Sūrya Namaskāra: Introduction to the Tantric Origins of Embodied Yoga


Sūrya Namaskāra: Introduction to the Tantric Origins of Embodied Yoga


In order to support my current PhD writing this summer on the Tantric Origins of Kuṇḍalinī, this course is now 25% off through August only! Click here to find out more about my writing.

This course is perfect for yoga students and teachers who wish to stay on the cutting edge with their practice and teaching.

This three-part course introduces the forgotten role of Surya Namaskāra (Sun Prostrations) in daily Tantric Yoga practice, one that is widely (and erroneously thought) to have been invented by Krishnamacharya and his students in the early 20th century.

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Course Overview

In three 75-minute sessions, Christopher introduces the forgotten role of Surya Namaskāra (Sun Prostrations) from unpublished source Tantras, a practice once central to Haṭha Yoga practice but left out of the few texts which have come down to us. As a result, Surya Namaskāra is mistakenly thought to have been invented by Krishnamacharya and his students of the Mysore school in the early 20th century. Students learn how Surya Namaskāra was once central to daily Hatha Yoga ritual, and how it was engaged in a specific twelve-part postural sequence (vinyasa) at each of the 8 directions, while circling around one’s practice mandala (self-consecrated practice space) in the beautiful rite known as Pradakshina (sacred circumambulation). Additionally, we explore how the Pradaksina Namaskāra practice was originally inspired by the Indian dance tradition, and included spontaneous dancing, singing and reciting poetry meant to empower one’s connection to the divine source.

Course Details

Session 1. The Dance of Namaskāra

How the Pasupata Lineage Transformed Yoga into a Life Affirming Practice

Within a century or so of the Yogasūtra‘s composition, an avant-garde religious group rose to the forefront of Indian radicals. Known as the Pasupatasthese quasi-ascetics lived on the margins of society where they worshiped Rudra (‘Howler’), the archaic namesake of Shiva. Yet ironically, it was the Pasupatas who first took Yoga in a new direction by integrating the framework for practice established in Yogasūtra, with movement practices adopted from the Natya-sastra, the ancient ‘Treatise on Dance.’ In this session, you’ll learn how the Pasupatas Yogis transformed Namaskara from a simple daily ritual of reciting Gayatri Mantras to the Sun into the dynamic movement practice known throughout the modern world.

Source Passages: The Pasupata Sutra and its two commentaries (ca. 3rd – 6th centuries AD)

Session 2. Mandala Vinyāsa

The Place of Daily Namaskāra Practice in Early Tantric Yoga

In this session you'll discover the preliminary practices of creating a mandala or sacred space for one’s daily Yoga practice, which served as a preparatory ritual to engaging in the rite of Pradaksina-Namaskāra. The maṇḍala was central to this rite, and served as the central ‘Axis’, or power center, of one’s consecrated practice space, around which the Namaskāra sequence of poses was performed at each of the 8 directions.

Topics include: 

  • Pranava Namaskāra: Bringing the Namaskāra Mantras to Life;

  • Self-consecration practices; Avāhana rite: Inviting Shiva to Manifest the Maṇḍala

  • Shiva Gayatri Mantra

“Having encircled one’s mandala from within, the yogin is to perform the practice of Surya Namaskāra prostration, culminating with a seated position, facing east…” - Brahma Purana, ca. 10th century

Session 3. Pradaksina

Preparatory Rites to Surya Namaskāra in Early Tantric Yoga Practice

Drawing from ancient Tantric passages, in this session Christopher unveils the core preparation ‘rites’ once at the core of daily Yoga and particular to the practice of Surya Namaskāra. This class culminates with the foundational poses of the twelve-part sequence known today as Classic Sūrya Namaskāra. 

Topics include: 

  • Surya puja: Yogic practice of honoring the sun (overview)

  • Hand Nyasa: Installing the 6 Sun Mantras on the hands – hrāṃ, hrīṃ, hrūṃ, hraiṃ, hrauṃ

  • Body Nyasa: Consecrating the 6 sun Mantras on the body

  • Dandavat: The three core poses of the Namaskāra sequence

“You are every [inflection of my] voice [as I recite this] devotional hymn throughout [my] circumambulation [around the Axis of the mandala]. As I engage the sequential activity of this Ritual, it is You, O Śambhu, who perform each and every act, and its unbroken continuity; for I experience this devotional ritual entirely within You. O Śambhu …You are My Self.” – Tantric Pradaksina Namaskāra Verse, cited by Aghorasiva, 12th century