21-Day Back to the Mat Challenge: Day Four. Sun Salutations
Welcome to Day Four. Today, we’ll add a Sun Salutation to our practice.
The Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskara (“Surya” meaning “Sun” and “Namaskar” meaning “to bow down,”) is pretty much ubiquitous to the yoga practice. Each tradition has its favorite; some have multiple versions.
The Sun Salutation has it all: forward folds, back bends, and strengthening poses. It stretches and strengthens the body; it can be used as a warm-up or as a complete practice on its own. The Sun Salutation releaves tension, improves circulation, stimulates the nervous system and brings warmth to the body.
If you perform Surya Namaskara fast, you’ll reap cardiovascular benefits; if you take it slowly, you’ll discover a kind of meditation in motion. Try both. When practiced with reverence, Surya Namaskara is prayer in motion.
Practice your favorite version or here is a description of how to perform one version of Surya Namaskara:
Start in Tadasana – Mountain Pose standing with your feet hip’s width apart and parallel to one another.
- Inhale your arms wide and up, take your gaze to the sky
- Exhale swan dive with a flat back and slightly bent knees to Forward Fold, Uttanasana
- Inhale step your right foot back to lunge, lengthen the spine
- Exhale step your left foot back to Downward Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Inhale float forward to Plank Pose, Kumbhakasana
- Exhale lower all the way down to the mat by keeping your abdominal muscles engaged, your body long and straight like a plank of wood; keep your elbows close to your sides and draw them toward your back-body; keep your shoulders strong and the front of your chest broad
- Inhale, press the tops of your feet into the mat and engage your core muscles (to protect your low back) as you press into your hands and peel your chest up from the mat, arch your back slightly, take your gaze forward and slightly upward to Cobra Pose, Bhujangasana
- Exhale, using your core muscles, push yourself back to Downward Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Inhale, step your right foot forward to lunge
- Exhale your left foot forward to Forward Fold, Uttanasana
- Inhale (with a flat back, arms reaching wide in a reverse swan dive) up to standing
- Repeat on the other side (stepping your left foot back first)
Lower yourself down to a comfrotable seat and then lie down into Savasana. Collpase into the mat. Let your feet splay out to, let your arms – plams up – relax at your sides. Let go of your attention to your breath.
Here is the short version of today’s practice:
- Take a comfortable seat
- Close your eyes, Bring your attention inward
- Inhale, lengthen the spine, Exhale, keep that length
- Notice deeply
- Continue in this way for 10 or 20 breaths
- Open your eyes and move to a kneeling position (sit back on your heels)
- Perform Kapalabhati for 20-50 breaths, Repeat (as you like)
- Come to Child’s pose, enjoy the effects of Kapalabhati
- Come up to Table, then move with breath: Table > Down Dog > Table > Child’s Pose…
Repeat Five times (or as many or few times as you like)
- Balancing Table (both sides)
- Lower arm/leg back to Table
- Exhale as you Push back to Downward Facing Dog
- Inhale, Step forward to Standing Forward Fold
- Exhale here
- Inhale up to Tadasana, Mountain Pose
- Sun Salutation (both sides)
- Close your eyes, bring your hands together in Prayer Pose at the center of your chest
- Open your eyes, lower down to a comfortable sitting position
- Lie back into Savasana