Photography by Amir Magal
You might know them as sun salutations, or surya namaskar – a sequence of yoga poses that, in its most basic form, begins with hands in prayer rising to the sky, and transitions through deep forward bends, downward-facing dogs, lunges, and the infamous chaturanga – sometimes nicknamed the “yogic pushup” – and finally rises to begin the cycle again. It’s in that “yoga pushup” moment, says renowned yoga teacher Shiva Rea, that you can choose to make a pranam, or prostration, surrendering yourself completely to the earth for two or three breaths, as the ancient practice was intended, or you can become distracted by ego-driven contests against gravity as you hover just shy of the floor. In these changing times, Shiva Rea wants you to experience the healing power of whole-body surrender – letting go directly on the earth.
Rea has devoted 25 years to teaching around the world. She’s authored over two dozen yoga DVDs and CDs, and more recently, a book entitled Tending the Heart Fire – Living in Flow with the Pulse of Life. She is the founder of Prana Vinyasa and the Samudra Global School for Living Yoga, and has been a pioneer in reviving and diversifying the practice of namaskars. She characterizes her approach to yoga as “movement meditation that’s really about life rejuvenation and realization; it’s about really learning how to design your practice to what’s needed.”
After visiting Bodhgaya, India, where the Buddha became enlightened, she became so intrigued by the practice of prostrations that they completely transformed her teaching. She’s since developed 40 different forms of namaskars. Some salute the sun or moon, but others may use the seasons or other aspects of nature as their focus. Choosing to devote herself to this particular type of practice has its rewards. “It’s uncovering some things that got lost in translation,” she says. “It’s ending up to be what my life teaching is about, in a way.” Subscribe now and read more about Shiva and her journey with yoga.