Sun Salutations - What are they and how do we do them?

Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar in Sanskrit) form a key part of Vinyasa Flow Yoga classes. If you've been to a Vinyasa Flow class, it's very likely that your teacher will have taken you through some form of Sun Salutations.

Why do we do them?

Sun Salutations are a series of postures that bring movement and heat into the body, warming up the body from the inside out and preparing it for the standing sequence to come. A full body exercise, the movements build strength in the body and mobilise key muscle groups, ensuring that the body is ready for what follows in the class.

The idea of one movement - one breath is often used in Sun Salutations, and so they become a moving meditation, bringing focus to the mind and a flow to our movements. Feel free to extend the number of breaths you take per movement as you need.

Multi-purpose, Sun Salutations can be performed at any speed, matching mood, energy levels and time of day.

In Vinyasa Flow Yoga we tend to use two main versions, A and B, which can be modified endlessly to provide numerous variations.

Whether pushed for time or practicing at home, Sun Salutations can provide a self-contained practice, warming and strengthening the body if performed at pace, or cooling and centring the body if carried out more slowly.

Below we will cover the core Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar A.

Surya Namaskar A

Sun Salutation A consists of just seven poses, a number of which are repeated.

Master the seven poses and you have your own mini yoga practice.

Tadasana - Mountain Pose

Stand in Tadasana with feet together, big toes touching, or hip distance apart if you are modifying.

Root down through the feet, engaging the quadriceps and lift up tall through the crown of the head.

Knit your lower ribs together and ensure a neutral pelvis (not tucked under or sticking out).

Shoulders back and down and strong arms by your sides.

Urdhva Hastasana - Upwards Hands

Inhale - lift your hands up to the sky.

Look towards your thumbs.

Keep the shoulders back and down.

Uttanasana - Forward Fold

Exhale - fold forwards from the hips, bending the knees as much as you need to.

Hands come down to the floor.

Ardha Uttanasana - Halfway Lift/Half Foward Fold

Inhale - Come up to fingertips with a flat back, extend the crown of the head forwards.

Chaturanga Dandasana - Four Limbed Staff Pose

Exhale - step or jump back into a high plank, ensuring shoulders are stacked over wrists, creating a straight line from the crown of the head to the heels.

Either lower down knees and chest to the floor, or lower down in one straight line keeping the elbows in to the sides of the rib cage.

If taking the latter option (full Chaturanga Dandasana), lower until your forearm creates a right angle with your upper arm and no lower.

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana - Upward Facing Dog

Inhale - coming from knees and chest to the floor, root pelvis and legs to the floor, press into your hands and lift the chest into low Cobra, keeping elbows bent.

If coming from Chaturanga, flip over the toes. Keeping the legs and hips lifted and off the floor, extend the elbows and lift and open through the chest into Upward Facing Dog, keeping shoulders down away from the ears.

Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog

Exhale - lift your hips towards the ceiling and flip over the feet to Downward Facing Dog.

Extend through the arms and spread the fingers wide, pressing into the fingers and knuckles and paying particular attention to the knuckles of the thumb and first finger.

Press your chest towards your thighs, externally rotating your upper arms if you can. Feet are hip width apart.

Keep a bend in your knees if necessary in order to lift your hips higher and extend through the spine, pressing heels towards the floor.

Stay here for five breaths.

Ardha Uttanasana - Halfway Lift/Half Forward Fold

Inhale - bend the knees and look forward.

Step or jump feet towards your hands and come to a half way lift, coming to fingertips with a flat back and extending the crown of the head forwards.

Uttanasana - Forward Fold

Exhale - fold forward from the hips, hands come down flat to the floor, bend the knees if you need.

Urdhva Hastasana - Upward Hands

Inhale - press through the feet and rise, sweeping your hands up to the ceiling.

Look towards your thumbs.

Tadasana - Mountain Pose

Exhale - bring the hands into prayer position and lower them through heart centre.

Release the hands down by your sides.


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