Sun salutations have amazing benefits both mentally and physically and stretch nearly every muscle in your body. So let’s dive into the frequently asked questions and a “how-to” for sun salutation.
Table of contents
- What Is A Sun Salutation?
- Benefits Of Incorporating Sun Salutations Into Your Morning
- Who Should Practice A Sun Salutation?
- Where Should You Do A Sun Salutation?
- When Is The Best Time To Do A Sun Salutation?
- How To Do A Sun Salutation?
- 1. Start in Mountain Pose
- 3. Exhale into Forward Fold
- 4. Inhale and step the right foot back into Crescent Lunge
- 5. Step the left foot back into Plank
- 6. Exhale down into Chaturanga
- 7. Inhale into Up Dog
- 8. Exhale into Down Dog
- 9. Inhale and step right forward into Crescent Lunge
- 10. Exhale into Forward Fold
- 11. Inhale and come back to Mountain Pose
What Is A Sun Salutation?
Sun salutations are simply a series of 12 yoga poses in which you move fluidly with your breath. In other words, you inhale into one pose and then exhale in the next.
It’s traditionally performed while repeating mantras through each pose.
It’s a morning ritual that provides your body with a deep stretch and the opportunity to tap into your inner strength.
Benefits Of Incorporating Sun Salutations Into Your Morning
Sun salutations provide many benefits, as does yoga in general.
- Sun Salutations strengthen your digestive system.
- Restores your nervous system.
- They can help alleviate brain fog, forgetfulness, anxiety, and depression.
- The forward bend done in a sun salutation helps clear toxins.
- A Standing pose in yoga can bring awareness to your feet, and you will feel grounded and centered as you start your day.
- The parasympathetic nervous system is activated in this practice and encourages your body to fight off sickness.
- You will build strength, particularly in your upper body and core, as you move through the planks.
- You will burn calories during the continuous, fluid movement.
- The poses are designed so that you stretch and lengthen your muscles and connective tissue throughout the entire body giving you a deep restorative whole-body stretch.
Who Should Practice A Sun Salutation?
You, that’s who! Sun salutations are practiced by yogis who are on their mat every day, as well as the novice who steps into yoga for the first time.
They can be tailored or modified as needed, and you choose the pace at which you want to move.
With so many benefits, I recommend them for everyone.
Where Should You Do A Sun Salutation?
Outside in the fresh air is the best! But if, due to logistics or weather, you have to do sun salutations indoors, create a clean, calm space for yourself.
This practice is traditionally completed facing the east as the sun is rising to show gratitude to the sun, the giver of life, and receive energy from the sun’s first rays of light.
You will want a yoga mat or a flat, non-slippery surface to move on. Carpeted floors will frustrate you as your hands and feet slide out of poses.
If the surface you practice on is hard and you want to put your knees down during the planks, have a towel or sweatshirt available.
When Is The Best Time To Do A Sun Salutation?
Sun salutations originated as a morning practice to line up with the rising of the sun. Morning is still the best time to practice a sun salutation because it is an excellent way to open the body and create energy for a new day.
Plus, your digestive system is clear from any “interruptions.” However, sun salutations are great any time! Really!
They can be used as a “stand-alone” workout, as preparation at the beginning of yoga practice, or even as a post-workout stretch. It all depends on how you choose to practice.
Pro Tip: Perform sun salutations on an empty stomach. A full meal in your tummy will make the bending and rising uncomfortably. Drink water before, during, and after.
How To Do A Sun Salutation?
On to the part you were waiting for. Below is a traditional sun salutation series. There are pictures and descriptions to guide you through.
Perform 2, 3, or 20 times! Just remember to listen to your body and honor the place you are in today.
Pro Tip: As in all yoga, respect your body. Do not overstretch. Start with just a few and work your way up to more.
1. Start in Mountain Pose
- Place the feet together or 2-3 inches apart, parallel, and facing forward.
- Inhale, lifting out of the waist and sweeping the arms up, reaching towards the sky.
- The palms are lightly pressed together with the shoulders back and down.
3. Exhale into Forward Fold
- Press the palms flat to the floor; if necessary, bend the knees slightly. If you have the flexibility, bring the fingertips in line with the toes.
- Reach the nose towards the knees.
4. Inhale and step the right foot back into Crescent Lunge
- Make sure the left knee is directly over the ankle and the toes and knees are pointing forward.
- Shoulders are back and down, the chest presses forward, the crown lifts up, and the back leg is straight.
5. Step the left foot back into Plank
- The body is one a straight line and in a push-up position.
- Press the heels back and reach the crown of the head forward.
6. Exhale down into Chaturanga
- Bend the knees to the floor if desired, then bend the elbows to lower the chin and chest to the floor.
- Hips stay slightly above the chest with abs engaged.
7. Inhale into Up Dog
- Scoop the chest forward, straighten the arms, and roll onto the tops of the feet.
- Reach the crown of the head up, press the chest forward, and lift the hips and legs off of the floor. Bend the elbows slightly if it feels like you are straining the low back.
8. Exhale into Down Dog
- Tuck the toes under, bend the elbows and lift the hips up and back.
- Press firmly into the hands and arms to press the hips back. Relax the back of the neck. Press the heels into the floor. The legs are straight or can be slightly bent to flatten the back.
9. Inhale and step right forward into Crescent Lunge
- Step the right foot forward between the two hands. Adjust the leg so that the knee is directly over the ankle and the toes and knee are pointing forward.
- Keep the back leg straight as you sink the hips down. The crown lifts up, and the chest and gaze are forward.
10. Exhale into Forward Fold
- Press the palms flat to the floor. If necessary, bend the knees slightly. If you have the flexibility, bring the fingertips in line with the toes.
- Reach the nose in towards the knees.
11. Inhale and come back to Mountain Pose
- Lift out of the waist and sweep the arms up, reaching towards the sky.
- End by lowering your hands down to your sides in mountain pose or continue on to another sun salutation.
ADRIA SINGLETON on April 19, 2018 at 2:15 PM
I love that you share this basic Salutation!!! Just an observation....I have always practiced this salutation(in several countries) starting, from forward fold, stepping BACK with RIGHT foot 1st into lunge, then, flow through sequence to down dog, then RIGHT foot FORWARD into 2nd lunge. It may be different in your teachings, and that's beautiful. I just wanted to add a little FYI, in case there are others who read this, & practice the same sequence as i do, do not get confused. Bottom line is,Getting people practicing is the greatest thing anyone can do for the greater good...Thank you... ~Namaste
Patricia on January 13, 2017 at 9:07 AM
Hi, i want to start yoga and saw this sun salutation poses, wondering how long do i need to stay each pose? thank you
Chris Freytag on January 13, 2017 at 12:32 PM
Hi Patricia - it's totally up to you and what feels right to your body!
Kat on September 16, 2015 at 9:53 AM
Thanks for this! I am slowly getting into yoga, I love it!
Chris Freytag on September 17, 2015 at 9:25 AM
Of course, Kat!