There’s nothing like ushering in a new season by shaking off the cobwebs with a few sun salutations. The tradition of practicing sun salutations is meant to honor the sun, our source of life and light. It’s a beautiful way to warm up the body, increase the flow of prana (a.k.a. life force energy), and honor the shift from winter to spring—or any season for that matter! Sun salutations are also known as “Surya Namaskar” which translates to “sun” (surya) and “to bow to” or “to adore” (namaskar).
So what sun salutations should be practiced? Luckily, there are many variations on this ancient spiritual tradition. Today, we give you the sequence used in traditional hatha yoga sun salutations.
1.) Standing with hands at heart center (Tadasana with Anjali Mudra)
- Sun salutations begin and end with hands connected in front of your chest. This is a beautiful reminder that wisdom is located at the heart and only the heart can know truth. Try standing with feet parallel and either hip distance apart or together.
2.) Arms overhead (Hasta Uttanasana)
- Keep your shoulders soft and lengthen through arms and finger tips. Allow your palms to face one another.
3.) Standing forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- Knees can be bent, let your upper body relax and avoid any tension in your neck
4.) Low lunge pose (Ashwa Sanchalanasana)
- This is a great shape to add to sun salutations because it lengthens and contracts the psoas muscles, one of the main hip flexors. The way this muscle structurally connects to the body allows for important flexion and length in the lower back.
- Your back toe can be tucked or untucked (depending on what feels best for your knee) and a blanket can be placed underneath the back knee if there’s any discomfort.
5.) Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Bent knees are ok and it’s not necessary for heels to touch the ground! Finding length along the back of your body is the most important part. A little tip for your hands is to keep your fingers spread wide then press down through the tips of your fingers and base of each knuckle to avoid excess pressure on your wrists.
6.) Eight point pose (Ashtanga Namaskar)
- This shape is one some students tend to struggle with! The trick from downdog is to lower your knees then focus on lowering your chest between your hands with hips kept high. Keep your elbows drawn into your ribcage.
7.) Cobra (Bhujangasana)
- Keep your belly button grounded and elbows drawn in. Using the muscle of your upper back to support you so your palms stay light.
8.) Repeat downward facing dog
9.) Repeat low lunge pose on the same side
10.) Repeat standing forward fold
11.) Arms overhead
12.) Standing with hands at heart center
Repeat with lunges on the other side.
One of the beautiful elements of practicing sun salutations aside from it’s connection to the sun and life itself is the way it allows for movement with breath. A great tip for practicing sun salutations with your breath is inhaling to lengthen or extend, whereas other movements (down or becoming smaller) are on an exhale. Although this is the general rule, there are variations for sun salutations depending on the tradition or preference. Not sure whether you should inhale or exhale? Try experimenting first and see what feels best for yourself!