What are Sun Salutations?
Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar are a sequence of 12 poses that were traditionally practiced to honor the energy of the Sun. Now, Sun Salutations have become a popular platform and fundamental practice in most yoga routines as the sequence is easy to learn and is a complete, whole-body exercise. Sun Salutations are incredibly versatile and can be used as a stretching routine after weight training or before running, as a transition between other yoga poses or simply on its own.
Benefits of Sun Salutations
- Strengthens every muscle, bone and connective tissue in the body
- Muscle gain
- Weight loss
- Improves balance
- Improves health of the spine and nervous system
- Slows aging
- Improves flexibility
- Improves muscle coordination
- Relieves backaches and other moderate back problems
- Builds bone-mineral density
- Increases lung capacity
- Enhances and stimulates blood circulation
- Oxygenates the entire body
- Relieves stress and anxiety
- Detoxification of the endocrine and lymphatic system
- Massages and stimulates the inner organs, helping digestion
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
- Stand tall at the front of your mat with feet together and toes facing forward. Arms are relaxed by your sides.
- Press chest gently forward and point the tailbone down to the ground by gently pressing hips forward. Pull belly button into towards spine.
- Reach out through the top of your head to lengthen spine and pull shoulders down and away from ears.
- Press down into all four corners of your feet and extend your arms out by sides, reaching through the fingertips. Spread the fingers wide and face palms forward.
- Inhale. Extend arms out and up, reaching towards the sky. Hands can be apart or together.
- Reach long and tall through the fingertips.
2. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- Exhale. Keeping feet flat to the ground and legs as straight as possible, hinge at the hips and fold out over your legs.
**If legs are tight, slightly bend the knees.
**If lower back is tight, take the feet hip-distance apart.
- Let your upper body and head hang heavy. Relax your shoulders, neck and upper back.
- Hands can be planted onto the mat or grab opposite elbows if hands do not reach the ground.
3. Half Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
- Inhale, lifting upper body half way up from forward fold. Keep back flat by reaching heart forward and pull the belly button into the spine.
- Reach your shoulders away from the ears and lengthen out through the top of your head.
- Hands can be planted onto the ground or placed on the shins.
**If your back is really tight, place hands anywhere above the knees.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground
- Exhale back into forward fold.
4. Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
- From forward fold, slightly bend your knees and plant your palms onto the mat.
- Option 1: Step your right foot back. Keep right leg extended, grounding into the ball of your right foot.
- Option 2: Lower your right knee down to the ground. Make sure your knee is as far back as possible and not directly stacked underneath your right hip. This ensures you are getting the full potential of the stretch in the front of the right hip.
- Left knee should be stacked over left ankle to strengthen your stance.
- Inhale. Slowly peel the upper body away and reach tall through the fingertips up towards the sky.
- Sink your hips down by bending deeper into your left knee to feel a deeper stretch in the inner thighs.
5. Plank (Dandasana)
- Exhale. Plant hands onto the mat and step left foot back to meet the right into plank position.
**If your knee was lowered, tuck your right toes under and pick up the right knee then step left foot back into plank.
- Make sure hips are level with shoulders and shoulders are stacked over wrists.
- Press back through your heels to straighten and strengthen your legs and reach out through the top your head.
- Pull your belly button back into the spin. Take a deep breath in.
6. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- Exhale and lower down to the mat from plank. You can lower down either like a push up with elbows in towards the body and pointed back down towards the hips – or – lower down knees, chest and chin and come onto your belly.
- Inhale. Come into cobra pose via option 1 or 2.
- Option 1: Low Cobra – Lift chest off the ground and pull shoulder-blades in towards each other. Point elbows back towards your hips. Open chest towards to the front of your mat and reach the top of your head up to the sky. Come up onto your fingertips or hover hands just slightly off the mat.
- Option 2: Full Expression of Cobra – Place hands underneath your shoulders, pointing elbows back towards your hips. Press into your hands and lift upper body off the ground. Arms are extended and straight. Press your chest towards the front of the mat and pull shoulders down and away from your ears. Pull shoulder-blades in towards each other to open chest and front of shoulders more. Press hips down into the ground. Reach the top of your head up towards the sky – or – you can drop head back to open the throat. Relax your bottom and legs. Press the tops of the feet firmly into the mat.
- Exhale, lower down. Tuck toes under and press back into plank.
See #5 for Plank instructions or come onto your hands and knees for table top position – see below.
8. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- From plank or table top, spread fingers wide, thumbs reach towards each other and pinkies reach towards the edges of the mat.
- Toes are tucked. Exhale. Press hips back and up towards the sky. Make sure toes are facing forward to the front of your mat.
- Press down through your heels (even if they don’t touch the ground). This will help to stretch the back of your legs and help to straighten your knees.
**If legs are really tight, bend your knees and take your feet as wide as your mat. This modification will also help with tightness in the lower back.
- Press into the center of your whole hand (into palms out through the knuckles and fingertips) and push your chest back towards your thighs. Keep your arms straight and extended.
- Let your head and neck hang heavy.
- Inhale right leg reaches tall to the sky pressing out through your right heel. Point right toes back towards your face. Step your right foot through to meet your hands at the front of the mat into lunge.
9. Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
See #4 for Crescent Lunge instructions.
10. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
See #2 for Forward Fold examples and instructions.
11. Half Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
See #3 for Half Forward Fold examples and instructions.
12. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
See #1 for Mountain Pose examples and instructions.
Repeat same sequence of poses on left side (stepping left foot back first).