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Monday, April 20, 2009

Yoga For Beginners - How to Do the Sun Salutation in 12 Easy-To-Follow Steps

By Ntathu Allen

The Sun Salutation, also known in Sanskrit as Surya Namaskra, offers you a wonderful opportunity to warm -up and gently stretch your back and improve flexibility of your spine.

Most yoga classes will start with the Sun Salutation. The Sun Salutation, forms part of the warm-up in most yoga classes.

It consists of 12 flowing positions that allow the body to stretch forwards and backwards. Different schools of yoga will have their own particular variation of the Sun Salutation.

The following 12 steps offer you a simple guide to the Sun Salutation traditionally practiced in a Sivananda Hatha Yoga Class. For the first few times you practice the Sun Salutation, it is easier to just focus on the postures. As you get used to the routine, try and co-ordinate the movement with the breath.

Starting Position: Stand erect with the head and body straight but relaxed. The feet are together, the knees are straight, and the arms are relaxed at the sides. Inhale deeply.

Position 1: Exhale and bring the palms together in the prayer position in front of the heart centre.

Position 2: Inhale. Stretch the arms out from the heart centre and stretch your arms up over your head. Arch your body backwards, keep your arms up alongside the ears. Try and keep your knees straight. Keep looking up at your hands; give yourself a full body stretch as you stretch up all the way from the feet to the tips of your fingers.

Position 3: Exhale. Bend forwards and bring the hands down to the floor next to the feet. If your hands do not touch the floor with the knees straight, then slightly bend the knees. Allow the head to relax toward the floor.

Position 4: Inhale and without moving the hands, stretch the right leg back as far as possible. Drop the right knee to the floor. Leave the left knee on the floor between the hands and the left knee close to the chest. Stretch the head up and back (you may feel a slight stretch in the throat and right groin).

Position 5: Retain your breath. Bring your left leg back and place the left foot next to the right, with the toes pointing forwards. Your body should be in a straight line - similar to the push-up or plank position. Keep your head in a straight line with your body (if this position is too strong, then does this instead: - then keep both hands flat on the floor and have both knees on the floor, look up and back)

Position 6: Exhaling, drop the knees straight down to the floor. Keep the hips up. Bring the chest straight down to the floor between the hands. Bring the forehead to the floor. Again, if this is to strong, just lower your body flat to the floor.

Position 7: Inhale as you slide the body forwards until the hips are on the ground. Legs straight out behind you. Have the palms on the floor beneath the shoulders, elbows close to the body and pointing upwards. Gently stretch upward with the head, neck and chest. (cobra pose) Keep the elbows slightly bent and tucked in toward the body. The shoulders are down and relaxed, so there is no tension in the neck or shoulder area.

You now repeat the poses going back in the opposite direction.

Position 8: Exhale as you tuck the toes under. Keep the hands and feet in the same place, bring the hips up and form an inverted V/downward dog pose. Push the heels towards the floor and keep the knees straight.

Position 9: inhale and bring the right foot forwards between the hands so that the fingers and toes form a straight line. Drop the left knee to the floor and stretch the head up. (Alternatively lower the knees to the floor - all fours). This is the same position as in Position 4.

Position 10: Exhale and without moving the hands bring the left foot forwards next to the right foot. The forehead is down towards the knees. Make sure the fingers and toes are in a straight line. This is the same as Position 3

Position 11: Inhale - as you slowly reach the arms forwards and then stretch them up over your head. With your arms alongside your ears and the weight cantered on the balls of the feet. Give a complete backward bend to the body. This is the same position as Position 2.

Position 12: Exhale as you stands upright and brings your arms down alongside your body, returning to the starting position. Stand still and observe the breath.

When you have regained your breath, repeat this sequence, this time leading with the left leg.

So, there you have it. Your complete guide to the Sun Salutation. As you become more comfortable with this sequence, try and do at least 3 - 5 cycles every day. You will soon notice your back feeling looser, more supply and flexible.