Yoga Positions: Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)


The Salute to the Sun routine stretches most of the major muscles of the body. It also regulates the breathing and focuses the mind. If you are reasonably fit and mobile, it is an ideal warm-up routine to do before any type of exercise. Traditionally carried out just before sunrise, this sequence of 12 postures is performed as a continuous exercise. Practised regularly – ideally, every day – Salute to the Sun increases flexibility of the spine and joints.

Hold the stretch in each position, but try to keep the entire movement gently flowing. Complete this sequence two or three times.

... (Photo credit: Dawn D)

1. Stand erect but relaxed, with your arms at your sides. Inhale deeply and, as you exhale, bring your palms together in front of your chest into the Prayer position.

2. Inhale and raise the arms above your head. Arch backwards from the waist, keeping the knees straight and relaxing your neck.

3. Exhale as you bend forwards from the hips. Keep your arms outstretched until you can place your hands on the floor, palms down and in line with your toes. Bend the knees slightly if necessary.

4. Inhaling, extend the right leg as far behind you as you can, then lower the right knee to the floor.

5. Retaining the breath, bring the left foot back, supporting your weight on your hands and toes. The head and body should now be in a straight line; look at the floor between your hands.

Stretch the body forwards and upwards with the chin raised.

6. Exhale and lower your knees to the floor, followed by the ribs, chest and forehead. The hips should be kept up and should not come into contact with the ground.

7. Inhaling, lower your hips to the ground, arch up the chest and point the toes. Keep the legs parallel and shoulders relaxed. Stretch the head back.

8. Exhaling, tuck the toes under and, keeping the hands and feet in their positions, raise the hips. Push the heels down and keep the knees straight. Your body should form an inverted ‘V’.

9. Inhaling, bring the right foot forwards between your hands. Rest your left knee on the ground and stretch the head up, as in step 4, remembering to keep the back straight.

10. Exhale as you bring the left foot forwards, placing it alongside the right foot. You are now bending from the waist and your forehead is facing the knees, as in step 3.

11. Inhaling, slowly stretch the arms forwards and uncurl the body. Stretch the arms back over your head and bend back slowly from the waist, as in step 2.

12. Exhale as you slowly come back to an upright Prayer position and bring your arms down to your sides, returning to the starting position. Complete the cycle by repeating the sequence, leading with the left leg.

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