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As I write this article this morning, the sun is shining brightly in the sky. I am feeling thankful for the sun’s light, warmth, and overall presence. I am reminded of how the sun can have such a great impact on my mood, motivation, and energy levels. Within me, there is such an appreciation for the sun after a long, cold winter.
In yoga, the sun is frequently used as inspiration for the physical sequencing of postures, breathing techniques, and meditations. It is such a powerful symbol, representing many qualities that we are grateful for and can embody for health and healing.
One of the most well-known and practiced is the Sun Salutation. It is an energizing sequence of approximately 12 postures, linking the body, breath, and mind for healthy heart pumping, strength and flexibility.
Whether you are new to yoga or have been practicing for years, one of the first sequences of yoga postures you are likely to come across is that of the Sun Salutations. It's also known as Surya Namaskar (sanskrit: surya = sun, namaskar = to bow, honouring). In some Vinyasa Yoga classes, your instructor might even just say “take a flow” when referring to the Sun Salutation Sequence.
Sun Salutations have many variations. You can practice them in a chair, on the mat, with modifications to ease or increase intensity. You can do them quickly, moving with each breath, or hold poses for longer as you focus on the energy, muscular engagement, or alignment of each.
Today, we will focus on a modified Sun Salutation, a sequence to introduce you to the practice, appropriate for most bodies and abilities.
Starting your day with gratitude for the sun (whether it is shining brightly or hiding behind the clouds) and harnessing its life-giving energy through Sun Salutations can have many health benefits, here are a few of the most prominent:
- It helps to awaken, calm, and focus the mind.
- It can increase strength, flexibility, and pain free range of motion in the joints
- It helps build internal heat that oxygenates the blood, strengthens the heart and digestive system.
- Pairing movement with breath in this way can help calm the nervous system, increase endurance and boost your immune system.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with Hands in Prayer
Stand tall, with feet hip width apart. Pressing into the ground through all parts of your feet, but bringing the weight back towards the heels. Draw the belly in, shoulders roll up down and back. Palms come together at your heart center.
Mountain Pose: Arms Overhead
On your inhale, reach the arms overheard and looking up toward the sky
Standing Forward Fold
On the exhale begin to bend at the waist, bringing the hands down towards the floor. The crown of your head releases towards the floor. You can keep a bend in the knees or straighten your legs to enhance the stretch in your hamstrings (back of the upper legs).
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Inhale and step one leg all the way back, allowing the knee of that leg to rest on the floor, feeling a stretch in the hip flexor of that back leg. Let the top of the back foot rest on the floor.
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Exhale and tuck your back toe under and press hips up towards the sky. The front leg now steps back to meet the back leg. Hips are rising up to the sky, hands and feet (just toes or full feet) are planted firmly on the ground. Your body looks like a triangle or upside down V. Stay here for a few breaths, feeling the benefits of this full back body stretch.
Plank (on knees)
Inhale and lower your knees to the floor. Your arms remain straight and now your wrists are directly under your shoulders. Exhale and lower your body all the way down to lay on the floor.
Baby Cobra (Bhujangasana)
With the hands planted on the ground next to your chest, Inhale and press the hands into the floor, lifting your chest and torso off the ground. Keeping the arms tucked in by your side and a bend in the elbows. Keep the shoulders relaxed and down away from your ears.
And now reverse the sequence to come back to Mountain Pose
Exhale lower your body down and now you reverse back through the sequence until you get back to the first Mountain Pose. Plank on Knees → Downward Dog → Low Lunge → Standing Forward Fold → Mountain Pose (arms overhead) → Mountain Pose
I hope you have enjoyed this practice, bringing the light energy of the sun into your body and mind! Namaste.
Nancy Buckle (MEd. E-RYT) is a yoga teacher, educator, and trainer. She holds a master’s degree in education in counselling psychology and has worked in the health and wellness field for almost 20 years. Learn more about her business, Namaste Yoga Studio in Corner Brook, N.L., and the online classes currently available.
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