Have you noticed most yoga classes start the session with a yoga practice known as The Sun Salutation?
This is a beautiful ancient practice which traditionally the ancients practiced at the break of dawn to greet the sun and welcome in a new day. Coupled with this, ancient yogis saw this practice as a way to harness and draw in the sun’s energy into your body – thus increasing your sense of energy and vitality levels.
Known also by its Sanskrit name of Surya Namaskar, or Salute to the Sun, the Sun Salutation consists of a series of 12 poses which forms a graceful and energizing sequence and is often included as part of the warm-up in your yoga class.
There are many benefits gained from practicing the Sun Salutation.
Seven Benefits of Practicing Surya Namaskar
1. Improves flexibility of the spine as it allows the body to stretch forwards and backwards.
2. Increase blood circulation.
3. Puts you in tune with your breath. If you find your breath becoming irregular, adapt the practice so your breath becomes steady and rhythmical.
4. Reconnects and energizes your solar plexus – your fire energy center.
5. Stretches and strengthens the whole body.
6. The rhythmical nature of the sequence helps to center, ground and realign your energy.
7. You reconnect with your innate sense of inner power and inner strength.
How To Do The Sun Salutation
When you first practice the Sun Salutation, it can feel quite strange and complicated. As a yoga teacher, I often see students struggle with their co-ordination and strength to complete a cycle. However, once you get the hang-off the sequence, this yoga sequence is a most rewarding experience.
Ideally, it is best to learn this sequence from a qualified yoga teacher. She will be able to guide you through the sequence and ensure your technique is correct.
Different schools and styles of yoga have their own variation of the Sun Salutation. However, most styles follow the similar structure below:
Start in the Mountain Pose, then flow into Prayer pose, progress into a standing backward bend, followed by a head to knee forward bend, next you flow into a lunge pose, then a plank pose followed by cobra or downward dog pose, the sequence is completed by coming back into a lunge pose, forward bend and finally coming to stand back in the Mountain Pose. The sequence is then repeated leading with the opposite leg.
Ideally, as your strength and confidence increases, aim to complete at least 3 – 7 rounds (a round consists of leading with first one leg, then the other leg)
Variations: Seated Sun Salutation/Standing with a Chair
Although traditionally done as a standing sequence, the Sun Salutation can easily be adapted if you suffer from back pain or have trouble standing up. You can practice it seated on a chair, (or the side of your bed) or standing up using a chair for support.
I teach a group of elders yoga, and they find the seated Salute to the Sun practice a great way to limber up and loosen stiff joints and tired body parts.
Nischala Joy Devi, in her book “The Healing Power of Yoga” (Three Rivers Press, 2000) offers you detailed instructions in how to practice a seated version of the Sun Salutation as well as a standing version with a chair. Both these variations are easy to follow and adapt to your particular needs.
As you can see this practice offers you a complete yoga exercise sequence. You can practice a seated Sun Salutation, a standing version with a chair or standing up without any props. You can also vary the speed to make it more energetic and aerobic or slow the pace right down and use it as a calming wind-down practice before going to bed.
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