How To Practice Traditional Sun Salutations

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In Yoga, traditional Sun Salutations are the way a yogi warms up the body to prepare for more intense poses to follow. Sun Salutations are often done in the beginning of a class, or after a light total body gentle warm-up coming from seated or a laying position.

Sun Salutations are designed to build heat, known as Tapas, which helps spark the internal fire of practice, known as Agni. Sun Salutations are also great at helping a yogi link their breath to their movement. Linking breath and movement helps a yogi meditate in motion while moving through a yoga practice. Furthermore, Sun Salutations are an offering of thanks to the sun for supporting life on earth.

In Sanskrit, the ancient ceremonial language of Yoga, Sun Salutations are known as Surya Namaskara, which literally translates to- Reverence or Prayer to the Sun. Surya Namaskara are often done in the morning, to the rising sun, but can be done any time you need to spark the fire of a solid foundational yoga practice.

There are 20 total movements in a Traditional Sun Salutation, with 10 movements on each side, repeated twice. Each movement is linked to a breath, and you begin and end in the same place, standing upright with palms together at hearts center. Having the hands together at hearts center while standing upright is known as Samasthiti.

Follow the video above, or the picture guide below to practice Surya Namaskara.

 

Steps To Practice Traditional Sun Salutations (With Pictures)

Starting Position, Stand with hands at heart center - Mountain Pose or Samasthiti


1. Inhale, and lift your hands to the sky, looking up at the thumbs. -Upward Facing Hands or Urdhva Hastasana

2. Exhale, and fold forward, looking to the shins. - Standing Forward Fold or Uttanasana


3. Inhale and step the right foot back, pointing the toes in the right foot, lengthening through the crown of the head, keeping the hands firmly planted on the ground. Gaze is straight ahead. - Low Lunge or Anjaneyasana

4. Exhale, and step your left foot back to meet the right foot at back of mat, curl the toes under, and then lower your chest and chin to the mat while keeping the knees on the mat as well. Gaze is straight ahead.-  Eight Point Pose or Pranam

5. Inhale, and lift your chest through to the front of the mat, lifting through the crown of the head, and rolling over the toes so they become pointed. Press the tops of the feet into the mat. Gaze is up to the sky. - Cobra or Bhujangasana

6. Exhale, push the palms into the earth, pressing your tailbone up and back into the sky, drive your heels towards the earth behind you, and look to the navel. - Downward Facing Dog or Adho Much Svanasana

7. Inhale, since you stepped your right foot back to begin this side of the salutation, you step your right foot up between the hands, so that your body has lunged with both legs back. Just like movement number 3, gaze is straight ahead, lengthen through the crown of the head and sink into the hips. - Low Lunge or Anjaneyasana

8. Exhale, step your left foot up to meet the right foot between the hands and fold forward. - Standing Forward Fold or Uttanasana

9. Inhale, lifting your hands and torso to the sky, standing tall and gazing at the thumbs, palms touching. - Upward Facing Hands or Urdhva Hastasana

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10. Exhale, return your hands to your heart, palms together, gazing at the small space between the tips of the middle fingers. - Mountain Pose or Samasthiti

At this point, you have completed half of a Traditional Sun Salutation. You will do the same movements again, the only difference being that on the second side you will step you left foot back into a lunge in step 13, and then step it forward to enter the lunge again in step 17. In the first half of the Sun Salutation, in steps 3 and 7 you stepped your right foot back, and then forward into a lunge, honoring the right side of the body first. This is the traditional way, as the right side is considered the sun energy, so it goes first in a Sun Salutation. Now on to the second side:

11. Inhale, and lift your hands to the sky, looking up at the thumbs. -Upward Facing Hands or Urdhva Hastasana

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12. Exhale, and fold forward, looking to the shins. - Standing Forward Fold or Uttanasana


13. Inhale and step the left foot back, pointing the toes in the right foot, lengthening through the crown of the head, keeping the hands firmly planted on the ground. Gaze is straight ahead. - Low Lunge or Anjaneyasana

14. Exhale, and step your left foot back to meet the right foot at back of mat, curl the toes under, and then lower your chest and chin to the mat while keeping the knees on the mat as well. Gaze is straight ahead.-  Eight Point Pose or Pranam

15. Inhale, and lift your chest through to the front of the mat, lifting through the crown of the head, and rolling over the toes so they become pointed. Press the tops of the feet into the mat. Gaze is up to the sky. - Cobra or Bhujangasana


16. Exhale, push the palms into the earth, pressing your tailbone up and back into the sky, drive your heels towards the earth behind you, and look to the navel. - Downward Facing Dog or Adho Much Svanasana

17. Inhale, since you stepped your left foot back to begin this side of the salutation, you step your left foot up between the hands, so that your body has lunged with both legs back. Just like movement number 13, gaze is straight ahead, lengthen through the crown of the head and sink into the hips. - Low Lunge or Anjaneyasana

18. Exhale, step your left foot up to meet the right foot between the hands and fold forward. - Standing Forward Fold or Uttanasana

19. Inhale, lifting your hands and torso to the sky, standing tall and gazing at the thumbs, palms touching. - Upward Facing Hands or Urdhva Hastasana


20. Exhale, return your hands to your heart, palms together, gazing at the small space between the tips of the middle fingers. - Mountain Pose or Samasthiti

 

With the completion of the second side, ending with hands at heart center, you have completed one Traditional Sun Salutation.

Traditionally, you want to complete at least 3 full rounds of Sun Salutations to effectively warm-up the body before moving on to other poses, or asanas. You can do as many as 3 full rounds, or more all the way up to 108 full rounds which will take around 2 hours to complete.

Good luck practicing Traditional Surya Namaskara.

-Andrew