Just as with everything in life, you have to start somewhere. But…” where do I start?” is always the haunting question. Why not start from where you are right now?
Why not start with a breath? A long deep inhale and an releasing exhale with a loud (or soft) sigh. In Yoga classes, I choose to start with the basics. As apart of my last post, “The next step on the Yoga path” , I spoke briefly about Yoga as a word meaning “unite”. Unite body with mind, mind with soul. We encourage this union beautifully in building an understanding and a relationship with our bodies, our minds and our souls. As our bodies move from one Asana (posture) to the next, the transitions become a moving meditation. The body flowing in sync with the mind, allowing the mind to quiet and flow inward toward the light of the soul. And it is there, in that light, that the perfection that is you shines bright. BUT HOW HOW HOW…. you ask, I ask, we all ask!! By starting with the basics. In my humble opinion there are few things more basic in Yoga than the Sun Salutation
Lets first build an understanding of what the Sun Salutation is. Keeping within the flow of the basics, a Sun Salutation is a series of Yoga postures all performed in a flowing sequence. While this series of postures is traditionally performed in twelve rounds at sunrise to greet the twelve sun gods of Hindu beliefs, not everyone is Hindu nor do you have to be to gain the powerful benefits of Yoga. So to adjust to our own needs, as each individual should in Yoga practice, this series posture is great for a warm up to a Yoga practice, a wake up energy builder to start the day and if done in a slower flow, a great relaxing stretch sequence to end the day. So lets get into learning the details of the Sun Salutation so that we can begin to build our relationship with it. This is how I call it and explain it in all of my Yoga classes.
Step 1: Standing with hands at heart center.
With a firm foundation, weight spread equally on both feet, knees slightly bent, tailbone pointing down, abdomen pulled into the spine, shoulders rolled back neck and head held straight and high. place your hands in the center of your chest in Namaste/prayer position.
Step 2: Hands to the sky.
Holding your straight body posture, lift your arms straight above your head, palms facing forward.
Step 3: Forward bend.
Continuing to hold the abdomen into the spine, fold forward at the hips come as close to touching the mat as possible without over extending or hurting yourself.
Step 4: Right leg back. Placing your hands flat on the mat, push you right leg to the back of the mat placing your body in a lunge position.
Step: 4 (b) Left leg back:
Push your left leg back to meet your right, this places your body half way between downward dog and plank position, but only for a second.
Step 5: Rock into plank:
With your abdomen still pulled into your spine to support your lower back, rock forward so that your weight is carried by your hands and the tips of your toes.
Step 6: Scoop into Cobra:
Leading with your head moving toward the ground follow with your shoulders and chest, and in a scooping motion, lift your head to the sky followed by your shoulders and chest end the scooping motion with uplifted torso and straighten arms and the souls of your feet facing upward.
Step 7: Tuck your toes:
While this is not an actual Yoga asana, this is a very important transitional step. When placing the souls of your feet flat in the previous step, cobra, your feet are pointed, your toes relaxed and your ankles stretched. In tucking your toes in preparation to lift into downward dog, which is next, your toes get a stretch your feet become flexed through the transition and your ankles get an opposite stretch, working your ankles and feet may seem like small steps, but they should not be forgotten. Later in balancing, squatting, and even just walking the ankles can make or break the day!
Step 8: Downward dog:
Lifting at the hips push back into downward dog, placing your weight equally on your feet and hands. placing your feet as flat as possible on the mat.
Step 9: Right foot forward:
Pull your right foot forward placing your body in the opposite lunge position from the beginning.
Step 10: Left leg Forward:
Pull your left leg forward to meet your right, placing your body in a forward bend. Remember not to over extend yourself more flexibility will come with practice and time.
Step 11: Roll your self up/ hands to the sky:
Roll your body up to a standing position. No matter how fast or slow you are moving through the Sun Salutation always be mindful of rolling yourself up one vertebra at a time by keeping your back arched until your are in a full standing position. End this flow of motion with your hands to the sky, palms facing forward.
Step 12: Pull the energy around and back to heart center:
Stretching your arms down the side of your body, meeting in the front and drawing up to heart center coming full circle to where it all began. Re check your foundation and posture. flat equal footing, knees slightly bent, tailbone pointing down, abdomen pulled into the spine, shoulders rolled back and down, neck and head straight and high.
The entire series is repeated with the one change being leading with the left foot instead of the right foot. Once the sequence has been repeated with the left foot leading you have completed one round of Sun Salutation. This basic series posture when done properly will work your entire body top to bottom and bottom to top. When done slowly, each position provides and different stretch and the opportunity to guide and feel the breath moving and flowing into different parts of your body. When done at a quick pace, as is tradition, this series not only works your muscles, but adds a surprisingly good cardio feature to your Yoga practice. As you build your relationship with the Sun Salutations, adaptations for a more advanced mini work out await you! Thank you for your time! Can’t wait to see you in class.