By Meghan Meade
Many of us worship the sun or at least appreciate getting some natural vitamin D (with sunscreen!). If you spent a lot of time indoors then being out in the sun can help you feel energized and fresh. And the same goes for yoga, too, as the poses are meant to warm up the body and keep your energy moving.
Beyond the physical benefits of strengthening and toning the body, yoga postures help to relieve mental and emotional distress and release built-up energy. The sun salutations in particular can help you get into a flow.
To do the sun salutation sequence, you need to flex the spine forward and backward and breath with your movement so every inhale is matched to a lengthening motion and every exhale is matched to a sinking motion.
There are two main forms of this series, Sun Salutations A and Sun Salutations B. We’re going to focus solely on Sun Salutations A, or ‘Sun A’ for short.
Tips for Sun A:
1. Downward Facing Dog Pose. A typical Sun A series will begin in downward facing dog. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale begin to bend your knees, look forward between your hands and jump or step to the front of the mat by bending your knees, keeping your fingers spread on the floor and bringing more weight to the shoulders and hands.
2. Flat Back. Now that you’re at the front on the mat in a forward bend, take a deep breath in and lift up so your back is flat in a right angle. Make sure your big toes are touching, your gaze is down, and your shoulder blades are pressing together. Feel free to bend your knees if your hamstrings are tight.
3. Fold Forward. On your next exhale, release your back and shoulder muscles and fold forward. Let the head and hands just hang loosely without any tension. On the next inhale, rise up to standing and bring your hands over the head, reaching for the ceiling.
4. Hands to Heart. On the next exhale, press the palms together and lower them to right in front of the chest as you draw the stomach in and up. On the next inhale, reach your palms (still pressed together) high, and let your gaze follow the palms and. If you like, you can bend your back slightly towards the ceiling, but make sure to keep it tall and stretched out.
5. Swan Dive. On the next exhale, swan dive forward and let the arms go to either side as you fold forward from your hips. Make sure to keep a straight spine and lead with the chest as you lower down. Once you pass through the halfway point between standing and fully folding forward, you can roll the spine, drawing the chest towards the thighs. If needed, you can skip this part and just keep your palms at your chest.
6. Back to Flat Back. Inhale and return to your flat back. As you exhale, fold and plant the palms on either side of your feet. You may need to bend the knees in order to keep the palms flat on the floor, and that’s okay too.
7. Plank Pose. Take an inhale and step the feet backwards one at a time to high plank. Make sure your shoulders are stacked over your wrists, your core is engaged and your heels are reaching towards the back of the room.
8. Push Up. On the exhale, bend at the elbows and lower to your low plank. You can drop the knees or keep them raised, but whatever you do, make sure that the hands stay shoulder-width distance apart, the fingers pointed forward and the elbows drawn back in the direction of your heels as you lower to the point that the chest rests on the upper arms (the arms basically become a shelf here).
9. Upward Facing Dog. From here, draw a breath in as you press into the palms, flip the feet over so that the tops of the feet are flat on the mat, and press the body up, straightening the arms. This is your upward facing dog position. You can keep your knees on the mat if that feels more comfortable, but eventually work towards lifting them to hover off the mat. Try not to sink into the shoulders and be sure to press down through the palms, lifting up and out through the shoulders.
10. Downward Facing Dog. On the next exhale, press into the palms and tops of the feet, engage the core and send the hips up and back to downward facing dog. Think of your spine as being like a wave in this last movement- round the spine and roll through each vertebra as you flow from up dog to down dog. At this point, you’re back at your home base.
You’ve completed your sun salutation!!
Last reviewed May 2018 by Tara Cousineau, PhD.