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This coming Monday is the summer solstice, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. For yoga practitioners worldwide, it represents an opportunity to awaken and evolve as we honor this juncture of the greatest light as well as the second International Day of Yoga on Tuesday. You can celebrate both of these occasions with Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar), of course, but there is another powerful offering that got lost in translation in the West: prostrations, the movement meditation for all.
What is a prostration, or a pranam?
A prostration, also known as a pranam (to nam, or bow, to the life force, prana), is known in Sanskrit as a Dandavat. Chaturanga Dandasana originated as a way to get into a prostration upon the earth. The movement of these two asanas—Chaturanga followed by the whole-body prostration—creates a totally different experience of Chaturanga. The heat of Chaturanga is balanced by relaxation through the surrender of prostrations. In the West, Chaturanga sadly got separated from this great posture of humility and peace.
Watch Shiva Rea Demonstrate Prana Flow Pranams
Why practice pranams?
A pranam brings about a natural letting go that anyone can experience, from the beginner to the most practiced yogi. It represents the power of renewal that is inherent in life, a humble strength that we can give to the earth while receiving from a deeper ground of energy that is greater than one’s individual self. There is a primal resting and remembering that happens when we rest our belly on the belly of our great mother earth. This embodied ritual movement instinctually transforms us, releasing tensions and awakening us. The beginning of a pranam and the beginning of Sun Salutations are the same. With hands at the heart, there is a movement of opening by reaching upward to the sky through the life-giving inhalation. Then there is the bowing forward toward the earth through Chaturanga, a full-body offering. The mantra that accompanies Chaturagana is "om pusne namaha"—to bow to the giver of strength. This is the call as we head toward to the earth from Chaturanga to pranams for this resting in the heart, whether for a moment or a long surrender. Prostrations arise from life circumstances that bring us to our knees, whether in joy or in great challenge. They are the ground from which our prayers are born and our inner yoga flowers. On the earth, the outer mind quiets, and we begin to listen through our inner ears. We begin to speak from our inner heart. No instruction is needed to awaken to the healing power of prostrations. In this sacred release, we have an all-in-one practice. Prostrations are instant stress relievers. As we lay down our burdens, we are able to hear a different voice, an inner love and wisdom. In this quiet experience of literally embracing the earth, we can let go of our fragmented thoughts, any stirring emotions, and heed the intrinsic call to experience the sacred reflected in the earth. Chaturanga without prostration seems vulnerable to ego imbalance, where we become caught up in focusing on the outer self, while prostration calls us to integrate the outer with the inner—to literally give our strength, our subconscious tensions, and worries to the earth. And then to rise again.
Summer Solstice Prana Flow Pranams
Explore the power of prostrations with this movement meditation. You can offer 1, 3, 9, 18, 27, 54, or 108 rounds as a really transformative 5–60 minute practice.