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How To: Sun Salutations
Alexandra Black – Group Exercise Manager
Have you ever considered starting your own home practice of yoga but don’t know where to start? You roll out the mat and lay down on it and realise that the sequences that you’ve practiced in class have magically disappeared from your mind. You could turn on your computer and find a filmed practice on Virgin Active Coach, but you want to do it yourself. Where do you start?
I would recommend starting with sun salutations. They’re simple to follow, the moves are complex enough that it is an engaging practice and there are numerous health benefits to the practice.
Traditionally, sun salutations, or surya namaskar, are used as an asana practice. Typically performed at sunrise, it is considered a complete sadhana (spiritual practice) as it combines asana (movement), pranayama (breathwork), mantra (chanting) and meditation. While we have adapted this within the modern vinyasa practice, the benefits of sun salutations on the body and the mind are plenty.
Follow the below steps to perfect your sun salutation.
Standing at the front of your mat with feet hip width apart, stand up tall and strong. Think about pushing into the four corners of your feet as you engage the legs and core, think about rolling your shoulders back and down to hug the ribcage. Think of your neck long and your head tall, palms of your hands facing forwards to open the shoulders. Although this posture is just standing, try and make it strong and enegaging for all the muscles in your body.
2. Hasta Uttanasana
Bring your arms above your head, following your fingertips with your gaze.
3. Uttanasana – forward fold
Fold yourself forward bending at the hips and leading with your heart. Bend your knees so your belly is planted on your thighs and then think of straightening the hamstrings if you can. We want to keep a neutral spine, so try to keep the bending from your hips and not your lumbar spine.
4. Ardha Uttanasana – halfway lift
Bring your fingertips to the Earth or your calves and try to create a 90* angle from your thighs, your hips and lower back. Think of your shoulder bladers hugging together to bring your heart forward.
5. Dandasana to Chataranga Dandasana – high plank to low plank
Step your way back to a high plank. Think of your hands pushing in to the floor as you round through the upper spine. Sink your buttocks a little lower and shine your collarbones forward. Stay here for a moment before wrapping your elbow creases forward, bringing your body slightly forward and lowering to half way, creating a 90* angle in the elbow joint. Keep that core strong!
6. Urdhva Mukha Svansasana – upward facing dog
Flip over the feet to engage the thighs and bring your heart forward and up. Think cobra but on the tops of your feet. Don’t be lazy here, think of your shoulder blades hugging together like you do in halfway lift and look just head of you – no need to crane the neck up!
7. Ardho Mukha Svanasana – downward facing dog
Push your way back so your buttocks comes to the sky. Push into the hands and wrap your elbow creases forward to engage the shoulder girdle. Bent into the knees, send the hips to the sky and then straighten the knees, sending heels down to the Earth. Stay here for a little while – it’s strong, but it’s your resting posture.
8. Step or jump to the front of the mat
9. Ardha Uttanasana
11. Hasta Uttanasana
In a typical class you will perform this three times to warm up the body. Holding each pose for 5 breaths on the first round and then flowing through the following two. It is traditionally performed 12 times at sunrise.
You can also practice this as a meditation by holding the poses for an extra breath each round such as: one breath, two breaths, three breaths etc. Or as a fitness regime by trying to practice it quickly for 108 rounds.
Let us know how you go and don’t forget to tag us on Instagram at @virginactiveuk!