In my book The Magickal Union of East and West, there is a description of a practice from ashtanga yoga, the Surya Namascar (“Sun Salutation”). While the description is traditional, without instruction it can be difficult to follow.
My friend Andria Degens is certified instructor of yoga with her own practice in Hastings. She has studied and practiced extensively in India and the UK (see her full bio here). Andria kindly agreed to illustrate the major asanas of the sun salutation in order to augment the description in the text. With these photos and the outline given in the book, it should help to make the practice a bit easier to decode and get into for beginners.
If you are in the Hastings area, by all means sign up for her classes and get first hand practical instruction in this and deeper aspects of yogic disciplines. She also offers private one on one classes for serious students that wish to pursue the work in customized sessions. In addition to her love of yoga, Andria is a musician with many albums out, performing under the name Pantaleimon.
The description is from pages 12 -14 of The Magickal Union of East and West. Photo credit goes to Dave Reading. The yogini is of course Andria herself.
Stand straight, with your feet together. Imagine a brilliant white sphere above your head with a white light streaming into it from above. Place your palms together, touching your chest. Sense the energy pouring into you, filling you with vitality and awakening every cell of your body.
Now breathe in deeply while you raise your arms above your head and bend backward from the waist.
Bending forward from your hips, breathe out slowly. Knees should be slightly bent (you do not want any strain on your lower back). Hands are flat on the floor beside your feet. At this point, your head should be near your shins.
Breathe in and stretch your right leg behind so that your foot is at a right angle to your leg and resting on its toes. The left leg is vertical to the floor and your head is back.
While you breathe, place your left foot back to match the right foot. The body is now in a straight line, supported only by your toes and hands, which are in a vertical line.
Still holding your breath, lower your body and rest your toes, knees, chest, palms, and forehead on the floor. Stomach and pelvis are off the floor, with hands by your shoulders, elbows bent, and arms by your sides.
Breathing out, lie flat on the ground. Feel the energy coursing through your body.
Breathe in as you raise your head and then the upper part of your torso. Pelvis is flat on the ground and the head is back.
Hold your breath and bring your feet flat onto the floor and raise your hips to form an inverted V shape.
Still holding your breath, bring the right foot forward so that it is vertical and the left leg is back (the reverse of #4).
Breathe out as you bring the left leg up and place your feet to- gether between your hands. Straighten your legs (with knees slightly bent) and place your head on your shins.
Breathe in as you straighten up from the hips. Bring your arms up, and stretch them backward as you bend back from the waist. Hold your breath as you look backward.
Breathe out as your straighten your body. Now raise your arms over your head and back again as you bend your elbows to place your hands together at your chest. See a radiant sphere of golden solar energy in your heart center, its rays penetrating and warming your entire body.
From Michael Staley’s essay The Fool:
“Initiation is not a matter of swallowing wholesale what this, that or the other illustrious person has said at some time or another, but of making it real, of arriving at your own understanding. We take influences from diverse sources, whether it be Grant, Crowley, Spare, Blavatsky, Gurdjieff, Ramana Maharshi – to name but a few – and synthesise their work via the catalyst of our own experience, creating thereby an understanding and a body of work that is intrinsic to us. People who come after us will do likewise, again from a diversity of sources. In this way, knowledge and experience is passed down, and this is one meaning of parampara or spiritual lineage. ”
Could not have expressed it better. This sums up my approach to the Mysteries, and explains the diverse range of influences that have gone into my own work.
The Magickal Union of East & West, The Spiritual Path to New Aeon Tantra explores the fruit of some of this work.
“In the basal (muladhara) chakra, the Kundalini is known as Amavasya (new moon), for at that place the sun and moon are conjoined; hence the muladhara is a dark power-zone. The next centre, svadhisthana, is flecked with the sun’s rays, hence it is a region of twilight, i.e. mixed moon- and sun-light. The third zone, manipura, is likewise of a mixed nature. On attaining the stage of Anahata, in the region of the heart, Kundalini is bathed in effulgence, and continues to be effulgent until She reaches the place of the Moon (at the vishuddha), the Qoph centre. The Ajanachakra, which represents Kundalini in exaltation, is the Pure Palace of Serene Brilliance. And so the ascent occurs from darkness, through twilight to sunlight, and finally to the cool lunar region of eternal snows which is bathed in the perpetual radiance of the Shri Chakra itself.” – Kenneth Grant, Cults of the Shadow
I wrote this short piece many years ago. While there is a depth to yoga disciplines that go far beyond what Crowley discussed, I do still agree that his simplified adaptation of the 8 Limbs is a good basic primer on practical yoga exercises to achieve a well rounded practice in ones daily work.
Many western practitioners neglect the most fundamental aspects of meditation and calming the body, much to their disadvantage. The need to be able to concentrate, visualize, calm the body, increase energy, and so on, are essential techniques in western ritual that are used for every practice. Crowley’s introduction to the Yoga Sutras at the very least gives the westerner a simple way to get started and begin seeing benefits of practice almost immediately.
While Eight Lectures on Yoga is in no way a substitute for in depth training and practice for those that would go deep into the path of yoga, it is without a doubt good basic instruction in the fundamentals of practice that anyone can begin with. If limited only to his instruction, one would certainly see plenty of benefits in all aspects of their daily life.