Yoga Poses: How to Do a Sun Salutation
Today I’m super excited to bring you a guest post from one of our BeyondFit Life members, Brooke.
Brooke is a certified yoga instructor and she uploads new yoga workouts each month to our members portal. I LOVE using the poses she suggests on my rest and recovery days, they’re PERFECT to stretch out after a tough workout! (you know, the ones where you can barely move the next day?) Can you relate?
Picture This: I’d like you to think back to one morning (probably not too long ago) where you woke up and as soon as you stepped out of bed, it felt like your body was on strike. Your muscles were tight and sore from our kick-butt workouts, your joints were aching from goodness knows how many burpees and squat jumps.
Your brain was telling you, “Don’t stop now, you’re making progress! Let’s get a workout in today!” and your body was telling you, “No way sister! Ain’t happenin’ today!”
My first motivation to try yoga was born out of one of these moments.
As a former distance runner, there would be days where I knew I had to get some body movement in somehow, but any attempt at running or lifting was foiled by my body’s stubbornness to do anything requiring impact on my joints.
Frustrated by the exercise wall I’d hit, I began to look at my college’s group exercise schedule in search of something I could do for a workout on such days. I stumbled upon a yoga class that fit into my crazy class schedule quite well and decided to give it a shot.
After one class, I was hooked!
While my mental and emotional journey through yoga over the years is another story, the physical benefits of the practice hit me immediately and have encouraged me to continue and deepen my yoga practice as much as I can.
Since that first class back in 2008, I have practiced regularly. I have also done a work study program and earned my Sport Yoga certification, and will enter a program to earn my 200 hour certification within the next few months!
Obviously, I’m very passionate about my practice, especially because it benefits my body in so many ways.
Some of the benefits of a regular (2 or more times per week) yoga practice are:
- Improved muscle strength, endurance, and tone
- Improved flexibility, balance, and coordination
- Increased awareness of the mind-body connection
- Improved/stabilized mood
- Decreased stress levels and increased sense of mental balance and peace
To help you start off or refine your practice, the video below focuses on breaking down sun salutations. Sun salutations are the foundation of any flowing yoga practice and can be used to both stretch and condition the body, depending on pace and frequency.
So you’re familiar with proper alignment, here is a short description of each pose in a traditional sun salutation (described as sun salutation A in the video):
- Mountain pose: Stand at the top of your mat, tall and strong. Feet level, legs active and engaged, navel reaching to spine, shoulders rolled down and back, crown of the head lifts toward the ceiling.
- Arms extend: Extend your arms from your sides, moving through parallel to the ground and sweep overhead. Palms touch above the head.
- Swan dive into forward fold: While arms begin to sweep back down extending from the sides, hinge at the hips and fold forward, keeping the back flat and legs straight for as long as possible before releasing into a forward fold, fingers reaching for the toes, you may round the back slightly and/or bend the knees as necessary.
- Half lift: Torso lifts to straighten and become parallel with the floor. Core is engaged. Hands may rest on the shins, dangle in mid-air, or remain on the mat if your hamstrings have the flexibility.
- High plank into chatarunga (or knees-chest-and-chin): Step back and come into a high plank (like the top of a push up). From there lower slowly with elbows staying in close to sides (like a tricep push up). If this is not accessible for you currently, lower to the knees and perform the same motion.
- Baby cobra, cobra, or up dog: Releasing to the stomach, lift the upper body only for baby cobra. If you can, take weight into the hands and lift the upper body and hips off the floor for full cobra. Or for a further expression take weight into the hands and tops of the feet (toes pointed) and lift everything else off the ground for up dog. Remember to keep shoulder blades pressing down and back, away from the ears.
- Down dog: Flexing the feet, send your body up and back into down dog. You should be in somewhat of an upside-down V shape. Ears are between the biceps, gazing back at your knees or thighs. Hips are pressing up and back while heels reach for the floor (it will take some consistent practice to actually get them there). Knees may be bent if necessary. Fingers and toes point toward the front of the mat.
- Walk the feet forward: Walk feet forward until they are between the hands again (knees can bend as much as necessary) and you are now back in a forward fold.
- Half lift: Same as above
- Forward fold: Release back into a forward fold as above
- Reverse swan dive: With a flat back and engaged core, hinge at the hips to bring the torso back to upright and the body back to standing. Arms are out at sides again parallel to floor and sweep up for palms to meet overhead once the body is fully upright again.
- Hands to heart: Keeping the palms touching, send the hands down the centerline of the body, stopping in front of the heart. The rest of the body returns to mountain pose.
- Congrats! You just completed one full sun salutation!
Keep in mind that there are many different variations and styles of yoga, so if you are interested, if may benefit you to try several different styles until you find one you enjoy.
Sending love your way, Brooke