inhale, straighten the arms and legs, pull the hips back, and get ready. Angle the left heel to the middle, step the right foot between the hands, come into your lunge, lift up the navel, square the hips and shoulders. Reach up brilliantly through the arms. Plant the hands, step back and lower, and stop. Then inhale smoothly to expand the chest.

Exhale, pull the hips back. Angle the right heel, step the left, get that lunge as you come into position. Lift the navel strongly, keep your thigh going forward and down as you reach up through the arms. And then plant the hands, step back, and lower with one exhalation. Inhale, slowly fill up the lungs, pull the hips back and stay.

So you can get a t-shirt. I survived Surya Namaskara B. It's a very challenging one, it gets the blood pumping and the breathing really awakens as you work on those 17 positions. Okay, here we go. Crouch and spring, lift up the chest and fill up the lungs.

Empty the lungs with grounded legs. Inhale, bend the knees, lift the navel, lift up the chest. Reach up through the arms. And return to Samasthitihi. And we'll go right into our standing postures.

Hands to waist, separate the feet with a hop. Lift up the chest, breathe in. Exhale, halfway down catch your big toes. Again, breathe in and lift the chest with straight arms. Exhale, fold, keeping the weight forward.

So that's a gesture that brings you into position dynamically. Then you stamp your feet down, so you pull on your toes with your fingers. Empty the palate so the senses are tuned in, fine tuning with your ears, with your eyes, with your skin, with your palate, to the nuances of your position, and enjoying. And then straighten the arms, lift up the chest and pause. Take the hands under the feet, and then lift the chest again as though you're trying to stand up but the feet have caught your hands.

Shift the weight forward and empty the lungs as you come forward with the move. So if the legs are bent, you are working them toward straight. If the legs are straight, you are stamping the femur bone deeper into the leg, lifting and separating the sitting bones, and getting that length of the spine to come from low, from the navel, and so the whole spine cascades down. And then inhale, straighten the arms. Stay right there as you empty the lungs with a flush, taking the hands to the waist.

And inhale, come up. Crouch and spring. Then, again, crouch for Utthita Trikonasana, jump out to the right. Angle the right leg out, the left foot in, get ready. Tip the pelvis to the side, reach through the right side, through the right arm, right side waist come down.

And find your option. So if you need to, bend your right knee and place your hand along your shin somewhere. Cause you're working to elongate the spine horizontally. And slowly work to straighten that leg over time. The breath is steady.

You're tracking the senses, it's what they call it, so the eyes are steady, looking up past the thumb of the top arm. The ears are tuned into the sound of the breath. Inhale, come up, change sides. So get ready before you go, stretch the arms and legs, lift up the navel, then tip the pelvis to the left. Reach through the whole left side and come down.

Plant the feet, firm the thighs. And you're doing your best to elongate the spine horizontally. And it's from the pelvic floor through the crown of the head. And there's a rotation of the spine. So you're turning so the chest opens and you look up past the thumb.

So the skin is attuned to the position. Your palate is empty, cause you're discerning by clearing the roof of the mouth as you stay. So to come up you pull into the top arm and come all the way up with one in breath. And then change the feet for revolving triangle. Stop at the setup position, make sure you angle the back leg in 45 degrees.

Stamp the feet, firm the thighs. Lift the navel, reach up through both arms and exhale. Come down with a move. And enjoy, so you're scissoring the legs together and doing your best to balance on your feet. Your thighs and hips are supporting your posture.

And the spine elongates in that horizontal plane. Steady breath, steady gaze. And inhale, come up. Transition, stop at your setup position. Angle the back leg in so that you can square the hips, lift up the navel, get ready.

And then, with a gesture, project the spine forward and come down. Remember you have options for where to put the bottom arm. To make it easier, you can put it to the inside of the leg, or you can put it on your leg. And you can also bend the knees slightly, if you like, and work to straighten them as you stay. So you're lifting the navel, lengthening the breath, and enjoying that sound with receptive ears.

And then with a move come up. Turn and crouch, spring to Samasthitihi. Utthita Parsvakonasana, the extended side angle posture. Crouch and spring out to the right. Get ready, lunge into Warrior two and then reach out through the right side.

Come down, place the right hand next to the right foot and push the right foot leg against the right arm and resist that pressure. Clarify that back leg extension. Reach through the top arm. Enjoy that lunge thoroughly as you firm the back leg. Okay and then with one move, reach into the top arm, come up to Warrior two, and then straighten the right leg, change sides.

Down to Warrior two on the second side. Reach through the left side, and enjoy that clear foot, leg, pelvis foundation as you elongate the spine and reach through the top arm. In one continuous diagonal line from the back leg through the torso through the top arm and spin, any amount. And up you come with a move and we go for the revolving side angle. So remember, take the revolving triangle stance, and you're going to free the back heel slightly as you come into your lunge.

So lunge and twist, and then work to hook the left arm around the right outer leg. And go onto your fingertips, and then sweep the right arm over the ear. And so you're working to keep your right thigh forward and swinging to the right to meet the left arm. And keep lifting the back thigh. And that back heel might be off the ground but it's headed towards the direction of the ground.

Okay, and then come up. And here we go. So you've got the revolving triangle so the hips are square. Come into revolving Warrior two first, so that the back heel lifts off the ground, and enjoy that twist with an upright spine and then make your move into position. And remember, you're pushing your left leg against the right arm.

And resisting that. So what will determine if you have this back heel up is the position of your front thigh, okay? If you can keep that thigh parallel to the ground, then put the back heel down. But notice what happens if you put the back heel down and your front hip starts lifting and exiting. Then you've got to create the lunge again.

So you're playing the back heel off the front leg lunge. Okay, and then inhale, come up. Crouch, and spring to Samasthitihi. Okay, so that's what we've learned up to this point. Thank you Shelley.

Thank you, David. Okay, so we're gonna look at the next standing posture. It's called Prasarita Padottanasana. It means a wide leg intense forward bend. So it's got the same features as our forward bending postures we've been working on, only you take the legs wide.

Okay, so get a wide stance. So the setup is just like Samasthitihi with wide legs. So you stamp your feet down. Ground the thighs. Lift up through the navel to get a neutral pelvis and lift the chest.

So reach down through the arms just like you do in Samasthitihi with behind the hips. And enjoy that neutral position. Okay, then take the hands to the waist, and which with a move you (noisy exhaling) come halfway down. Let's try that again. Okay, so here we go.

Lift up the chest (noisy inhaling). Lift up your Uddiyana Bandha, that's called, that lock. So you lift the navel strongly, and then (noisy exhaling) tip the pelvis forward and project the spine outwards. Okay, so I"m halfway forward and enjoying. Okay my hands are at the waist, and ground the thighs back, lift the navel, extend the spine forward.

Okay, and then come up with a move back to the vertical position, and we'll try again. So you're lifting the navel, lifting the chest, planting the feet, firming the thighs, and (noisy exhaling) come forward with a throw halfway. And then from there, (imitates hands smacking ground). Plant the hands directly in front of you, so you got the shoulder, elbow, wrist in a vertical line. And enjoy this position for a moment.

So you've got the feet planted, the thighs firm, the pelvis tipped forward, and the spine elongating with straight arms. So the next move from here is a forward fold with a gesture. So you're gonna take the arms back and (noisy exhaling) come forward. Ideally, you're touching your head to the ground. That takes quite a lot of flexibility, and so you could use a block under your head or the head could be up in the air, okay?

So you're working to get the head to go between the feet. So there's the forward exposure, that you come to the edge, to a tipping point, and work and create a stability there. Okay, come halfway up with a move, straighten the arms, look up. (noisy inhaling) So that's all with a breath in. Then stay right there and exhale. (noisy exhaling) Hands to waist, inhale, come up. And you've finished it off.

Okay, so come out for a moment. There's four arm positions in this one and we are just working with the first one at the moment. Wanna revisit that with you because we do a very interesting thing. We have this halfway position, right? And so take your wide stance again, take the hands to the waist, and come halfway, okay?

And we do this on the way into the posture and on the way out. And we do it for belly power, to catch Bandhas. So it's a very interesting moment to enjoy. So when you come halfway down, you want to lift the chest and lift the belly. Kind of a move, and as you do it, we'll do it together, you're going to plant the feet, lift up the sitting bones, stamp the hands down, and lift the chest and pretend like this is the asana.

So you build energy here. Very interesting shape to explore. Drop your gaze and drop your head, and look along the front of the body. So the pelvis is tipped forward slightly, you've lifted the navel, and the ribs are sucked up into the body, and you've elongated the spine. Okay, then, when you go forward, here we go, forward.

(noisy exhaling) One exhalation brings you into position. So you can lift up the sitting bones, plant the hands and feet. All right, and then on the way out, it's again, halfway up. And breathe in, open the chest, and then stay right there. Take the hands to the waist.

And when you take the hands to the waist you're actually pressing back in order to lift the navel. (hums) Come up for a sec. So that's a really interesting move there where you exhale and hollow your belly. Okay, it's a distinct Bandha move. Let's try it again.

Come into the halfway position, take the hands to the waist, and then you empty the lungs distinctly. (noisy exhaling) And that's when you catch that Bandha, by pushing your thighs and elongating, lifting the chest. And then you come up with the inhalation. (laughs) So that happens very fast, actually. So we'll do it once and do it fast. So you've gotta be kind of ready for it to catch it on the way and to really work with the whole length of the central axis. This whole pelvic area.

Okay, so you've got your wide stance. Take the hands to the waist. Lift up the chest. (noisy inhaling) Breathe in and then (noisy exhaling) exhale, halfway forward. Plant the hands and again, breathe in, lift the navel, chest, and fold. Come into position and breathe.

And then get ready for your exit. So you anticipate and walk the hands forward slightly, lift the head and chest, breathe in. Stop for the whole exhalation. Take the hands to the waist. (noisy exhaling) And then (noisy inhaling) come up breathing in. Then we'll crouch and spring, returning to Samasthitihi.

So we'll look at one more standing posture, the Parsvottanasana, it's called. Separate your legs into a wide stance and this, when you have the revolving triangle foot leg position. So the back leg angles in 45 degrees, you square the hips, and then it's like revolving triangle. Take Samasthitihi arms and project the spine forward. Come halfway down and enjoy.

So in this one, instead of twisting, like in the revolving triangle, you (breathes) come down. You work to touch the chin to the shin. And that takes some doing. And then you also up the ante by, if you can turn and look, here we go, you'd make a move and whack! Throw the right arm back, and the left, and join those behind your back in prayer. And if you can't do that, you can do it like this, just throw and throw and clasp your elbows.

Okay, and your front knee might be bent, but it's going towards straight. You're working the thighs to be very firm, very grounded as you come forward. And then with a move, inhale, come up, change sides. So you angle the back leg in. Take Samasthitihi arms, lift up the chest, and exhale forward.

Try it again. So it doesn't matter if you get unsteady there. You fight for steadiness and take a chance. So reach through the arms as you lift the chest and come forward. And then swing the arms, either clasping the elbows or creating that prayer position behind the back.

Slowly working forward patiently. Staying with the breathing. And then come up with a move. Turn to the side. Crouch and return to Samasthitihi.

All right, so now we're gonna work with inversion, with shoulder stand and head stand. And remember, there's a separate tutorial that teaches you the two setups that I want you to work with, so I'm assuming you know those setups now and we're just gonna go right into it. Okay, we're starting with shoulder stand. So I've got my props here, two blankets. I'm gonna set that up.

And come up, so here we go. You've got your setup, and place your shoulders, your foundation, your arm foundation, on that support, but your neck and head is off, and up you come. (breathing) So you're working with Samasthitihi principles, working to get the, first the foundation. And now we've got a whole different foundation, we've got the hands, the arms, the upper body. So you're walking down.

So take the left hand off your back, and walk the web space between the thumb and finger as low as possible, then push into your back and flatten that hand out. Then do the same with the right. Walk down, push into your back and make the fingers face up. So the weight of the body is being borne by the hands, the forearms, the upper arms, and across the upper back. And the shoulder stand is slightly like a back bend, so you're trying to project your spinal column forward into the body to open the chest.

So the spine comes forward as the rest of the body anchors and is supported by the hands and arms. You're reaching up through the inner leg and you periodically adjust that foundation. Releasing one hand at a time, walking down, and flattening the hand back out. The breath is steady, the throat is released, and you're working to get a vertical line between the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder. And then we're gonna do a little variety.

So you take the right leg out on the diagonal and then you're going to flip it. Flip into tree posture. "What," you say, "David, what was that?" So you might have to come down and have a look, press rewind. Here we go, flip it out to the right, return to shoulder stand, and we'll try it again. So you separate that right leg out, right in the side plane, you make it like a frog, reaching through the heel, and then you flip it.

The right foot right to the inner groin of the left leg and you push that right foot against the left inner thigh and you resist that pressure. Keep lifting up through the left leg and then flip the right leg out. Return to Sarvangasana. We'll try the left. So take it out on the diagonal, make a frog leg and flip that left leg into the right inner thigh.

Push the foot against the thigh and resist and reach up through that right leg. So the left knee is swinging to the left, but the navel stays facing forward. (breathing) Keep working with the breathing. Long and steady, smooth and even. Then flip the left leg out, returned to your vertical shoulder stand position.

Then, with a move, hinge at the hips and swing the hips down to Halasana, the plow pose. Release your hands off your back and roll down. Scoot your body forward off of the support so that your shoulder blades are on the ground. Relax your neck. Stay for just a few moments.

Enjoying the cycle of the breath. Also, remember our theme of recovering the senses. So part of that, I love the idea of recovery because it's an enjoyment. It's a subtle enjoyment, so you simply enjoy inward listening, inward seeing. You enjoy the feeling of the awakened palate.

In that way, you reclaim your senses, so you're not using them for gross pleasures that are actually turn out to be painful. You're using them for subtle perception that is bliss. You can use your senses to create bliss. All right, so roll to the side, and we will move on to our head stand prep move that I've taught you on the tutorial. Here we go.

This is our set up position. Stamp the forearms down. Place the head and lift the hips. Walk your feet in, but stabilize your upper back. Okay, so you're lifting the shoulders and you're up on your tippy toes.

Keep lifting the sitting bones and enjoy this position. So you can get all the head stand benefits without ever even going up into head stand. The ego doesn't like it as much. It's like, "What, what is this? "I can't put this on my Instagram account." (chuckles) But it's excellent.

So you're stamping down through the arms, lifting the shoulders, lifting the hips up. And then we'll take it a little bit further. So right leg goes up, but remember, keep that internal rotation of the right leg. Keep the kneecap facing forward. Keep the leg straight.

It doesn't matter if it gets vertical or not. As you reach up through the right leg, plant the forearms and keep the breath steady. And then switch. Take the right leg down. Swing the left leg up with the move, kneecaps remains facing forward.

So if you externally rotate your thigh and exit that hip, you've missed the point. So you've got to internally rotate the leg and keep working the foundation of the position. Steady breath. You can feel the arm, the upper body gets a workout. You want your head light and your arm foundation working.

So down comes the left, and again, lift the sitting bones. Remember, the head is light here. I have less than 50% of the weight of my body in my head. All right, then come down. Rest in child's pose.

Don't lift your head off the ground. Roll, so that you can release your neck before you lift the head. And track the senses so that you have an inward gaze, an inward palate, inward skin. Listening to the sound of the breath from the interior perspective. And notice how calming that is, when you interiorize your senses.

So instead of projecting out into the outer world, you're using them to enjoy the subtle delights of the inner world. So this is our Shavasana. Such a nice, restful position. And then push the ground with the hands, come up. And that will finish this session.

We'll see you tomorrow. Namaste.


Janet L
I love how you explain the practice... super clear!!!! Namaste!!!
I love your teaching method. Thank you so much. 

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