What Is the Difference Between Sun Salutation A and B?

Traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa practice starts with Sun Salutations. After the opening chant, the practitioner performs five rounds of Surya Namaskara A, followed by five rounds of Surya Namaskara B.

It’s not uncommon to see these Sun Salutation sequences included in other types of yoga practice, often with a modified number of repetitions or in a different order.

If you’re not sure what makes Sun Salutation A and B so different yet so integral to the practice, read on.

Physical Difference Between Sun Salutation A and B

Sun salutation a and b
  • Endurance: The first stark difference between the Surya Namaskara variations is their length. Sun Salutation A includes 11 poses and only one repetition of the Vinyasa sequence (Chaturanga Dandasana, Upward-Facing Dog, Downward Facing Dog). Sun Salutation B consists of 19 asanas from start to finish, including three repetitions of Vinyasa. As a result, Sun Salutation B requires more physical effort and endurance.
  • Focus: Both Sun Salutation sequences are designed to awaken and energize the body. However, Surya Namaskara A is designed to require an equal effort from the entire body, while Surya Namaskara B has additional poses focusing on the lower body. For example, Chair Pose (Utkatasana) and Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) require significantly more power in the legs and mobility in the lower body joints.
  • Warm-up: There is a reason why Sun Salutation A comes first. It targets different groups of muscles, gradually warming up the body as you perform five rounds of the sequence. Sun Salutation B is more physically demanding and should not be performed without a prior warm-up of the muscles and ligaments. Otherwise, you are risking overloading your body and sustaining an injury.

Structural Difference Between Sun Salutation A and B

Sun salutation a vs b
  • Asymmetry: Sun Salutation A is designed to be perfectly symmetrical. From Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana) to Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), the right and left sides of the body are performing the same action. In contrast, the Sun Salutation B sequence has Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I), which must be performed twice to include both sides of the body.
  • Mental coordination: Remembering a shorter sequence is generally easier. Sun Salutation B requires more mental effort even to complete a single round. By the time round five comes along, following a longer, asymmetrical sequence can be a real challenge, even with the help of a yoga teacher.
  • Breathing: Both Surya Namaskara A and B are designed to be synchronized with the breath. However, there is a notable difference. Sun Salutation A includes a little “break” while you stay in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) for five full breaths. On the other hand, Sun Salutation B provides no such luxury. As a result, the Surya Namaskara B variation is faster-paced than its counterpart.

While Sun Salutation A and B have differences, it is not a competition. They both fulfill a specific purpose, making the practice of Surya Namaskara A and B complementary to each other.

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