Sun Salutations are a series of yoga poses, or Asanas, performed in a continuous flowing sequence with the intention to improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles. It is also highly beneficial at improving your level and ease in which you can perform these poses, before moving on to more advanced ones.
If you are a beginner to Yoga and mastering some of the starting poses, then this Sun Salutation is designed to give you a routine that you can practice daily. Before you know it you’ll be moving into them without even thinking about it, all the while concentrating on your form and breathing techniques.
Sun Salutations are also a workout for the whole body. I find the best time to carry them out is in the morning, for a number of reasons. Its a fantastic way to wake body and mind together, and it avoids the shock of more intense workouts at that time of the day! After i have completed the Sun Salutation I then meditate for 15 minutes and i’m ready to face whatever the day throws at me.
It’s completely up to you when you carry out the Sun Salutation whatever works best for you. However, do try to practice daily so you master the poses more and begin to feel more confident in your abilities.
Carrying out the Asanas correctly also means that you are getting a more complete workout.
The following is a list of 14 poses for you to flow between and instructions on how to do them.
1) Mountain Pose – Tadasana
The Mountain Pose improves posture and firms both the buttocks and abdomen. This position is the foundation for all of the standing postures.
Description: Begin by standing with feet together, heels and toes touching. While maintaining a straight back, hold your arms gently to your sides and turn your palms outward. Lift your toes, spreading them out and placing them back down so you create a wide base. Sway, side to side, until you place your weight evenly on all four corners of your feet. The muscles in your knees and thighs should be contracted, rolling inward to create a widening of the sit bones, and your abdominal muscles should be tightened. Make sure that your shoulders are parallel to your pelvis, lengthen your neck so your crown extends towards the ceiling and your shoulder blades slide down your back. Hold for 30 seconds and relax.
Benefits: The mountain pose is the foundation of all standing poses and once mastered will allow your to progress onwards. It improves your posture and firms the buttocks, thighs and abdomen.
Common postural errors: Wrong alignment or ankles banging against each other. Tips: Practice against a wall first so that you learn how to form a true, straight line. If your ankles are hitting against one another, widen your feet slightly and find your centre of balance again.
2) Upward Salute – Urdhva Hastasana
Description: Begin in the Mountain Pose (above), inhale and swap your arms out in front of you to the height of your shoulders. Slowly raise them past your ears up towards the ceiling, palms pressed together. Spread your shoulder blades and tilt your chin backwards so you gaze at your palms, stretched towards the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, exhale and bring your hands back down to your sides, dropping your head back down to its normal level and move to the Standing Forward Bend below.
Benefits: The Upward Salute stretches and firms the back and shoulders, and aids digestion.
Common postural errors: Jutting out your rib cage. Tips: Move your armpits down when lifting your hands towards the ceiling, rather than lifting with your chest.
3) Standing Forward Bend – Uttanasana
Description: From the Upward Salute, exhale and bend forward from your hips, sweeping your arms to the sides, with your palms facing the floor. While lowering your torso, keep your back flat and tuck in your abdominal muscles to lengthen your spine. Keep folding your torso forwards until they are parallel to your legs (Or as close as you can get). Grasp the back of your ankles and contract your thighs to keep your knees as straight as possible. With each exhalation, draw your sit bones upwards, elongating your spine and lengthening the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute before moving onto Standing Half Forward Bend.
Benefits: This pose improves your posture, strengthens your spine and thighs, while also stretching your hamstrings, calves and hips.
Common postural errors: Rolling the spine. Tips: If you find this difficult, then bend your knees as you bring your torso forward, and then straighten on each exhale afterwards.
4) Standing Half Forward Bend – Ardha Uttanasana
Description: From the Standing Forward Bend, place your hands by your feet, inhale and lift your head and upper torso away from your legs, until your back and elbows are straight. Lift your chest and elongate your spine into an arch, lengthening your neck so that you are looking straight forward. Hold for 10 – 30 seconds before moving slowly back to mountain pose.
Benefits: This pose strengthens the spine and posterior, while stretching your hamstrings, calves and hips.
Common postural errors: Compressing the neck while looking forwards. Tips: Lengthen your neck forward while arching your back rather than pulling it back towards your body.
5) Low Lunge Pose – Anjeneyasana
Description: Step your right foot forwards, aligning your right knee over your heel. Then lower your left knee to the floor, making sure you keep your right knee steady and in the same place. Slide your left foot back along the floor until you can feel a comfortable stretch in your thigh and groin, resting the top of your left foot against the floor. Lift your torso upright while inhaling, sweeping your arms up by your sides until they point at the ceiling. Push your tailbone down toward the floor and lift your pubis up. Tilt your head and gaze upward while reaching toward the ceiling, and hold for 1 minute before moving into the plank pose.
Benefits: The low lunge pose tones hips, arms and shoulders while stretching knees tendons and ligaments.
Common postural errors: The knee leans to one side rather than being straight. Tips: If your lowered knee is uncomfortable, place a folded blanket underneath it.
6) The Plank Pose – Kumbhakasana
Description: Begin by kneeling with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders. Stretch your hands slightly infant of your shoulders, with your fingertips facing forward and hands shoulder width apart. Slowly step your feet back, one at a time, extending your legs behind you so your feet are square, legs long and straights and heels pointed at the ceiling. On inhalation, look just ahead of your palms so that your neck is aligned with the spine. Hold your abdominal muscles in to keep posture, your body must form a straight line from heels to hand. Hold for 30 seconds move into the four-limbed staff pose.
Benefits: The Plank Pose strengthens and tones your arms, wrists and abdominals.
Common postural errors: Not forming a straight line, from head to toes. Tips: Really focus on holding in your abs when holding this pose, it will cause you to form a straight line. Try to practice by a mirror initially so you can see when a straight line has been achieved.
7) Four-Limbed Staff Pose – Chaturanga Dandasana
Description: From the Plank pose, open your chest and broaden your shoulder blades, while tucking in your tailbone. While exhaling, lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to your spine. Tuck in your tailbone and abdominals, maintaining a straight line from shoulders to heels. Keeping your elbows tucked in, lift your head and gaze forward, holding for 10-30 seconds before moving into upward facing dog.
Benefits: Tones arms and abdominal muscles while also strengthening the wrists.
Common postural errors: Sagging the hips or raising the buttocks. Tips: Squeeze in your buttocks muscles and draw in your abdominals to keep a straight line and aid with stability.
8) Upward Facing Dog – Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Description: From the four-limbed staff pose, bend your elbows and place your hands directly beneath the, flat to the floor on either side of you. Separate your legs slightly, extending your toes backwards so the tops of your feet press against the floor. Inhale and push against the floor with your hands and tops of your feet, lifting your torso and hips from the floor. Contract your thighs and tailbone toward your pubis. Continue lifting until your arms are fully extended, creating an arch in your back. Push your shoulders down and lengthen your neck, gazing slightly upwards. Hold for 15-30 seconds and exhale as you lower your self back to a prone position.
Benefits: The Upward Facing Dog Pose improves your posture and strengthens your spine, arms and wrist.
Common postural errors: Raising the shoulders or dropping the thighs to the floor. Tips: Make sure your arms and legs are fully elongated to create the full extension, and drop your shoulders while lengthening your neck upwards.
9) Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana
Description: From Upward Facing Dog, kneel on your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips. Stretch your hands out slightly in front of your shoulders with your fingertips facing forward and hands should-width apart. Exhale and press against the floor keeping your elbows straight. Lift your sit bones up toward the ceiling and your knees away from the floor, lengthening your hips away from your ribs and elongating your spine. Press your heels against the floor, contract your thighs and try straightening your knees. Turn your thighs slightly inward and broaden your chest and shoulders. You should position your head in between your arms. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Benefits: The Downward Facing Dog Pose strengthens your arms and legs, while stretching shoulders, calves and hamstrings.
Common postural errors: Sinking shoulders down into spine. Tips: Focus on contracting your thighs and lengthening spine to stop shoulders from sinking.
Now you will work back through poses you have already done, before finally finishing back in the Mountain Pose.
10) Low Lunge – Anjeneyasana (See Above, Do Opposite Leg)
11) Standing Half Forward Bend – Ardha Uttanasana (See Above)
12) Standing Forward Bend – Uttanasana (See Above)
13) Upward Salute – Urdhva Hastasana (See Above)
14) Mountain Pose – Tadasana (See Above)