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Sun Salutations, the Total Body Yoga Warm Up

Updated: Mar 28, 2020

Take a moment at the start of your yoga practice to fully warm up the body before progressing to deeper, more challenging postures. Sun Salutations, known as Surya Namaskar in Sanskrit, are a series of 12 postures linked together by your breath. Each posture compliments the previous one, expanding and contracting the major muscle groups and building heat throughout the body. When we begin our yoga practice with this series we will limber up the body and prepare it for the other asanas (postures) to follow. One complete Sun Salutation includes two rounds, the first beginning with the right foot (steps 4 & 9 below), then followed by a round on the left. Traditionally, 3-4 rounds will begin a practice. However, working the whole body, sun salutations can also stand alone if you're short on time or inspiration. As you get more familiar with the series, you can work up to 12 rounds.

Below you'll find a breakdown of each posture in the series for the first round on the right side. Or, if you prefer, check out the video to follow along in real time.

To prepare for Surya Namaskar, come to the top of your mat, standing tall with your shoulders back, away from your ear lobes, stacked over your hips, and your hips stacked over your heels. Knees should be soft (not locked) and your weight is distributed evenly in your feet. Take a few deep, even breaths in and out through the nose.

Step 1:

Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, bring your palms together at the center of your chest.

Step 2:

Inhale as you lift the palms overhead. Lengthen the spine from the hips, reaching the shoulders up and back as you lift the arms.

Keep you neck and jaw relaxed.

Step 3:

Exhale while folding forward. Hinge from the hips, and bring your finger tips ( or palms if your flexibility allows) down to the mat in line with your toes. If your fingers don't touch the mat, bend your knees. (This will improve with practice 😊)

Step 4:

Inhale as you step the right leg back (on the next round you'll step your left leg back) lowering the knee and top of the foot to the mat. Drop your hips down and forward. Lengthen through the spine and look upwards.

Step 5:

Retain (hold) your breath, as you curl your right toes under, lifting the right knee and step the left leg back into plank. Shoulders should be directly above your wrists. Hips are down and you're pulling the navel in towards the spine, creating a nice long line down the back of the body.

Step 6:

Exhale as you lower your knees, chest and then forehead to the mat. (Keep your hips up in the air as demonstrated above. This is key to move into the next posture).

Step 7:

Inhale as you lower the tops of the feet to the mat and slide you face, chest and hips forward, lifting the crown of the head up towards the sky. Elongate the spine and muscles along the front of the torso.

Step 8:

Exhale as you curl your toes under, press through the palms and lift your tailbone towards the sky. Reach your heels down towards your mat. You want to create a straight line from your hips to your heels and from your hips to your hands. This is known as Adho Mukha Shvanasana in Sanskrit or Inverted V and downward dog in English.

Step 9:

Inhale your right leg forward placing the right foot on the mat between your hands (and your toes in line with your fingertips, if possible). Lower the left knee and flatten the top of the left foot to the floor. Drop down and forward through the hips as you look up. In round two, you'll be stepping your left foot forward.

Step 10:

Exhale as you step the left leg forward, placing the left foot next to the right. Bring your chest towards your thighs and reach the crown of your head towards your toes, lengthening the spine.

Step 11:

Inhale as you lift the torso up and arch back. Keep your upper arms next to your ears as you move with your breath.

Step 12:

Exhale as you lower your arms to your sides and bring your shoulders back over your hips.

Repeat from the beginning, bringing your left foot back in step 4 and left foot forward in step 9. This completes 1 Sun Salutation.

Let's practice together!

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