If you only have time for one yoga move, then yoga salutations is the move for you. Performed as a series of 12 steps, the yoga sun salutations sequence is an important component of yoga, both symbolically and physically.
What is the symbolic basis of yoga salutations?
In Hindu mythology, the sun god is worshipped as the source of health and immortal life; it states, “Surya (sun) is the soul, both of the moving and unmoving beings.” The yoga sun salutations sequence was originally designed as a way for people to show their reverence for the sun god. In Sanskrit, the sequence is called “surya namaskar;” surya means sun, and namaskar means “reverent salutations.” In fact, Hindu people often greet each other with the salutation “Namaksar,” meaning, “I bow to the originality in you; I respect you, as there is no other like you.” The same meaning is true of the salutation often used in yoga classes between students and their teachers: “Namaste.”
What are the physical benefits of yoga salutations?
Yoga sun salutations provide several benefits, and can be done as the first step in a longer yoga sequence, or as the total sequence itself.
When used as a warm-up before a longer yoga sequence:
For those new to yoga, or those who are pressed for time, yoga salutations can serve as a workout in itself by:
How do I perform yoga salutations?
As a core move to any practice, yoga salutations are a great sequence for beginners to learn. If you are just starting out, try four rounds on each side of the body, and work your way up to 12.
Although some yoga styles may perform the individual steps a little differently, the general flow and steps are the same among all of the various schools of yoga.
It is important to coordinate your breathing with the postures: inhale as you extend (stretch), and exhale as you fold (contract).
Here is how to perform the yoga sun salutations sequence:
1. Mountain Pose. Stand with feet hip width apart, hands at sides or in prayer pose, and breathe deeply in and out a few times.
2. Hands up. Inhale, reach overhead, gently arching your back to comfort.
3. Head to knees. Exhale, and gently fold the body forward at the waist, letting your hands rest near your feet.
4. Lunge. With hands on the floor on either side of your feet, inhale and step your right leg back.
5. Plank. Exhale, step your left leg back, like the top of a push-up.
6. Stick. Exhale, lower your body in a straight line as in the bottom of a push-up, allowing only your hands and feet to touch the floor.
7. Upward Dog Pose. Inhale, stretch the body upward, bending at the waist, like a “seal” pose. Use your arms to lift your torso to comfort.
8. Downward Dog Pose. Exhale, lift your body from the hips and push back and up.
9. Lunge. Inhale, step right foot forward.
10. Head to knees. Exhale, bring left foot forward.
11. Hands up. Inhale, rise slowly while extending arms overhead.
12. Mountain Pose. Exhale, sweep arms to sides.
**REPEAT sequence again, stepping with the left leg, to complete one round.
Click here to view a video clip of yoga sun salutations.
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