Traditionally performed in the morning facing the sun, sun salutation was practiced to raise the energy of the body thus preparing it for the vigorous asana practice. It is highly recommended to start all sessions of Yoga asanas with the Sun Salutation. It is an excellent general warm up exercise that consists of 12 different spinal positions. It gives a wide range of spinal movements that promote flexibility in the spine and in the other limbs of the body. The Sun Salutation is very beneficial for everyone and especially for elderly and very stiff people because it increases the flexibility of the body very quickly. The Sun Salutation is not an asana but a series of gentle flowing movements coordinated with the breath to warm up the spine and to raise the energy in the body.
The Sun Salutation gives an initial warm up and stretch to the body preparing it for further asanas. Using hundreds of muscles, regulating the breath and focusing the mind the Sun Salutation is very effective and should be repeated six to twelve times.
Starting position: Stand erect with your head and body straight but relaxed. The feet are hip width apart. The knees are straight but not hyper extended, the arms are relaxed by sides of the body. Inhale deeply and begin.
1. Exhale, bring your palms together in front of the chest.
· Shoulders are relaxed and elbows are out towards the sides and relaxed.
· Knees are straight but relaxed; head is erect. Reach out with the crown of the head towards the ceiling.
2. Inhale and stretch your arms up over your head; arch your body backward.
· The head and arms are along side the ears, looking diagonally up.
· knees are straight, hips pushing forward. Remember not to drop the head back.
3. Exhale and bent forward, bringing the palms to the floor next to the feet.
· If you can't place your palms on the floor with the knees straight, you can bend the knees slightly.
· Reach with your head toward your knees.
4. Keeping your hands there, inhale and bring your right leg back as far as possible.
· Place the right knee on the ground, point the right foot.
· Push you pelvis forward without loosing the 90 degree angle of your left knee.
· Head is reaching up, whilst palms remain on the floor next to feet in straight line.
· Right and left legs will alternate going back on alternate Salutations.
5. Retain the breath and bring the left leg back.
· Body is in a straight line (push-up position) from the head to the heels.
· Look one feet away from your hands.
6. Exhale and drop your knees, chest and forehead to the floor.
· Keep the hips up.
· Without moving your body backward bring your chest down to the floor between your hands. Then bring the forehead to the floor.
· Knees, chest and forehead are touching the ground, hips are up in the air.
7. Inhale and scoop forward, looking upwards.
· Arch the chest up and bring the head back.
· Legs remain on the ground.
· Do not move the hands as you come into this position.
· Elbows are straight and shoulders pushing down.
8. Exhale, curl your toes and push the hips up.
· without moving the hands or feet push the hips up as high as possible.
· The hands are flat on ground, heels on the floor. Head is between the arms; look at your feet, trying to bring the chest to the knees.
· This position is known as the inverted-V position.
9. Inhale and bring the right foot forward in between the hands.
· Bring the fingers and toes in one line.
· Drop the left knee to the floor, point the left foot, push your pelvis forward reaching towards the right heel.
· Stretch the head up - same as position 4.
· Right and left legs will alternate coming forward on alternate Salutations. 10. Exhale and keeping your the hands there, bring the left foot forward next to the right foot.
· Forehead towards the knees, nose in between the knees - hands are holding the ankles.
· Keep the hips as high as possible.
11. Inhale; reach out and up, arch backwards - same as position 2.
12. Exhale and bring your arms forward and down along side your body, returning to the starting position. Note:
. Tell the beginners that it will take some time to memorize the sequence.
. The teacher should lead each round. Never ask students to do the rounds on their own.
. Beginners will have difficulty coordinating the breath with the movements. Ask them not to worry about the breathing at first. Allow them to learn the movements first and then add the correct breathing.
. In position 4 and 9 make sure that students have the front knee over the ankle, not pushing forward.
. Many beginning students have difficulty going from position 8 to 9. Ask them to first drop one knee straight down to the ground then bring the other foot forward between the hands.