Sun Salutation Series – Introduction

Artwork by Abby Bunnell

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you have done at least one posture in a sequence of movements called a sun salutation. Chances are you’ve done all of the postures in the sequence and have probably done one or more variations of the sequence as part of your practice.

A basic sun salutation (variation A) consists of eight postures practiced in sequence. From standing or mountain pose, the arms are raised over head into an upward stretch called upward salute, the body then dives into a standing forward fold, then the head raises for a flat-backed stance, before placing the hands on the mat and jumping or stepping the feet back into a plank. From the plank, the body is lowered in a push-up like motion into a pose called chaturanga dandasana or four-limbed staff pose. From there, the pelvis shifts forward as the entire upper body and hips lifts off the mat in upward-facing dog pose, which then transitions to downward facing dog pose by lifting from the hips. From downward dog, the feet float back to the front of the mat before the body returns to its original standing posture. Here’s a video.

All of my yoga classes involve a lot of sun salutations of various types with many variations. The sun salutation is a great way to warm up the body, stretch and strengthen muscles, establish your breathing rhythm and generally get into the flow of the practice. Having said that, it’s taken me a long time to understand what exactly the goal of each posture in the sequence is. Now that I’m more aware of what my body ought to be doing, I find the sun salutation sequence to be a lot more difficult than I had previously thought, but when I fully exert myself through the series, I really do feel that I get the most  out of it.

The next few posts will include a breakdown of what is involved in each of the postures mentioned above that make up the Sun Salutation. I hope you will join me through this series as I write about what I have learned to be the best way to get the most out of each pose, and the sequence as a whole.

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