The Sun Salutation: best way to start the day
Have you ever practiced yoga? You must have heard about the Sun Salutation. This series of poses that require both “strength and flexibility” is an excellent routine that enables you to develop your strength and flexibility, while getting a feeling of well-being and inner serenity.
I invite you to do 2 to 5 sun salutations per session, 2 to 3 times a week. This regular practice will give you the chance to take a break from your heavy schedule and the whirlwind of activity that quickly fills your day. These 10 minutes will become a kind of well-deserved meditation or relaxation. As a bonus, you will notice an improvement in your flexibility and your muscular endurance after only a few weeks.
So here is the detailed, step-by-step explanation of each of the Sun Salutation poses. Pay close attention to your breathing. The rhythm at which you breathe will make a big difference on your mindset during the salutations and will also guide the speed of your movements. I also invite you to adopt the Ujjayi breath, explained here.
This form of breathing is done only through the nose. The air should pass in the back of the throat and sound like a low, muffled hissing. The goal is to slow down the breathing by exhaling twice as long as inhaling.
Here is one way to begin in order to understand how to breathe in the Ujjayi way:
1- Begin by breathing through the mouth.
2- When inhaling, fill your belly. When exhaling, pull you navel inwards, toward your spine.
3- When inhaling, feel the air passing through your throat. When exhaling, make the sound “Ah”.
4- Repeat many times.
5- Then, slowly close your mouth and breathe through the nose while still doing the « Ah » sound, which by now should make you sound more like Darth Vader. Remember to use the air to fill your lower abdomen first.
6- Then, think about slowing down your breathing.
7- That’s it. Now you can feel the relaxation simply by concentrating on your breathing.
Now, for each pose of the sun salutation (described here), you should either inhale, or exhale. What’s important is to breathe freely. When you get to the Warrior 1 and Downward Facing Dog poses, hold longer by taking 5 deep breaths. While holding these poses, you will feel your muscle straining. Avoid holding your breath.
Description of the Sun Salutation*
1- Mountain: Stand with feet slightly apart, hands joined together in a prayer position, looking straight in front of you.
2- Hands up: Stretch your arms upward and keep your elbows close to your ears. Look up and flex your glutes and abs while slightly pushing your hips forward.
3- Head to knees: Flex your upper body toward the floor by touching it with the tips of your fingers or your hands. Release all tension.
4- Lunge: Bring your right foot as far back as possible and make sure that your front knee does not go farther than your toes. Your hands should be placed on both sides of your foot.
5- Warrior 1: Lift up your upper body until your shoulders are over your hips and your arms thrust upward. Pull your coccyx downward and make sure that your front knee does not go farther than your toes. Hold the pose for 5 deep breaths.
6- Plank: Come back to the lunge pose, step your left leg back into the plank pose, making a straight line from head to toe.
7- Stick: Slowly flex your elbows and lower your chest to the ground. Try to hold the pose by contracting your arms and abs. Keep your elbows close to your body.
8- Cobra: Let your hips down on the ground and position your forearms on the ground in front of you. Lift up your chest by straightening your arms, all the while keeping your elbows close to your body, your shoulders low, and your head up.
9- Downward Facing Dog: Push with your arms, so that your butt goes upward, while your heels are pushed against the floor. Your legs should be almost straight and your eyes looking at your navel. Your hands should firmly push on the ground and your elbows should be slightly bent. Hold this pose for 5 deep breaths.
10- Lunge: Bring your right foot between your two hands, and make sure that your knee does not go farther than your toes. Your rear leg should be straight.
11- Warrior 1: Lift up your upper body until your shoulders are over your hips and your arms thrust upward. Pull your coccyx downward and make sure that your front knee does not go farther than your toes. Hold the pose for 5 deep breaths.
12- Mountain: Return to the initial pose and take a full, deep breath while loosening your shoulders and stretching your neck.
Repeat this series of poses 2 to 5 times.
*Various versions of the Sun Salutation exist. Choose the one that suits you best and do not hesitate to add poses.
By Karine Larose
Model : Karine Larose