Sun Salutation is probably the most popular Yoga sequence and how I usually start my day. Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation consists of 12 yoga poses and is best to be practiced in the morning in order to wake up the body and greet the sun. The sequence can be also done any time during the day (at least 2 hrs after eating) in order to calm or rejuvenate the body & mind. Sun Salutations can be practiced by anybody and anywhere – all you need is a mat or a towel, a little space and the willingness to spend 15 to 30 minutes. It is a gratifying experience to do the exercise outdoors listening to the gentle hum of the waves or chirping of birds as you breathe in the fresh morning air and feel the soft rays of sun on you skin.
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Start your day with the Surya Namaskar
As you move through the Yoga poses, follow your breath carefully. The transition from one yoga posture to another is facilitated by the breath. Inhale as you extend or stretch, and exhale as you fold or contract. Always slow down or stop if you are straining, breathing too hard, or if your breath is shallow. Breathe through your nose (and not the mouth). The nose filters the air and warms it up. Since the sequence is a “salutation” to the sun, try to be as aware during the movements as possible, with your mind focusing on your breath. It is best to start your practice with one or two rounds, eventually building up to more (some people perform 10-15 daily). In traditional practices in India, 108 rounds were done. Each round consists of two cycles, one begins with the right foot backwards into the launch and the other one with the left. Make sure you always include both of the sides, in order to keep the body & mind balanced.
There are many variations of the individual Yoga Poses in the Sun Salutation sequence. The following sequence is one of my favorites:
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 finger tips 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, crown lifts up, and the back leg is straight.
5. Step the left foot back into Plank
The body is one 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 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 hands down to your sides in mountain pose or continue on to another sun salutation.
All you need is a mat and some pillows to get started
Benefits of Sun Salutation
There are a lot of benefits of yoga to both the mind and body. Yoga needs to be practiced in a very subtle, gentle way, not in a forceful muscle building way because yoga is not just about exercise, it has lots of wonderful benefits…
- Increases circulation and warms up the whole body
- Strengthens the digestive & elimination systems (reduces constipation, gas and other digestive difficulties)
- Cleanses/detoxifies the body & mind
- Stretches the spinal column and the whole body (including all of the important large muscles)
- Tones up the abdominal muscles
- Increases the lung capacity and oxygenates the blood
- Strengthens the heart
- Balances the endocrine system, especially the thyroid gland
- Strengthens the nervous system and improves memory
- Calms anxiety, stress, depression
- Reduces insomnia
- Increases metabolism and reduces fat
- Promotes health, strength, flexibility and longevity
Picture and sequence credit : http://gethealthyu.com