Fine-Tuning the Hatha Yoga Sun Salutation
Yoga uses breathing, poses and gaze to stabilize and then unify the body and mind. Practicing a Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara) requires utmost attention to be given to these elements.
An important thing to remember before beginning to practice it is, how it gives us an opportunity to express our gratitude to the sun for sustaining life on the planet and beginning every day of our life with gusto.
Traditional Hatha Yoga recommends the practice of Surya Namaskara either before the dawn or as close to sunrise as possible, facing east.
The simple breath-rule while performing the Surya Namaskara:
While bending backwards you can inhale when the chest expands and the lungs can expand to their maximum capacity. On the other hand, forward bends involve exhalation when the chest and the abdomen contract.
The breath is a very important part of the sequence! The movement from one pose to the next is always done in conjunction with either an inhale or exhale of the breath. One can control the pace of the sequence by altering the number of breaths in each pose, just make sure to always move to the next pose on the correct breath.
1. Pranamasana (Prayer pose/Anjali Mudra)
Start in a standing position with hands at the heart (called the Anjali Mudra or the Prayer pose). Your feet should touch each other, palms joined together and mind be equanimous.
2. Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms pose)
With a deep inhalation, raise both arms above your head and tilt slightly backward arching your back. Gaze at your thumb. You may push the pelvis forward a little bit.
Ensure you’re reaching up with the fingers rather than trying to bend backwards.to bend backwards.
3. Hasta Padasana/Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bend)
With a deep exhalation, bend forward and TRY to touch the mat, both palms in line with your feet, forehead TRYING to touch your knees.
You may bend the knees, if necessary, to bring the palms down to the floor. Now make a gentle effort to straighten the knees.
4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)
With a deep inhalation, take your right leg back. Both your hands should be firmly planted on your mat, your left foot between your hands, head tilted towards the ceiling.
Tip: The knee cap and the foot should be in one straight line so as to avoid any unnecessary pressure on the knees.
5. Transition into the Plank Pose (Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana)
Do not allow your hips and butt to sag too low or poke too high here. It’s important to keep your body in one straight line, from shoulders to heels. Keep your shoulders aligned directly over your wrists. Hold for 5 breaths.
6. Ashtanga Namaskara (‘Salute With Eight Parts’)
Gently bring your knees down to the floor and exhale. Take the hips back slightly, slide forward, rest your chest and chin on the floor. Raise your posterior a little bit. The two hands, two feet, two knees, chest and chin (eight parts of the body touch the floor).
7. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)
With a deep inhalation, slowly tilt your head up, your back concave as much as possible to come into a full upward-facing dog posture.
Ensure you’re stretching just as much as you can. Do not force.
8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog)
Breathing out, lift the hips and the tail bone up, chest downwards in an ‘inverted V’ (/\) posture. If possible, try and keep the heels on the ground and make a gentle effort to lift the tailbone up, going deeper into the stretch.
9. Repeat the Step 4, this time pushing your left leg back.
10. Repeat Step 3
11. Repeat Step 2.
12. Repeat Step 1.
The Handy All-in-One Illustration:
One of the biggest obstacles that comes in your way of doing yoga is figuring out what to do when you get first get on your mat. Sun Salutations are therefore, the obvious answer! How do Sun Salutations fit into your practice?