The most famous yoga flow

It’s my shortest video so far, yet I have SO MUCH to say about the most notorious yoga sequence in the Western world. Welcome to my Ted Talk.

Sun Salutation A / Surya Namaskar A is…
…the foundation of many yoga classes in the US,
…a sequence you can expect to do some version of in most Vinyasa classes,
…the foundation of an Ashtanga practice,
…an adoration of the sun and its energy,
and more!

For a deeper understanding of the history and symbolism of Surya A, please visit this article. It’s quite beautiful.

Now I usually offer cues and explanations in my videos, but I felt compelled to share more about this one, because, to be completely frank, many yogis injure themselves in this sequence. And I really don’t want you to be one of them.

Please, please, please, remember the number #1 rule: listen to your body. Properly done, and taking your own physical abilities, limitations, injuries, changes, etc. into account, this sequence can really be wonderful. Just be gentle with yourself, ok?

The traditional set of poses:
​[Sanskrit] – [English]

TADASANA – MOUNTAIN POSE
Instructors will often say Samasthiti (Equal Standing) instead of Tadasana. Physically, the pose is the same. The intention of Samasthiti is to steady your attention, to come into stillness. 

URDHVA HASTASANA – UPWARD HANDS POSE
This is sometimes considered a gentle backbend. Keep your ribs in, navel pulled to the spine, and gently look up. There should be no pain in your neck or back.

UTTANASANA – FORWARD FOLD
Remember that you always, ALWAYS, have the option to bend your knees. This helps relieve pressure from your lower back, especially if you are experiencing tight hamstrings. 

ARDHA UTTANASANA- HALF FORWARD FOLD
Teachers commonly say “halfway lift.” Avoid placing your hands on your knees. Shins or thighs are a safer resting place for your palms. Feel free to bend your knees if your hamstrings are preventing you from lengthening your spine. 

KUMBHAKASANA – PLANK POSE
Engage your core and keep your hips just under the level of your shoulders to maintain a neutral spine (no arching!). Modify by bringing your knees down to the mat for a kneeling plank. 

CHATURANGA DANDASANA – FOUR LIMBED STAFF POSE
Commonly called a “yoga push-up,” this pose can tear up your shoulders if not done correctly. Please, for the love of all that is holy, for the sake of your one and only body, be mindful. Pull your shoulders back, bend your elbows back (like a tricep push-up) so you are grazing your sides as you lower yourself to your mat.

Don’t know if you’re doing it right? Do it on your knees, or don’t do it at all. No one will judge you for taking care of your body.

If you are experiencing discomfort in your lower back, lift your hips higher and keep your core engaged so there is no excessive arch in your lower vertebrae.

URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA – UPWARD FACING DOG
In this video, I demonstrate Cobra rather than Upward Dog because it is easier on wrists and shoulders, as well as your lower back if you are beginning your practice of sun salutations. In Cobra, keep your hips on the mat and slowly lift your elbows up, keeping them tucked in next to your ribs. Roll your shoulders back and down.

It is not necessary to straighten your arms. Close your eyes, let go of ego. Stop at a point that is stretching your back comfortably. Pain does you no good. 

ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA – DOWNWARD FACING DOG
You’ve probably seen this one in a movie at some point (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” or “Couples Retreat,” anyone?). It’s also notorious for shoulder injuries. I will be doing a separate video featuring Downward Dog and its intricacies.

First off, plant your palms down firmly, spread your fingers wide and press the base of your index fingers into the mat. Bend your knees slightly, lift your hips up and back to lengthen your spine. Rather than stretching your shoulders to their breaking point, create a straight line from your wrists to your hips. Rotate your shoulders so that your biceps are pointing toward the ceiling and your “funny bones” are facing each other. Look at your feet or your belly button.

After/instead of Downward Dog is the perfect time for Child’s Pose. If you want to take a moment to rest, lower your knees to the floor, sit back on your heels, and bring your forehead to the mat.

ARDHA UTTANASANA- HALF FORWARD FOLD
See above.

UTTANASANA – FORWARD FOLD
As you are coming back to a standing posture, keep your spine long and engage the muscles in your back and hamstrings. Again, bend your knees slightly to protect the lower back.

Some people experience dizziness or temporary vision loss after standing up. (I experienced this when I first began practicing yoga, and I still experience it when I am dehydrated and/or exhausted). Avoid this by taking deeper breaths, not holding your fold more than one breath, and taking your time to rise up. If the issue is more serious, or you continue to experience dizziness, please consult your physician.

URDHVA HASTASANA – UPWARD HANDS POSE
See above.

TADASANA – MOUNTAIN POSE
This is your moment to turn your attention inward, to notice how your body feels.

In my video, you will see that I stray from the traditional sequence. I do this in order to gently warm up the body. If this is your first time trying sun salutations, I recommend repeating the warm-up variation several times, and slowly working your way up to the traditional series.

I highly encourage you to find a teacher that understands your needs. Having in-person and/or hands-on instruction will give you a solid foundation for your yoga practice 🙏🏼


Emily

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