Yoga 101: Sun Salutations

Sun salutation is the first sequence most yoga students learn. Moving through the positions with your breath can be both calming and invigorating. It is often the buildng block of vinyasa flow classes and there are hundreds of posible variations from the essential form.

Upward Salute – Urdhva Hastasana - Person performs mystical "Sun Salutation" yoga stretching exercise on Morro Strand "Church of Kelp"

Learning the Basic Form

The basic sun salutation tends to follow one of two formats: 1) the Ashtanga Yoga variation (as seen in the video below), or 2) what often gets referred to as the classic sun salutation, which explicitly includes lunges between down dog and forward bend (illustrated below the video). See below for modifications as well.

Surya Namaskar in the Ashtanga Tradition

The above video shows Surya Namaskar A. Surya Namaskar B incorporates warrior poses as well as beginning and ending with chair pose.

Jen's Favorite Sun Salutation Variation

Sun Salutation as demonstrated above does a great job warming up the spine with forward and backward bending, openning the shoulders and stretching the backs of the legs. The addition of lunges in the modifcation below warms up the hips as well. (Throw in a few side bends and a twist or two and you've got yourself a well-rounded practice in only a few minutes.)

Tadasana-guide
Utthita-tadasana-guide

  • Begin in mountain pose, feet parallel to each other with weight evenly distributed between toes and heals.
  • Inhale and lift your arms into extended mountain, also known as upward salute.

Uttanasana-guideArdha-uttanasana-guideUttanasana-guideBanarasana-guideAdho-mukha-svanasana-guide

  • Exhale and, hinging at the hips, fold foward into Uttanasana; bend your knees as much as necessary to be kind to your low back.
  • Inhale and bring your hands lightly on to your shins into Ardha Uttanasana, standing half forward fold. (Use blocks under the hands if your hamstrings are tight).
  • Exhale and fold forward again.
  • Inhale and, reaching your the crown of your head forward to extend your spine, step one foot back into lunge. (Back knee to the floor is always an option and blocks under the hands are useful for making this pose feel more spacious.)
  • Exhale and step your second foot back to down dog.

Plank-guideChaturanga-dandasana-guide
Bhujangasana-guideAdho-mukha-svanasana-guide

  • Inhale and move your shoulders over your wrists for plank pose.
  • Exhale and lower down through chaturanga or knees chest and chin to the floor.
  • Inhale and bend up and back into cobra pose.
  • Exhale back to the floor and hips into the air for down dog.

Banarasana-guideArdha-uttanasana-guideUttanasana-guide

  • Inhale and step your first foot forward into lunge.
  • Inhale and step your second for forward into half forward bend.
  • Exhale and fold into forward bend.

Utthita-tadasana-guide Tadasana-guide

  • Draw your low belly in to support your back and, inhaling, rise to standing, arms overhead in extended mountain pose.
  • Exhale and release your arms to your sides for mountain.
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