Rise and shine (as you salute the sun)

Featured image for sun salutation pose on YogisClub.com with display of sunrise over ocean water with orange, yellow and water blue colors

Starting the day on a positive pose with Sun Salutation, also known as Surya Namaskar

Sun salutation pose, is an ancient asana sequence consisting of twelve yoga postures (four of which are repeated with each set so truly eight different yoga postures if you’re counting as unique asanas).  Sun salutation is translated from the two Sanskrit words, “Surya” (the sun, revered by some yogis as the physical and spiritual heart of our world) and “Namaskar” (to bow and/or to adore).  Surya Namaskar provides numerous amounts of health benefits for the entire human body and mind, from the bottom of our feet to the top of our head.  Learn Sun Salutation pose below and begin to practice it as regularly as possible so you can benefit from the healing and rejuvenation of this ancient, dynamic asana sequence.

Step-by-step instructions for Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)

1. Stand up, with your feet a little less than hip-width distance, and center yourself as you gently close your eyes and begin to focus on (and slow down/calm) your breath

2. Next, bring your hands together in prayer at the center of your chest (i.e. in Namaskar) and take a conscious inhale in through your nose then exhale with the same consciousness out of your mouth then inhale in through your nose while you raise both your arms up to the heavens (i.e. sky or ceiling) with palms facing up and gently tilt your head back while you arch your chest and mindfully bend your back up to follow your arms

3. Then exhale out of your mouth as you begin to bend forward from your lower spine while bringing your arms with you towards the floor and, place your hands on the floor in front of you with palms facing the floor

4. Next, mindfully step your LEFT foot back and rest your left knee on the floor as you bend your RIGHT knee (with right thigh parallel to the floor) and tilt your head back, looking up as you inhale and fill up your lungs

5. HOLD YOUR BREATH, come up on your left knee and step your right foot back to meet your left foot with both feet on the floor as you bend your upper body forward, lift your hips up and roll your weight on your toes (i.e. Downward Facing Dog pose)

6. Then begin to breathe out through your mouth as you bring your entire body to the floor, with your knees touching first followed by your chest

7. Place your hands by the side of your chest, with palms facing the floor and, using your back strength, begin to lift your upper body up and back as you INHALE through your nose (filling up your lungs completely, arching your chest open) and look up towards the sky (i.e. Cobra pose)

8.  HOLD YOUR BREATH and bring your body back up to Downward Facing Dog Pose with both feet on the floor, both palms on the floor, your body body at an angle towards the floor and your hips lifting up

9. STILL HOLDING YOUR BREATH, walk your LEFT foot forward, place your RIGHT knee on the floor and bend your left knee forward (with left thigh parallel to the floor) as you look up towards the sky

10. Step your RIGHT foot forward and begin to exhale out of your mouth as you bring your feet in one line with your back flat and straight towards the floor and your hands on the floor with palms facing down

11.  Next, INHALE through your nose as you lift your body and arms up towards the sky, arching your chest and slightly bending your back and head backwards with your arms going back and your palms facing the sky again

12. Begin to EXHALE through your mouth as you bring your head and body forward to stand straight with your arms following as you bring your hands together in prayer with your palms touching

13. You can proceed to next set immediately by following Steps 1-12 or you can leave your hands in prayer for a few moments prior to beginning the next set and, once you are done with your last set, gently let your hands down by the side of your body and take a few moments in stillness to feel the effects from the sequence

Implementing Sun Salutations into your yoga practice

Traditionally, Sun Salutations are practiced in the beginning, morning part of the day to greet the sun as you rise from your rest but, Surya Namaskar is easy enough to be practiced truly any part of the day as many times throughout the day as you would like to.  Plus, Sun Salutation pose serves as an excellent warm-up for any yoga practice (or fitness practice for that matter) so it’s a great way to prepare your body and mind at the beginning of any series of yoga asanas (or sets of exercises).  And, sun salutations are typically done in sets of 3-5 with the first few sets usually done in a slower speed with the last 1-2 sets performed a little faster in speed.  For maximum results, keep your eyes closed throughout the series and try as best as you can to follow the instructions for when to breathe (i.e. inhale and exhale) and when to hold your breath so that you can synchronize your breath with the movements of your body.  Whether you’re in a class at a local studio, on a yoga retreat or just doing yoga in the comfort of your own home, practice as you please and as often as possible.  Namaste.

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