Sun Salutation

 

Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation, is a series of postures that warms, strengthens and aligns the entire body. The movements are linked to the breath and performed in a continuous manner—one pose coming after another, with no pause in between. This is, in many ways, the original vinyasa flow.

This particular Sun Salutation sequence (often called the C series) is considered the classic one, though there are many variations on the theme. You can alter this particular Sun Salutation by playing with its pace. If you move through the sequence rapidly (by transitioning into the next pose each time you inhale or exhale), you’ll warm up fairly quickly. Start with 5 or 6 repetitions and gradually build to 12 or more. You can do it at the beginning of your practice or in between standing poses.

You can also make the sequence a practice in itself—try moving slowly and deliberately as you go from pose to pose, and you’ll feel how the sequence becomes a sort of moving meditation. As you move this way, centre your awareness at some point in your body (such as your third eye or your heart) and challenge yourself to keep focusing there for the duration of the practice.

Set your intention and move accordingly. The sequence can be a self-contained mini-practice when you’re short on time, or a nice warm-up for a longer session.

Before You Begin

Focus. Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your palms pressed together in Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal). Focus for a few minutes on the inner sun at your heart, which is the microcosmic equivalent of the outer sun at the heart of our solar system. Your inner sun represents the light of consciousness, without which nothing would exist—just as our physical world wouldn’t exist without the sun. This inner sun is often compared to the embodied Self, the jivatman, or “liberated being”. You might try dedicating your practice to this light.

Warm up. If Sun Salutations are your warm-up for a general practice, start slowly and gradually build heat. If Sun Salutations are your entire practice, do a 2- to 5-minute Downward Dog as a warm-up.

After You Finish

Rest deeply. End by devoting at least 20 to 25 per cent of your total practice time to Savasana (Corpse Pose).

1 Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Stand with your feet slightly apart and parallel to each other. Stretch your arms down alongside your torso (but not rigidly), palms forward, shoulders released.

2 Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)

Inhale and sweep your arms overhead in wide arcs. If your shoulders are tight, keep your hands apart and gaze straight ahead. Otherwise, bring your palms together, drop your head back and gaze up at your thumbs.

3 Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Exhaling, release your arms in wide arcs as you fold forward. Bend your knees if you feel pressure on your lower back; support your hands on blocks if they don’t reach the floor. Release your neck so that your head hangs heavily from your upper spine.

4 Ardha Uttanasana (Half Standing Forward Bend)

Inhale and push your fingertips down into the floor, straighten your elbows and lift your front torso away from your thighs. Lengthen the front of your torso as you arch evenly along the entire length of your spine.

5 Lunge Pose

Exhale and step your right foot back into a lunge. Centre your left knee over the heel so that your shin is perpendicular to the floor, and bring your left thigh parallel to the floor. Firm your tailbone against your pelvis and press your right thigh up against this resistance. Inhale, reach back through your right heel. Lengthen the torso along the left thigh. Look forward without strain.

6 Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Exhale and step your left foot back to Down Dog. Spread your palms and soles. Press the front of your thighs back as you press your inner hands firmly against the floor. Imagine that your torso is being stretched like a rubber band between the arms and legs.

7 Plank Pose

Inhale and bring your torso forward until your shoulders are over your wrists. Your arms will be perpendicular to the floor. Try not to let your upper back collapse between the shoulderblades: press your outer arms inward, and then—against this resistance—spread your shoulderblades apart. Firm your tailbone against your pelvis and press your thighs up.

8 Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

Exhale as you bend your elbows and lower down to Chaturanga with your torso and legs parallel to the floor. Keep your shoulders lifted up, away from the floor, and drawn down, away from your ears. Lift the thighs away from the floor, lengthen your tailbone toward your heels and draw the lower ribs away from the floor to avoid collapsing your lower back. Look down at the floor or slightly forward. If you can’t maintain your alignment, place your knees on the floor until you have developed more strength.

9 Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)

Inhale, straighten your arms and sweep your chest forward into Up Dog. Keep your legs active, firm your tailbone toward your heels and press your front thighs upward. Draw your shoulders away from your ears. Look straight ahead or slightly upward.

10 Adho Mukha Svanasana

Exhale back to Down Dog. To finish the Sun Salutation, step the right foot forward into a Lunge; then inhale into Ardha Uttanasana and exhale into Uttanasana. Inhale into Urdhva Hastasana and exhale to Tadasana. Observe your body and breath.