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Start the Day With a Sun Salutation

Start the Day With a Sun Salutation

The ancient yogis taught that each person embodies the world – the ‘rivers, seas, mountains, fields … stars, planets … sun and moon’ (Shiva Samhita, II.1-3), and that the outer sun is a reflection of our own ‘inner sun’ – our spiritual heart and the seat of higher wisdom. 

It stands to reason, therefore, that the much practised series of asanas (yoga poses) linked with breath in Salute to the Sun (or in Sanskrit – Surya Namaskar), honours both the sun in all its warmth and vitality, and our own inner wisdom.

Often found in a contemporary Hatha or Vinyasa yoga classes to build ‘heat’, or ‘tapas’ in a class, the origins of Surya Namaskar date back thousands of years and came to prominence in India in Vedic times (1500-500 BCE). Traditionally used during morning prayer and worship rituals, the way sun salutations are practised today may be quite different to original versions. However, the intention remains – to not only strengthen our physical bodies, but to energise our whole being and set us up with clear inner intentions for the day. Sun salutations are designed to awaken all areas of the body, calming the mind into a meditative state. Some other benefits of practising sun salutations are increasing circulation, building cardiovascular endurance, enhancing joint health and mobilisation, internal organ stimulation, and muscle group strengthening and stretching. 

Whether you are new to yoga or an experienced yogi, sun salutations are an invigorating way to kickstart a meaningful day. There are two commonly practised sets of foundational poses – Surya A and Surya B – and as long as practised mindfully, can be repeated several times, added to or re-arranged to form an individualised flow and to incorporate more ranges of motion. The most important aspect of every sequence is to concentrate on using ‘breath’ as the driving force of movement – to ensure that a practice is a mindful, moving meditation rather than just a series of mechanically performed bodily shapes. The transitions between poses are propelled by inhalations and exhalations and are just as important as the pose themselves.  

Learning and gaining a deeper understanding the subtle art of yoga can be a journey of joy in the presence of a graduated yoga teacher and when practising with others, and by building up regular at home practices. Sun salutations offer a structure to follow that is steeped in history and meaning – and by allocating a few minutes of your morning routine to an invigorating sun salutation, you will wake up your mind, body and spirit for a day of clear purpose and quiet contentment. 

Below is a list of poses found in ‘A’ and ‘B’, it makes interesting reading – however, having a favourite experienced teacher to guide you through a sun salutation can help you gain a deeper understanding and pick up some useful techniques. You may wish to try The Australian Yoga Academy either in studio or online, or alternatively, take the time to explore your local yoga studio programmes to find something that  works for you.

Sun Salutation A 

  1. Start in mountain pose (Tadasana) or equal standing pose (Samastitiyi).
  2. Inhale to upward salute (Urdhva Hastasana). 
  3. Exhale to forward fold (Uttanasana). 
  4. Inhale to Ardha Uttanasana
  5. Exhale to Uttanasana
  6. Inhale to low lunge (Anjaneyasana), exhale.
  7. Inhale to high plank pose (Kumbhakasana).
  8. Exhale to four-limbed staff pose (Chaturanga Dandasana). 
  9. Inhale to cobra (Bujangasana) or upward-facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). 
  10. Exhale to downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
  11. Inhale to low lunge.
  12. Exhale to forward fold.
  13. Inhale to upward salute.
  14. Exhale to finish in samastitiyi.
  15. Repeat, opposite leg.

Sun salutation B offers an extension on A, with the addition of some poses to further range of motion, ‘fire’ and stamina:

  1. Begin in mountain pose or equal standing pose.
  2. Inhale/Exhale to chair pose. 
  3. Inhale/Exhale to forward fold pose.
  4. Inhale and come to half forward fold. 
  5. Exhale and flow into plank position. 
  6. Assume four-limbed staff pose. 
  7. Inhale and flow to upward-facing dog.
  8. Exhale into downward-facing dog pose. 
  9. Inhale and flow into Warrior I pose. 
  10. Exhale and flow back into four-limbed staff pose. 
  11. Inhale and flow into upward-facing dog pose.
  12. Exhale and flow into downward-facing dog pose. 
  13. Inhale and move into Warrior I again (opposite leg).
  14. Exhale and flow into four-limbed staff pose.
  15. Inhale and flow back into upward-facing dog pose.
  16. Exhale and flow into downward-facing dog pose. 
  17. Inhale and flow into forward fold pose.
  18. Exhale and flow into chair pose. 
  19. Finish in mountain or equal standing pose.
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