How to Build An Ashtanga Practice
Session 9 - Sun A - Heat & Endurance
Sun Salutations are a way to warm up the body, to build flexibility and strength and a way to set the pace and tone of the practice to follow. You are the one who decides that pace and tone and when wisely done, you calibrate to the current conditions and what you need to take care of in the present moment and what you would like to do with your energy after the practice.
The breath and the body work together. The body directs the breath to a depth to serve muscular output. The breath directs in being keyed up or calmed down. You need both of these aspects to find balance in your practice.
Beginners - you will find that the physical practice of getting the mechanics of the practice requires a firm and steady breath and a slow, studious pace. You can build the heat your need to build your muscles pretty quickly, however, you will need patience to build your endurance.
Beyond Beginners - you will find that you will need a brisk and full breath to build heat and endurance in your practice. You will need to become more skillful at keeping the cadence of your body and the resistance of your breath in ujjai in the right mix for your more vigorous output of energy.
Now that is not to say that you have to follow those formulas always. If you listen to your body, you can determine what best serves you.
Are you feeling tight, tender, tired or just off? Try slowing down the practice and maintaining a steady, smooth, slower breath so you can pay attention to the details of alignment and finding soft compassionate edges. Keep softer edges in the poses and let gravity accept you more and more.
Are you feeling ready for a challenge to your cardiovascular system, your strength and your steadfastness? Try bringing a deeper sense of ujjai into the practice as fuel and stretch into your edges. Keep more sensational edges (without being too much) and defy gravity with muscular engagement.
I am including videos of examples of both types of practices using Sun A.
The first example illustrates softer edges, a steady but slower ujjai breath and a less vigorous engagement in poses. Think taking your time and extending the breaths out long.
The second example illustrates firmer edges, a steady, more brisk ujjai breath and a deeper engagement in poses. Think finding strength, stability and balance - a stronger purpose in a fuller breath.
Your homework here is to try on these different perspectives and understand that you have autonomy in the practice. You are driving the practice with your decisions and actions. Your practice is here to serve you.
Now also, pay attention to how you are feeling. If you notice a desire to perform, perhaps ask yourself how that does or doesn’t serve you and your pursuit of sustainable, usable energy.
Notice if you are feeling in resistance to working a little bit harder or a little bit softer.
Notice if you are finding your breath and body out of sync. If you feel like you are behind the breath, slow down and take more time. Reorganize the breath and find the pace and engagement that suits you right now. If you are in front of the breath - body racing ahead, take a pause to find the breath and build a little more fullness and briskness and resume the asanas and transitions. Downward Facing Dog and Tadasana are great poses to do these calibrations.
Good luck and remember if you have any questions, you can reach me at
Here is a pdf of a checklist of things to consider in your practice as you are doing it.