Sun Salutation – 12 poses for healthy living

By: Lorena Saavedra Smith, ERYT. RP.

Based on multiple studies about yoga philosophy Sūryanamaskāra sequence may have developed from an ancient sunrise practice honoring Surya as the source of energy and light for the world. This sequence of 12 poses in modern times known as Sun Salutation has been practiced by yoga practitioners prior to the early 20th century as a warm up routine.

Now days, yoga students around the world learn some version of this practice early in their studies, some versions includes mantras accompanying the movement some don’t. While there is no definitively “right” way to do this practice the sun salutation sequence allows to awakens the energy of the sun that normally lies dormant at the navel center.

The Benefits of Surya Namaskara

Being one of the most complete practices of hatha yoga. The sun salutation sequence allows us to reach deep into our solar plexus awaken and circulate the sun’s healing power to restore a radiant body and cultivate a clear, calm, and tranquil mind, builds heat and improves circulation, increases stamina and overall body strength, lengthens, releases, improves balance and neurological integration between the two sides of the body, and tones the spinal column.

The Contraindications

Those with preexisting spinal problems such as spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis should be cautious in the backward-bending movements. Those with disk degeneration may have difficulty in the forward-bending movements and with lateral flexion and rotation. For those with weakness in the wrists and carpal tunnel syndrome need to be cautious in the movements that require wrist flexion.

The Modifications

A small wedge placed underneath the base of the wrist in the downward-facing dog pose, the four-limbed stick pose, and the upward-facing dog pose can help to reduce strain to the joint.

If you are new into the practice, start with modifications and beginners variations, wait for 24-hour to determine whether these are healthy movements to include in your daily overall wellness and fitness routine.

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The practice

Generally involves a sequence of twelve poses like, standing pose, lifting the arms, bending to touch the earth, a lunge, the V- shaped asana commonly known as downward facing dog, a prone pose which flows into an upward facing lift of the chest, followed by a return to downward dog, another lunge, and once again touching the earth in a forward bend, then lifting the arms, and returning to the initial standing pose. Through each cycle of the series, you move backward, then forward. Below is an example of the classical Sun Salutation practice.

  1. Namaste

Step your feet under your hip joints and press them evenly into the floor. Press the hands together, draw the shoulder blades down, broaden the collar bones, and lift up through the crown of the head.

Overhead Stretch

Inhale, sweep the arms out to the side and overhead. Press down through the feet, lift the heart, and look up between the hands as you draw the shoulder blades down.

  1. Standing Forward Bend

Exhale, sweep the arms out to the side, bend the knees, and fold forward from the hip joints. Lift the sit bones as you roll the thighs in and draw back the upper groin and outer hip.

  1. Lunge

Inhale, step the right foot back. Keep the left knee square over the left ankle as you lift the heart, moving the spine toward the front of the body. Draw the thighs away from each other. Lift through the crown of the head, broaden the collar bones, draw the chin in slightly. (Alternately, press the left thigh down and away from the pelvis with the hands, or stretch the arms overhead.)

  1. Plank Pose

Exhale, turn the right toes under and step the left foot back, straightening the legs. (Alternately, be on your knees.) Keep the lower belly engaged and the pelvis in line with the chest. Inhale.

  1. Eight-Point Pose / variation of Chaturanga

Exhale, bend the elbows, and lower the chest to the floor between the hands. Keep the pelvis off the floor and draw the shoulder blades down.

  1. Cobra Pose

Inhale, press the hands into the floor, glide forward, and then lift the chest. Press the pelvis into the floor. Draw the shoulder blades down and lift from the back, drawing the legs down into the floor and out of the pelvis. Lengthen the back of the neck and draw the crown of the head and the toes away from each other.

  1. Downward-Facing Dog

Exhale, lower the chest. Press through the shoulders up onto the hands and knees. Lift the sit bones to bring the pelvis up and back, and straighten the legs. Bend the knees or lift the heels if necessary to keep the spine neutral. Keep your weight equally distributed between the hands and the feet. Hold for a couple of breaths.

  1. Lunge

Inhale, step the right foot forward between the hands. Keep the right knee square over the ankle. Draw the thighs away from each other, lower the pelvis, and lift through the crown of the head. Broaden the collar bones, and draw the chin in slightly. (Alternately, stretch the arms overhead.)

  1. Standing Forward Bend

Exhale, lift the pelvis, and step the left foot forward. Lift the sit bones, roll the thighs in, and draw back the upper groin.

  1. Overhead Stretch

Inhale, bend the knees and unfold from the hip joints to standing position, sweeping the arms out to the side and overhead.

  1. Namaste

Exhale the arms out to the side. Press the palms together and the feet into the floor. Lengthen up through the crown of the head.

Find Lorena’s classes, yoga teacher training and yoga retreats here.

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