Introducing Sun Salutations

Sun Salutation statue at Sante Wellness Retreat in Western Cape South Africa

Introducing Sun Salutations

Also known as Surya Namaskar

I’d like to share with you a sequence of yoga I learned to love…  Introducing Sun Salutations !   

There is so much to say about the traditional sequence, but really just saying the words ‘Sun Salutation’ makes me smile!

The sun is the life source of our planet and so the Sun Salutation is literally a salute to the sun, an expression of gratitude.

The photo above of the statue doing a salutation, was taken at Santé Wellness Retreat.

Precaution & Safety Reminders

For those who have not previously tried Surya Namaskar, please note:

It can be physically demanding.

Remember to listen to and respect the body at all times. Work within your limits, at a pace that suits you.

Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise practice, especially if you have any injuries or special health concerns.

A Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) is a sequence of 12 yoga poses (asanas).  It can be done as an exercise by itself or as a warm up for your yoga practice.

There are different variations, for instance you get Sun Salutation A and the more advanced Sun Salutation B as well as a C…  Some people mix up a couple of the postures.  The one I have been doing is probably one of the more basic ones and is really good to start your day with.

It’s actually one of the most beneficial elements of yoga practice and has many benefits.

8 Reasons to do Sun Salutations

1. A complete Body warm-up

Warming up is essential to reduce the risk of injury.  A sun salutation can be performed for 5-15 minutes depending on the total length of your yoga practice.   

2. Increase Your overall flexibility

The sequence helps to lubricate the joints and is effective at loosening the muscles.  This reduces the risk of strains or shock or soreness.

3. Cardiovascular benefits

If performed at a pace or when practiced as a flow the cardiovascular system is made to work harder and the heartbeat will rise increasing the overall function over time.

4. Improved Digestion

This is one of the best massages for the digestive system. 

5. Improved Kidney Function

Salutations help massage the kidneys improving the flow of blood in and out, which assist in the removal of toxins.

6.  Calming The Nerves

All major nerve centers are relieved of tension making you a calmer person.

7.   Mental Benefits

Daily practice  increases the feeling of being at peace by clearing of the mind.  Negative feelings are decreased while sleep patterns are improved.  

8.  Weight Loss

You will be burning calories. As long as the calories eaten does not out way the calories burnt, you will have weight loss.

The Breath

Each move of the Sun Salutation is done in conjunction with the breath, either by inhalation or exhalation.   Breathing is very important to this sequence.  

 

The 12 postures are:

1.  Pranamasana – Prayer Pose

Stand at the end of your mat, keep your feet together and distribute your weight on both feet equally.
Open your chest and just relax your shoulders.
Breathe in and lift both your arms up from the sides.
Exhale and bring your palms together in a prayer position in front of your chest.
Activate your feet and legs.
Keep your spine erect.

2.  Hasta Uttanasana – Raised Arms Pose  

Inhale and bring the arms up and back.
Make sure your biceps are close to your ears. 
Lengthen your body, bending the back into a gentle curve, opening the chest.
Make effort to stretch the whole body starting from the heels to the fingertips.
The eyes can focus on the hands.

3.  Hasta Padasana or Uttanasana – Hand to Foot Forward Fold

Exhale and fold forward from the hips towards the ground.
Tailbone up.
Hands next to the feet, or back of the ankles if easier, or use blocks for comfort.
Keep legs engaged when straight in order to protect the hamstrings, or bend the knees slightly to soften the pull.
Relax the head and neck completely.

4.  Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Low Lunge Pose

Inhale and keep the weight on the hands.
Push out the right leg as far as possible, allowing it to rest on the toes.
Bring the right knee to the ground end the left leg bent at the knee.

5.  Kumbhakasana – Plank Pose

From the halfway lift position, step back to plank pose.
Spread the fingers wide and use the entire palm to connect with the ground.
Keep the legs engaged.
Gaze gently forward and lengthen the back of the neck.

6.  Ashtanga Namaskara – Eight limbed Pose

Bring the knees down first and then the chest.
Ensure that eight parts of the body (the feet, knees, hands, chest, forehead and the chin) touches the floor.  
The elbows must stay close into the body and will brush the side of the ribs as you lower the body.
Keep the hips  raised slightly high above the ground.
Breathe normally and deeply while in this position, keeping feet together.

7.  Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose

Bring the abdomen and pelvis down to the floor.
Inhale and keep the toes stretched on the floor.
Gently lift the head up and make an arch with the spine and neck while simultaneously looking up.
The legs should be kept together, with elbows besides the body slightly bent and the shoulders to be kept down.

8.  Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog Pose

Keep your palms and feet where they are.
Exhale and gently lift your hips, so that the body forms an inverted ‘V’.
Straighten your elbows and knees.
Look toward your navel.

9.  Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Low Lunge Pose

Inhale and keep the weight on the hands.
Bring the right leg forward to between the hands. Knee bent.
Bend the left leg at the knee, bring the knee to the ground.
Palms on the ground.   

10.  Hasta Padasana or Uttanasana – Hand to Foot Forward Fold

Exhale come back up with both legs between the hands.
Breath and fold forward.
Tailbone up.
Hands next to feet.

11.  Hasta Uttanasana – Raised Arms Pose

Inhale and engage the legs and low belly, and lift all the way up with palms touching overhead.
Gaze at the fingertips.

12.  Tadasana – Standing Mountain Pose

On an exhale breath, release the hands back down by your side.
You’re back at the starting position – mountain pose .

Sun Salutation Surya Namaskar

If you are looking for a video to follow the sequence, I found this Traditional Sun Salutation the easiest to learn from and still often go back to watch it.

Consistency is key.   It is better to do a short sequence every day than a long sequence twice a week.   Setting aside even just 10 minutes every morning is the way to get started.   Keep mindfulness to your poses not allowing it to be slouchy.

Don’t forget to wrap your practice with a few minutes in Savasana (Corpse Pose).  Resting in Savasana allows the energy that is flowing within you to settle.

Happy Salutations!
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