Surya Namaskar – or for you sanskrit-phobes, Sun Salutations, are the full body dynamic workouts of yoga. If you only do 10 minutes of yoga per day – make it these sequences!
Those of you who have been to a yoga class will already be familiar with these set sequences as they should be included in all but Yin and Restorative styles of yoga in some form and variation.
There is so much importance in these sequences, which originally stem from the Vedic traditions of chanting to the sun each morning.
I would like to point out once again here that Yoga is much more than the physical practice of asana (postures) but it is this side of yoga that people normally start to practice first. And that’s cool! We all started somewhere – the importance is that you made the decision to start.
If you learn these two sequences then you have a good basis for starting a yoga practice and you will be targeting all the larger muscle groups in the body, which is why they are so important to learn.
But before you begin to learn the sequence it is vital to mention that you need to use the BREATH correctly whilst doing this to get the benefits. Breathing in yoga happens in and out of the nostrils with the mouth closed.
Nasal breathing (as opposed to mouth breathing) increases circulation, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, slows the breathing rate and improves overall lung volumes. (Swift, Campbell, McKown 1988 Oronasal obstruction, lung volumes, and arterial oxygenation. Lancet 1, 73-75).
You should aim for the inhale and exhale to be the same length (we often exhale longer than we inhale) so to begin just sit or stand with the spine tall and practice just breathing for 5 inhales (count in your head 1,2,3,4) and 5 exhales.
Then start the sequence with an INHALE (remember the inhale should be at least 4 counts in length, so that will give you time to perform the actions)
I will describe here the postures (without using the sanskrit terms) and scroll down for a video of me demonstrating the postures:
Start with feet together, standing tall, ground into the floor with the feet, relax the shoulders.
1. Inhale, take the arms up above the head, look up to the thumbs.
2. Exhale, fold forward from the hips, place the hands flat on the floor outside of the feet (knees can be bent to start.
3. Inhale, lengthen through the spine, look up, try to straighten the legs.
4. Exhale, bend the knees and jump back into high plank and lower or if strong enough, straight back to low push up (Chattugranga).
5. Inhale, push through the shoulders to raise the back into a prone postition, relax the shoulders.
6. Exhale, push back and up with the hips into an upside down triangle.* Try to bring heels to the floor. HOLD AND BREATH (1 inhale, 1 exhale) 5 times.
7. Inhale, look to the space between the hands and try and jummp the feet into that space, lengthen the spine and look up.
8. Exhale, fold the body over the legs, drawing the ribs onto the thighs.
9. Inhale, push into the floor standing up, reaching arms over head as in (1).
10. Exhale, bring arms down by sides, to start again from (1).
Repeat the whole sequence (from 1-10) 5 times.
Sun Salutation B:
1. Inhale, bend the knees, sweep the arms low to tthe floor, then keeping the knees bent reach the arms up above the head and gaze to the thumbs.
2. Follow Sun Salutation A from 2. up to 6.* then:
7. Inhale, pivot the left foor inwards and lower the heel to the floor (mat), stepping the right foot up to the space in between the hands. Push into the floor with the feet and raise the body and arms up, gaze goes to the thumbs.
8. Exhale, lower back down and release the right leg so you are in ahigh plank. Lower to the low plank
9. Inhale and push shoulders up to raise the back into a prone postition, relax the shoulders.
10. Exhale, push back and up with the hips into an upside down triangle
11. Inhale, pivot the right foot inwards and lower the heel to the floor (mat), stepping the left foot up to the space in between the hands. Push into the floor with the feet and raise the body and arms up, gaze goes to the thumbs
12. Exhale, lower back down and release the left leg back so you are in a high plank. Lower to the low plank
13. Inhale and push shoulders up to raise the back into a prone postition, relax the shoulders.
14. Exhale, push back and up with the hips into an upside down triangle. Try to bring heels to the floor. HOLD AND BREATH (1 inhale, 1 exhale) 5 times.
15. Inhale, look to the space between the hands and try and jump the feet into that space, lengthen the spine and look up.
16. Exhale, fold the body over the legs, drawing the ribs onto the thighs.
17. Inhale, bend the knees, reaching arms over head as in (1)
18. Exhale, bring arms down by sides, straighten the legs to stand tall and to start again from (1).
If all that seems confusing I (will) be putting together a basic video of me demonstrating the sequences with some annotations, but I cannot stress enough that you find a class and go and be instructed under an experienced yoga teacher.
I will be covering classes in Cheltenham, UK, throughout December and January – so watch this space (blog) for details coming soon!
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