Author and Founder of Yoga Inspires Ntathu Allen shares the top 7 benefits of practicing the Sun Salutation including a video demonstration and detailed How To Guide for Beginners.
Bless you and welcome dear friends to today’s post where I share with you, Part One of a mini-series, The Sun Salutation-A Guide For Complete Yoga Beginners.
Practising a few rounds of the Sun Salutations on a regular basis forms part of my daily self-care rituals to boost my energy and calm and clear my mind. If you are a yoga beginner, I hope you find practising the Sun Salutations a useful way to improve your flexibility, tone your body (especially your upper arms and tummy) and energise your mind, body and spirit.
To start off, I’ll give you a brief description about the benefits of the Sun Salutation, followed by a video showing you how to practise this yoga exercise, plus written guidelines of the same practice.
Parts 2 and 3 of this mini series will cover other variations of the Sun Salutation, some common mistakes most students make and popular questions new yogis ask about this ancient practice.
The Power Of Yoga To Heal – The Sun Salutation
The Sun Salutation, also known as Surya Namaskar, in Sanskrit, forms the core of all yoga tradition and commonly practised at the beginning of most yoga classes.
What Is The Sun Salutation
Commonly known by its Sanskrit name of Surya Namaskar, or Salute to the Sun, the Sun Salutation consists of a series of 12 flowing yoga poses which forms a graceful and energizing sequence and is often included as part of the warm-up in your yoga class. Different schools of yoga, have variations in the way they practise the Sun Salutation, but essentially the emphasis is the same – to stretch and improve spinal mobility.
Seven Top Benefits of Practicing Sun Salutation
There are many benefits gained from practicing the Sun Salutation.
1. Improves flexibility of the spine as it allows the body to stretch forwards and backwards.
2. Increase blood circulation.
3. Puts you in tune with your breath. If you find your breath becoming irregular, adapt the practice so your breath becomes steady and rhythmical.
4. Reconnects and energizes your solar plexus – your fire energy center.
5. Stretches and strengthens the whole body.
6. The rhythmical nature of the sequence helps to center, ground and realign your energy.
7. You reconnect with your innate sense of inner power and inner strength.
When Is The Best Time To Practice The Sun Salutation?
Traditionally the ancients practiced 12 rounds of the Sun Salutation at the break of dawn to greet the sun and welcome in a new day. Coupled with this, ancient yogis saw this practice as a way to harness and draw in the sun’s energy into your body – thus increasing your sense of energy and vitality levels. Nowadays, most yoga teachers suggest to their students to do a few rounds every day when you wake up, as a way to energise and prepare your body and mind for the day ahead.
How To Practice The Sun Salutation
When you first practice the Sun Salutation, it can feel quite strange and complicated. As a yoga teacher, I often see students struggle with their co-ordination and strength to complete a cycle. However, once you get the hang-off the sequence, this yoga sequence is a most rewarding experience.
Ideally, it is best to learn this sequence in person from a qualified yoga teacher as she will be able to guide you through the sequence and ensure your technique is correct. However, if you aren’t able to make it to a class, this video, gives very clear and detailed instructions on Sun Salutation practiced by the Sivananda style of yoga
Sun Salutations for Complete Beginners
And, if you like to read instructions, here is a written guide for you to follow
Ntathu’s Sun Salutation Written Guide
TIP: For the first few times you practice the Sun Salutation, it is easier to just focus on the postures. As you get used to the routine, try and co-ordinate the movement with the breath.
Sun Salutation Starting Position:
Stand erect with the head and body straight but relaxed. The feet are together, the knees are straight, and the arms are relaxed at the sides. Inhale deeply.
Sun Salutation Position 1:
Exhale and bring the palms together in the prayer position in front of the heart centre.
Sun Salutation Position 2:
Inhale. Stretch the arms out from the heart centre and stretch your arms up over your head. Arch your body backwards, keep your arms up alongside the ears. Try and keep your knees straight. Keep looking up at your hands; give yourself a full body stretch as you stretch up all the way from the feet to the tips of your fingers.
Sun Salutation Position 3:
Exhale. Bend forwards and bring the hands down to the floor next to the feet. If your hands do not touch the floor with the knees straight, then slightly bend the knees. Allow the head to relax toward the floor.
Sun Salutation Position 4:
Inhale and without moving the hands, stretch the right leg back as far as possible. Drop the right knee to the floor. Leave the left knee on the floor between the hands and the left knee close to the chest. Stretch the head up and back (you may feel a slight stretch in the throat and right groin).
Sun Salutation Position 5:
Retain your breath. Bring your left leg back and place the left foot next to the right, with the toes pointing forwards. Your body should be in a straight line – similar to the push-up or plank position. Keep your head in a straight line with your body (if this position is too strong, then does this instead: – then keep both hands flat on the floor and have both knees on the floor, look up and back)
Sun Salutation Position 6:
Exhaling, drop the knees straight down to the floor. Keep the hips up. Bring the chest straight down to the floor between the hands. Bring the forehead to the floor. Again, if this is to0 strong, just lower your body flat to the floor.
Sun Salutation Position 7:
Inhale as you slide the body forwards until the hips are on the ground. Legs straight out behind you. Have the palms on the floor beneath the shoulders, elbows close to the body and pointing upwards. Gently stretch upward with the head, neck and chest. (cobra pose) Keep the elbows slightly bent and tucked in toward the body. The shoulders are down and relaxed, so there is no tension in the neck or shoulder area.
You now repeat the poses going back in the opposite direction.
Sun Salutation Position 8:
Exhale as you tuck the toes under. Keep the hands and feet in the same place, bring the hips up and form an inverted V/downward dog pose. Push the heels towards the floor and keep the knees straight.
Sun Salutation Position 9:
inhale and bring the right foot forwards between the hands so that the fingers and toes form a straight line. Drop the left knee to the floor and stretch the head up. (Alternatively lower the knees to the floor – all fours). This is the same position as in Position 4.
Sun Salutation Position 10:
Exhale and without moving the hands bring the left foot forwards next to the right foot. The forehead is down towards the knees. Make sure the fingers and toes are in a straight line. This is the same as Position 3.
Sun Salutation Position 11:
Inhale – as you slowly reach the arms forwards and then stretch them up over your head. With your arms alongside your ears and the weight cantered on the balls of the feet. Give a complete backward bend to the body. This is the same position as Position 2.
Sun Saluation Position 12:
Exhale as you stands upright and brings your arms down alongside your body, returning to the starting position. Stand still and observe the breath.
This completes one round.
When you have regained your breath, repeat this sequence, this time leading with the left leg.
So, there you have it. Your guide to how to do the Sun Salutation. As you become more comfortable with this sequence, try and do at least 3 – 5 rounds every day for the next 5 days. If you get stuck or have any questions, please email me and we can chat and sort it out. The more you practice, the easier the routine becomes and you will soon notice your back feeling looser, more supple and flexible.
If you’d like to know more about the different styles of yoga and what is yoga, my ebook, The Complete Book of Yoga for Beginners, gives you EVERYTHING you have ever wanted to know or ask about yoga! It’s the ideal companion for yoga beginners and more seasoned practitioners keen to be reminded of the roots of your practice.
Namaste hugs and thank you.
Image(s) – freedigitalimages.net – samarttiw
P.S. If you’ve enjoyed my expert beginner lesson on how to practice the Sun Salutation and want to ease into some more gentle yoga because you want to nurture your inner well-being, I invite you to download your instant copy of The Complete Book of Yoga for Beginners by clicking on the image below.
“I think you have given really clear explanation around the different types of yoga asana practise which will be really helpful as often people end up in the wrong class and don’t persevere to find the right one. I would really happily recommend this book to anyone who is interested in exploring yoga more fully.” Wendy Dineen N.H.F. Dip www.nutritionalways.co.uk
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