Natural Living: Reap the benefits of practicing Sun Salutations |

Natural Living: Reap the benefits of practicing Sun Salutations

Maureen Lamerdin, O.M.D.

The Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar is a sequence of 12 flowing yoga poses meant to be practiced at sunrise to induce better physical health, vitality, well-being and energy into your day.

Originating more than 2,500 years ago, this sequence of positions was originally developed as a way to honor or worship the sun. “Surya” means “Sun” and “Namaskar” means “to bow down.” Without the sun there would be no life — it’s the source of all energy for this planet and is an element in everything we eat, drink and breathe.

Practicing Sun Salutation daily improves the functions of the stomach, liver, heart, intestine, legs, throat and chest by purifying the blood and improving blood circulation throughout the whole body. It has been shown in numerous studies to strengthen the body, improve flexibility, posture, muscle tone and burn excess fat. It also helps relax the mind, helps one cope with insomnia and keeps the mind sharp.

To get started, find a quiet space on the floor either inside or outside. You can use a yoga mat or a small rug for better traction. Be sure to take your socks off and wear comfortable clothing.

Start by standing tall in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Keep your shoulders back and down your back as you pull your ribs in and drive the top of your thighs in and back, dropping your tailbone toward your heels.

Inhale as you raise your arms straight up and join your palms in Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute). Stand tall, breathing in, keeping your shoulders relaxed and your quads lifting up and strong.

Exhale as you fold forward reaching hands to feet into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold). Stack your hips over your heels and keep your core strong and elongated. It’s more important to get a proper stretch by using props if needed rather than pushing past your limits and injuring yourself. You can use blocks or a chair to settle your hands onto assuring your hamstrings are stretched.

Inhale and rise to your fingertips in Ardha Uttanasana (Half-Standing Forward Bend). Extend your gaze and keep your chest forward coming to a flat back. If needed, place your hands on your shins.

Exhale, bend your knees, plant your palms flat and step back into Plank Pose. Keep your core engaged while reaching your tailbone to your heels, extend your heart and gaze forward as your heels reach back.

Lower to Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). Keeping your elbows tucked in towards your ribs, extend your heart and gaze forward. Assure your core is engaged and shoulders are lifting away from the floor.

Inhale as you roll over your toes and press the top of your feet evenly into the ground. Lift your knees and thighs away from the floor into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose). Roll your shoulders back and down while lifting your lower belly in and up.

Exhale and roll your toes back over as you lift your hips into the air and push back into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose). Take five deep breaths, while pressing your thigh bones back, drawing you ribs back and in toward the spine and hugging your upper outer arms in. Enjoy your breath here.

Bend your knees. Exhale and step your feet forward to meet your hands, stepping into Ardha Uttanasana (Half-Standing Forward Bend). Inhale to your fingertips, extending your gaze and heart forward, coming to a flat back.

Exhale as you fold over your legs in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold), keeping your hips over your heels and your core long and strong.

Inhale as you lift your gaze. Extend your arms wide to the sides, lift your chest and arise all the way up to standing in Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute). Press your palms overhead, keeping your arms straight.

Exhale as you release your arms and lower them to your side in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), keeping your shoulders dropped down your back and the top of your thigh pressed in and back.

Congratulations, you have just completed one set of Sun Salutation! Work your way up to 12 sets of Sun Salutation each day. With each set you will reap all the benefits of life the sun sheds upon us.

Just like with any exercise routine, you can modify and use props to assure you are in proper alignment to avoid injury. It’s more important to go slow and assure proper alignment then to speed through any workout. It’s recommended you join a class if you’re new to Sun Salutations.