Most yoga classes start with sun salutations or, as they are called in Sanskrit Surya Namaskar. In a Vinyasa-style yoga practice, this sequence is key as it sets the tone for the entire class. There is a great amount of symbolism behind these movements, as is the case with most of yoga practice. Have a look.
Revering The Sun
The Hindus have revered the sun as the spiritual and physical heart of the world. As a way of honouring it, they developed the asana sequence called Surya Namaskar. (The word Namaskar stems from the word namas which means ‘to bow to’ or ‘to adore’.)
Yoga practice starts with this sequence as it warms, strengthens as well as aligns the body, so making it ready for the rest of the session. When you move slowly and deliberately through Surya Namaskar, you’ll see how it becomes almost a moving meditation and is calming. If you move more quickly through it, the Sun Salutation becomes stimulating.
Breath And The Sun Salutation
Breath is incredibly important in the Sun Salutation sequence. Each of the movements is coordinated with either an inhalation or an exhalation. You can control how fast the sequence of asanas depends on how many cycles of breath there are in each pose.
Talking about breathing, in yoga, breath is incredibly important. Yogis practise something called Ujjayi breath, which translated means ‘joyful breath’. Instead of exhaling through an open mouth, as you would do in Pilates, in yoga, you will breathe in through your nose and when you exhale you will slightly constrict the back of your throat and force your breath out through closed lips.
How To Do The Sun Salutation
You’ll begin in Tadasana, which is translated as Mountain Pose. For yoga beginners, this means that you need to start standing up straight with your hands in prayer pose in front of your chest.
The next pose in the sequence is Uttanasana, in which you bend at your waist and touch the floor. Your back needs to be flat. If you can’t touch the floor, you can rest your hands on yoga blocks. From here you’ll go into plank pose and then into Chaturanga Dandasana. In other words, from plank, you’ll lower your knees and chin to the floor, while keeping your hips up.
From this position, you’ll go into Cobra or Upward Facing Dog. You’ll lower your hips, put your arms next to your torso and then push up like you are leaping for joy when you win with phone games for money. From this position, you’ll go into Downward Facing Dog. The next thing that you’ll do is either jump your feet closer to your hands or step them forward. You’ll then come back into Mountain Pose and finish with your hands in prayer position in front of your chest.
Although Sun Salutations can seem quite daunting – especially if you’re a beginner and they’re done quite quick, however, if you break the movements down, you’ll find that it’s quite easy to do.