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.
Bring the palms together at your heart center and draw your arms overhead, keeping hands together. See alsoMeet in the Middle: Anjali Mudra
Bring your feet hip-distance apart with your feet and tailbone rooting into the earth. Draw the energy up your inner legs, lower belly, and sides of your waist. With your hands at the base of your spine or together in front of your heart, devotionally arch back, feeling the support behind the heart and back of the neck rising. See alsoShiva Rea’s 10 Body Mudras Hyperlapse Video
Standing Forward Bend with massage
Uttanasana with massage
Massage your hands down the backs of your legs as you bow forward toward the earth. Soften the backs of the legs, and let the muscles of the neck and spine release with gravity. See also10 Body Mudras to Celebrate Earth Day with Shiva Rea
Walk your hands forward to bring your shoulders over your wrists and in alignment with your hips and feet. Find steadiness through the lift of your core as you lengthen your body from crown to heels. See alsoShiva Rea Gets Real About the Root Lock: A Woman’s Guide to Mula Bandha
Four-Limbed Staff Pose to the earth
Chaturanga Dandasana to the earth
Draw into your core. Feel your shoulders draw onto your back and your heels radiate behind you as you lower to bring the sides of your waist to meet your elbows at a 90-degree bend. See alsoShiva Rea’s Sahaja Prana Flow
Lower your body to the earth, bringing hands together overhead. See alsoShiva Rea’s Pranam Mudra Vinyasa
With your hands under your shoulders, lengthen your tailbone to your heels. From the length in your body, draw the spine forward to rise through the back of the heart and let the collarbone broaden. See alsoShiva Rea’s Cobra Mudra Vinyasa
Press your hands into the earth to bring your hips to rest on your heels. Bow your head to the earth with arms resting overhead. See alsoWatch Shiva Rea’s Moon Salutation
Sitting on your heels, bring your hands to the tops of your thighs and rise through the spine to arch back. Let your head drop back as the heart space expands. Bow the spine with reverence over the legs and coil through the belly to rise again and repeat. See alsoShiva Rea’s Inner Smile Meditation for Happiness
Standing Forward Bend with massage
Uttanasana with massage
Place your hands on the earth. Lift and curl over your feet to straighten your legs and release your spine toward the earth. Bring your hands to your hips to massage down the backs of the legs, softening into the forward bend. See alsoShiva Rea’s Twisting + Soaring Visvamitra’s Pose
Rise to standing, bringing hands to the base of the spine or together in front of your heart as you root your feet into the earth and draw the energy up the legs and along the spine to arch back. See alsoShiva Rea’s Ustrasana with Moksha Mudra
Bring the palms together at the heart center and draw your arms overhead, keeping hands together. See alsoShiva Rea’s Warrior III Bow Body Mudra