The Sun Salutations: A Starting Point

Yoga is weird, right? I mean is it a work out or a hippie-laced approach to being “woke”? What’s the deal with all the bird names for poses and the unpronouncable Sanskrit that sounds cool when your teacher says it but when you say it it sounds like a creature from a JRR Tolkien novel. In this blog I break down one of the main flow sequences common in many Hatha and Vinyasa classes. In this blog I will be taking the “5 W’s” approach so that it is accessible new and experienced yogis.

WHO?

So who can do Sun Salutations? There’s no discrimination here! Everyone can do this flow sequence! Kids, adults, I’ve even seen a couple of dogs pull off some of these poses (no really, I have). But I don’t want to get myself in trouble here. I would not be a trained professional if I did not advise that there are certain times and circumstances where you should not flex it out in this sequence. That includes if you have heart problems, high blood pressure, any bone weakness, or other diagnosed conditions. Any of these need to be discussed with your doctor. And you mommies-to-be out there always need to check and discuss with your doctor on the proper routine thats right for you. Also, always be aware of any injuries you have sustained over time. And yes even injuries that are decades old. The “Who” part of this blog is very important because I have talked with many “emerging” yogis who are a little nervous to get started because they see videos or Instagram photos of very dynamic poses and think “I can never do that.” But I am here to squash that little rumor. If you are thinking about starting yoga as a personal practice then know that it is YOUR practice. You have a body and your body is unlike anyone else’s in the entire world. You have a mind and your mind is unlike anyone else’s in the world. Your practice will not look like anyone else’s either in the studio, on Youtube, or Instagram. And that’s the beautiful part. You get to be your true authentic self. The Sun Salutations offer great modifications and variations based on strength, flexibility, and “level”. And I promise that the flow you start with will change over time.

WHAT?

I like to think of the Sun Salutations as a mix of modern day cardio blended with traditional meditation in motion. The have the same poses, which include Mountain Pose, Upward Salute, Forward Fold, Half Forward Fold, Plank, Downward Facing Dog, Chatauranga, and Upward Facing Dog or Cobra, Low or Runner’s Lunge, and Warrior 1. Does that seems like a lot? Hopefully I’m not losing you yet. In “Google” terms they are a series of yoga poses linked together with the breath. I will share a link below to my Sun Salutations page with the typical poses and a description for each. When you think of “sun” you think “hot” right? You can also think of the Sun Salutations as a warmup for the body. Many times you will see this flow at the beginning of a Hatha or Vinyasa class but many teachers use it throughout the entire class or as a transition into other poses. You’ll find that these poses, that include strength building and muscle expansion will leave you feeling energized and awake as you link the breath with movement.

WHEN?

When to practice this flex and flow sequence you ask? Well traditionally the name in itself literally says to salute the sun, obviously translated as in the morning when the sun is rising. There are a couple of reasons for this tradition. As the sun is rising, according to ancient yogis, it is an offering to start each day new and to salute the fire within your body and mind. The sun is a powerful force of nature and to salute it at the beginning of each new day is to recognize that you are also a powerful force of nature.  Also, getting your flex on in the morning gives you a chance to wake up and become alert. It is a chance to connect mind and body early so that you can go into your day with enhanced willpower.
But hold up!
Aren’t we living in the modern digital era? Things are moving at lightning speed. Who the “flex” has time to wake up at 6 am and pump out this flow? Well probably quite a few of you. I have always been jealous of that percentage of the population who thrive on waking up early with full intentions to get shit done. I, on the other hand, roll out of bed contemplating if my hair even gets brushed today. Guess what, there is a special place for the group like me who also want to get some flow in. Even though the tradition is to salute the sun as its rising you can still salute the sun (remember this is also a metaphor for saluting yourself) at anytime of the day. I personally thrive when I practice in the evening as the sun is setting. Everyone is different and as I mentioned before, your practice is your own. Your practice is what you make it.

WHERE?

The Sun Salutations, as best we know, originated 3500-5000 years ago as recorded in the ancient Hindu Vedas (that’s all for another blog). I like to think people were busting out their best flex even back then. These practices have survived into the modern world. And what an interesting world it is now. Its a busy world and getting in some flow takes some mindful planning. When I talk about “Where?” It can really be considered for all of yoga, or anything involving a better, healthier you. As far as the Sun Salutations it is really up to you and your schedule and what you prefer. The age in which we live offers many studios in urban and some rural areas. Studios are great for anyone wanting to feed off of the energy of like-minded yogis and gives a great sense of community and belonging. But as mentioned before, I have talked to many people who feel a little intimidated to make that first step into a studio space. Totally normal! Don’t drag yourself down for feeling that way. Today’s world offers so many resources. I personally got started on Youtube videos. That was my practice for over a year before I ever walked into a studio. Some like to start here. But really, I encourage you to walk through life as if the world is your personal oyster. Strike a flow anywhere you go. Mountain, beach, rooftop skyline, artsy backdrop. All these things of course look pretty mixed with a Sun Salutation but make sure “Where” you really feel it is on the inside. Where you feel aligned is the flow.

WHY?

First of all the benefits of doing the Sun Salutations are vast and as already mentioned I will be posting a link to my Sun Salutations page with benefits of each pose. But why should Surya Namaskar (Sanskrit for “Sun Salutation”) even be on our radar? In my personal opinion its a really great place to start. If you are new to yoga you get a very well rounded view of what the practice can be or look like. You get a lot of angles covered from strength and flexibility and body alignment to the mental benefits of stress relief and mindfulness through the breath. For yogis with experience it can be a flow to base your entire practice off of. The Sun Salutations are a great way to merge modern and traditional yoga.
Want more in depth coverage of Surya Namaskar? Check out the link below where I break down each pose and it’s benefits!

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