Start Your Morning Off Right With the Sun Salutation
Surya Namaskar – Sun Salutation
Aah, the sun, it gives life to so many things.
Surya Namaskar is the Sanskrit term for Sun Salutation. Surya meaning ‘sun’ and Namaskar meaning ‘salutation’. When we perform a Sun Salutation, we are saluting the sun and giving thanks to its wonderful energy source. A Surya Namaskar is a series of 12 individual yoga poses put together to form a cycle. There are a few different variations of the series but I will be discussing the traditional one found in most yoga practices.
A Sun Salutation is best practiced at sunrise but can be done at any time of the day. I like to perform this series in the early morning, outside, barefoot (for grounding) and facing the sun. I try to not perform this series at night because of the ‘awakening’ effect it has on the body and the absence of the sun. There is a Moon Salutation that is great for being performed at night that I will be writing about in a future article.
- Brings an invigorating start to the day
- Improves flexibility
- Firms and tones the body
- Brings a youthful suppleness to the spine
- Helps wake the body and get the blood flowing
- Energy from the sun when performed outside
These are only a few of the great benefits that this series provides. Each of the 12 yoga poses incorporated in the series give their own benefits to the body. Such as, improving digestion, strengthening the core, improving posture, stimulating circulation, loosening tight muscles etc.
So, when put together in the series, you are getting numerous benefits.
Completion through a flow of all 12 poses completes 1 cycle. You will want to start with 2 cycles to keep the body balanced. In yoga, you always want to keep the body balanced. For example, if you stretch your right leg in a certain pose then you will want to make sure and stretch the left leg, hence the balance. Once you are good and comfortable with the 2 cycles then gradually increase by 2 cycles until you are performing a full 12 cycles.
Here is a list of all the individual poses:
- Prayer Pose- keeping your feet together and your weight balanced on both feet. Expand your chest and relax your shoulders. Breathe in and lift both your arms up from the sides and as you exhale, bring your palms together in front of your chest.
- Raised Arms Pose- Breathe in and lift the arms up and back. Keep your upper arms close to your ears. You are trying to stretch the whole body up from your feet to the tips of your fingers.
- Forward Fold- Breathe out and bend forward from the waist. As you exhale completely, bring your hands down to the floor beside the feet. If you can get that deep in to the stretch, place your hands as low on your legs as possible. You can also bend your knees enough to allow you to get your hands on the floor.
- Lunge- Breathe in and push your right leg back with your knee to the floor and look up. Make sure your left foot is right in between your hands.
- Plank Pose- Breathe in and take the left leg back and position your body in to straight line.
- Chaturanga or Caterpillar- While exhaling, go in to a low plank with elbows into your ribs or for the caterpillar you can drop your knees and chest to the floor to make it easier.
- Cobra Pose- Slide forward and raise your chest up while inhaling.
- Downward Dog- Exhaling, lift your hips and tailbone in to an inverted V.
- Lunge- Breathe in and bring your right foot forward in between your hands, pressing your hips down and look up.
- Forward Fold- Breathe out and bring your left foot forward keeping your hands on the floor like in the third pose.
- Raised Arms Pose- Breath in while rolling your spine up and taking your hands above your head bending backwards slightly.
- Prayer Pose- Exhale while straightening your body and bring your arms back in to prayer pose. Be mindful of any sensations in your body and how you feel.
There are modifications to each individual pose, so do not feel intimidated. We are all different and our bodies all perform differently, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t perform all the poses as they are shown. Progress towards perfecting the pose but know your physical limitations. The key in yoga is to push yourself to where you feel the stretch, but not to the point of exertion or injury.
If you’re looking for some guided yoga videos or personalized lessons, I highly recommend YogaDoctors.tv