The sun salutation is a classic sequence in Hatha yoga, most commonly practised at the start of a yoga session. However, it is also ideal for practising on its own during your spare moments in order to activate, stretch and strengthen all major muscle groups.
The sun salutation (“Surya Namaskara”, Sanskrit, literally “honour be to you, sun” or “welcome to the sun”) is practised in many different variations. We here describe the classic sun salutation. During this flowing sequence of movements, ensure that you breathe evenly and are therefore conscious of your body. Should any of the movements cause you pain, please don’t do it or adapt it in such a way that it no longer hurts. Yoga can be strenuous but should never be painful.
The classic sun salutation consists of the following sequence of movements:
Start by standing in the mountain pose at the top of the mat. To do so, ground your feet and activate your legs, arms and core. Roll your shoulders backwards and downwards. Bring your hands together in the prayer position (Anjali Mudra) in front of your sternum.
Lift your hands up via your sides while keeping your shoulders relaxed (Urdhva Hastasana, mountain pose with elevated hands).
Continue to flow into the standing forward bend (Uttanasana) by allowing your torso to move forward and steeply downward while guiding your hands down your sides. Bend your legs in such a way that you feel a pleasant stretch in the backs of your legs.
Stretch your back while inhaling, open your chest area and gaze forward in a half-forward bend (Ardha Uttanasana).
Then step backward into a push-up position while exhaling, draw your elbows back and lower yourself to the floor. If you prefer, you can also prop your knees on the floor. Once in a prone position, place the backs of your feet on the floor and ground your pelvis. Then on your next breath, slowly raise the top of your torso, roll your shoulders backwards and downwards and lift yourself into a light, gentle cobra position (Bhujangasana). Only move as far as is comfortable for your lower back and stretch lengthwise rather and upward. Lower yourself as you exhale.
Stretch back into the child’s pose (Balasana) as you inhale by sitting onto your heels and lowering your head to the floor. Leave your hands out in front of you before continuing directly into the downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) by pushing into your feet and slowly stretching your legs. Be aware that it’s fine for your back to be really elongated, and that this is much more important than touching your heels to the floor. Feel free to stay in this position for a few breaths.
Then inhale as you step forward between your hands and extend your back once more to enter a half-forward bend (see above). Breathe in and move into a full forward bend (see above). Bend your legs and extend your hands upward via your sides while inhaling. Finish the first round in the mountain pose (see above) and bring your hands together in front of your heart as you exhale. Pause briefly and then feel free to repeat the sun salutation another 3 to 5 times. Feel the sensations it generates.