So what exactly is a Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)? There are several variations, but in general a sun salutation is a series of poses that flow continuously with your breath, and are often performed in the beginning of vinyasa yoga classes to warm up the body. The most common sun salutation A consists of 8 main poses:
- Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
This is your starting and ending pose. As a stand alone pose, your feet can be hip distance apart, although in a sun salutation flow, your feet can be together. Spread weight evenly through the four corners of your feet (outer edges of balls and heels of feet). Engage your kneecaps, lengthen your spine and lift the crown of your head towards the sky. At the same time, draw your shoulders back and down, and engage your ribs and naval back towards your spine. Ignite energy from your feet to the crown of your head, and energize your fingertips towards the floor. Take as many breaths as needed here to become grounded and still.
2. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
On your inhale, lift your arms up towards the sky and perhaps come into a gentle backbend. Think of backbending from your upper back, lifting from your sternum versus collapsing in your lower back.
3. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
On your exhale, fold forward by hinging from your hips and keeping your spine long. As you fold, your arms can either swan dive out by your sides, or you can bring your hands together in prayer as you fold. Soften your knees if
4. Halfway Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
On your inhale, lengthen your spine. Your fingertips can be on the floor or on your shins, and your knees can soften as much as needed to create the extension in your spine.
5. Plank (High Plank)
On your exhale, step back into plank, keeping your shoulders over your wrists and heels stacked over the balls of your feet. Engage your core as you continue to lift your naval up towards your spine and prevent your hips from sagging. Push down through your palms and lift your back side towards the sky.
6. Low Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana or Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
On that same exhale as your plank, shift your weight forward so that your shoulders move beyond your fingertips and your heels glide forward over the balls of your feet. Bend your elbows at a 90 degree, hugging your elbows to your ribs. From the side profile, your shoulders, elbows, and hips should be in a straight line, and your elbows stay stacked over your wrists.
7. Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
On your inhale, press down on your palms and place the tops of your feet on the ground. Engage your triceps as well as your quadriceps so only your hands and feet touch the floor. Lift the crown of your head towards the ceiling and draw your shoulders down away from your ears. Keeping the legs active will prevent “dumping” weight into your lower back.
8. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
On your exhale, use your core to lift your hips away from the floor and roll back onto the soles of your feet. Press weight evenly throughout your palms, especially your fingers. Straighten your arms and externally rotate your upper arms and shoulders, making space around your neck. Move your chest towards your thighs and lift your tailbone towards the ceiling, creating as much length in your spine as possible. Continue to draw your ribs in. Reach your heels towards the mat, but it is not important for them to touch the mat. Sometimes softening the knees will help you feel more length in the spine. Rest for 1-5 breaths.
To return back to the starting Mountain Pose:
9. On your exhale, walk or hop your feet together between your hands.
10. On your inhale, Halfway Standing Forward Fold.
11. On your exhale, Forward Fold.
12. On your inhale, soften your knees, keep your spine straight and reverse swan dive to your Upward Salute.
13. On your exhale, return to Mountain Pose. Stay for 1-5 breaths and complete the whole Sun Salutation A cycle 3-5 more times. Feel the warmth in your body that you have created.
“As the sun spirals its longest dance, cleanse us.
As nature shows bounty and fertility, bless us.
Let all things live with loving intent
And to fulfill their truest destiny.”
~ Summer Solstice Blessing