Sun Salutation A, Salute to the Sun, or Surya Namaskara is a series of poses that build the base of most Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Power Yoga classes. Each pose is linked with your breath: Inhale and extend, exhale to bend.
These fundamental poses will help you to establish the foundation of your yoga practice. They warm you up and prepare you for deeper postures.
This sequence will also help you out if you ever want to practice at home, as one of the biggest obstacles to doing yoga on your own is figuring out what to do when you first get on your mat.
Tadasana – Mountain Pose
Mountain pose is good for improving your posture, it strengthens the ankles, knees and thighs and firms the core and buttocks.
Stand with your feet a little less than hip-width apart. Your knees should be directly over your ankles, and the hips over the knees. Lift the top of your sternum towards the ceiling and widen your collarbones. Your arms relax beside your torso, palms facing forward. Draw your shoulders down and back. Balance your head directly over the center of your pelvis with your chin parallel to the floor.
Urdhva Hastasana – Upward Salute
Upward Salute stretches the belly, the shoulders, and the armpits. It can improve digestion and relieve mild anxiety.
From Mountain Pose, with an inhale, sweep your arms over the head. You can bring your palms together or parallel to each other. Relax your shoulders down. If comfortable you can slightly gaze at your thumbs without compressing your neck.
Uttanasana – Forward Fold
Forward Fold stretches the hamstrings and lengthens the spinal column and back muscles. It can stimulate the digestive, nervous and endocrine systems.
From Upward Salute, with an exhale, bend the knees slightly and hinge forward at the hips with a flat back. Bend the knees enough to bring your palms on the floor (or use blocks). Relax the head and neck down and feel the stretch in your spine. Your pelvis should be above your ankles.
Ardha Uttanasana – Flat back or Half Forward Fold
Flat Back lengthens your spine, builds a strong core and strengthens the lower back.
From Forward Fold reach your hips towards the back and the crown of the head towards the front of the room. Place your palms on your chins or bring the tips of your fingers on the floor to support the lift in your chest.
Low Lunge stretches the groins and opens the hips.
From Forward Fold, with an inhale, step your right foot back, with the ball of your foot on the floor. Reach your right (back) heel back that your front knee forms a right angle. Adjust your stance if necessary. Let your thigh sink towards the floor. Come to your fingertips and reach your heart forward. If it feels ok with your neck you can look up, otherwise look down at the floor or straight ahead.
Phalakasana – Plank Pose
Plank pose strengthens the upper body and the core. It lengthens and builds the lower back muscles.
From Low Lunge, ground both hands down and step the left foot back to meet the right and come into a high push-up position. Spread your fingers wide and press into the inside parts of the palms (between thumbs and index finger). Tuck the tailbone under, press into the heels and reach the crown of the head forward that your legs, hips, torso, and neck form a straight line.
Chaturanga – Four limbed staff pose
Chaturanga is a challenging pose that strengthens the upper body and the core.
From Plank Pose, exhale while shifting forward and lowering into Chaturanga. In Chaturanga, your shoulders should not sink below your elbows and your elbows should form a right angle. You can place blocks behind your forearms to make sure you shift forward enough. Make sure that your elbows are close to your torso and that your core is engaged all the time.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – Upward Facing Dog
Upward facing dog strengthens the whole body and opens the chest. It can stimulate the kidneys and the nervous system.
From Chaturanga or Knees-Chest-Chin Pose, inhale, and press into your palms and slide the chest forward. Make sure to relax your shoulders down and back. You tights should not touch the mat.
Cobra Pose is a great variation of Up Dog. For Cobra your thighs are on the mat and your arms can be bend. Make sure that your elbows stay close to your body and that you relax the shoulders down.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana – Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog deeply stretches the shoulders, opens the chest and builds strength in the upper body. It also stretches the legs and hamstrings. It can rejuvenate the body and stimulate the nervous system.
From Upward Facing Dog or Cobra, tuck your toes under, press into your hands and lift the hips towards the ceiling. Your fingers should be widespread and all four corners of your hands should root down. Keep a slight bend in your knees and lift your sitting bones high. Stretch your heels towards the floor while straightening your knees without blocking them. Your heels don’t have to touch the floor – this will come with time! Firmly press into your hands and reach your chest towards the mat (think Upward dog in the chest).
From Downward facing dog step (or hop) to the top of your mat. Inhale, come to a flat back, exhale Forward Fold.
With your next inhale, reach your arm up overhead (Upward Salute) and exhale come back to your Mountain Pose.