Welcome spring and get your body out of hibernation. It only takes eight poses to perform a simple sun salutation.
Great way to wake up the body, sun salutations offer the perfect morning practice. This series of poses, also known as Surya Namaskar, is suitable for advanced yogis and beginners alike. Sun salutations are a common part of Vinyasa yoga styles, sometimes called flow yoga. The sequence offers an introductory moving meditation that connects movement with the breath and helps prepare the body for other postures.
Flow through these eight poses to complete a sun salutation. Repeat the sequence five or so times to start, then increase the number of repetitions as you become more comfortable and build up strength. We’ve indicated where to link your breath to the movements in the steps that follow. Take as many breaths as you need between postures. Most importantly, listen to your body and do what feels right for you.
1. Mountain Pose Tadasana
1. Stand at the top of your mat with your feet together or apart, centring your weight equally between your feet.
2. Keep the knees slightly relaxed, not locked.
3. Stack your shoulders overtop of your hips and your head in line with the shoulders. Drop the chin down slightly, so the back of the neck is long.
4. Relax your shoulder blades down your back and turn the palms to face forward.
5. Take a few deep breaths here.
Benefit: This open, confident posture is great for grounding your practice. Do a mini meditation here and set an intention for the
2. Upward Hand Pose Urdhva Hastasana
1. Inhale: Sweep the arms up overhead.
Benefit: The sweeping motion can help support mobility in the shoulder joint.
3. Standing Forward Bend Pose Uttanasana
1. Exhale: Release the arms out and down to your sides and fold the upper body forward toward the legs. Keep the knees relaxed or bent, if needed.
2. Modification: Only bend as far as your body allows; release if you experience pain.
Benefit: Many of us have tight hamstrings; this pose helps to stretch out this large group of muscles.
4. Half Standing Forward Bend Ardha Uttanasana
1. Inhale: With hands placed on the floor or on your knees or thighs, lift the upper body into a “flat back,” so that the spine is aligned from the hips to the head.
2. Exhale: Release into Standing Forward Bend Pose.
Benefit: This position strengthens the back muscles and helps improve posture.
5. Plank Pose Phalakasana
1. Inhale: Bring your hands to the floor, bend the knees and step the feet back into Plank Pose.
2. Ensure that the shoulders are aligned over the wrists.
3. Draw the abdominal muscles in and keep the head in line with the spine.
4. Modification: Place your knees on the mat for additional support.
Benefit: This pose tones the entire body and is excellent for building core abdominal strength. For an added challenge, see how
long you can hold Plank Pose.
6. Four-Limbed Staff Pose or “Chaturanga” Chaturanga Dandasana
1. Exhale: Keep the spine straight, pull the elbows back along the sides of the body, and slowly lower yourself down to the mat; almost like a reverse push-up.
2. Modification: Drop the knees down to the mat as your lower your body.
Benefit: Similar to Plank Pose, this posture works the entire body, especially the arms, back and abdominal muscles.
7. Upward-Facing Dog Pose Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
1. Inhale: Press the palms down and begin lifting the upper body from the mat; start with the head and shoulders, followed by the chest and stomach.
2. Modification: Only lift the upper body as far as feels comfortable.
Benefit: Great for opening up the chest, especially if you sit at a desk all day. No matter how far you lift your body from the mat, this pose helps strengthen the back muscles. There are plenty of benefits to subtler movements, too!
8. Downward-Facing Dog Pose Adho Mukha Svanasana
1. Exhale: Tuck the toes underneath, so the pads of the toes are in contact with the mat. Lift the hips up and back and press the heels down toward the mat (they don’t have to touch).
2. Check that your shoulders aren’t hunched forward by your ears; draw the shoulder blades down the back.
3. Take a few deep breaths here and enjoy the restorative effects of this posture.
4. Modification: Move from Upward-Facing Dog Pose through to Tabletop Pose on your hands and knees, then proceed into Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Placing your hands on yoga blocks can help support this posture by alleviating pressure in the wrists.
Benefit: This posture works the whole body, but it’s particularly helpful for stretching the calves and strengthening the muscles of the feet.
To complete the sun salutation:
1. Inhale: Walk your feet up to the top of the mat into Standing Forward Bend Pose (3); bend the knees or bring your hands to your knees or thighs, if needed.
2. Exhale: Lift your upper body into Standing Forward Bend Pose (4).
3. Inhale: Roll up through the spine to standing. Sweep the arms up overhead into Upward Hand Pose (2).
4. Exhale: Bring the arms down, palms together at your heart.
5. Inhale: Release the hands and return to Mountain Pose (1).
Did you know?
You may have noticed the suffix “–asana” in the traditional pose names. That’s because asana is the Sanskrit word for pose.