Here is where the fun begins as I begin to break down the sun salutation for you. The great thing about the sequence below, is that it can be done any time as its own ‘half sun salutation’ to warm up the body, get some blood flowing, stretch some muscles and relieve stress. I never go for a long car ride without doing at least 5 half sun salutations; it calms my mind and readies me for hours of boredom, and prevents my muscles from cramping up in the car. Try doing the three poses below in sequence and let me know what you think. Here are some important technical elements to keep in mind as you do so.
- Mountain Pose
Mountain Pose consists of standing up tall with your hands at your sides. It certainly sounds easy enough, but it is actually a very active pose. Make sure to take the time in this pose to become aware of every part of your body. Lift up your ten toes and place them back on your mat one by one, then float of your heels before grounding into them. Work on engaging your thigh muscles by thinking of pulling them into your hips, make sure your hips are in line with one another, and engage your core. Think of pulling your stomach muscles in and back, and then pull your back muscles up. Keep your shoulders down, your neck long, and your gaze centred.
I know this sounds like a lot but as long as you start at the bottom and work your way up by engaging all of your major muscle groups, you will actually get a work out by standing still, and you will develop the muscles you need for other standing poses including balances.
- Upward Salute
Reach your arms up from your sides and straighten them up toward the ceiling. Make sure to keep your shoulders down. Gaze at the space in between your hands (maybe a spot on the ceiling) and begin to tilt your gaze as far back as you can without tilting your head. Follow the movement of your focal point by hinging from your middle back and gently and slowly bending back in the direction you are looking. Make sure to not arch your back, keep your lower back still and focus on keeping your back long.
This posture is great for strengthening your upper back and shoulders, it will also help you get a wider range of motion in other poses.
- Standing Forward Fold
As you come forward from your upward stretch, bring your arms down to wrap around your legs at a place that is comfortable for you. Bend your knees until your chest is resting on your thighs, wrap your arms around any part of your legs (ankles, shins, knees or thigh) and hug your head in close. Then, think of sticking your butt up into the air as high as it will go. You will feel a big stretch in your hamstrings and glutes when you do this, breathe into it. As you do this, aim to get the crown of your head against your matt. You should be looking at your legs with your head pointing straight down.
The longer you stand in the pose, the more you get out of it. This is a great pose to treat mid-back pain and I promise your hammies will eventually become more forgiving (believe me I know).
- Half stance/flat back
After enjoying some delicious benefits of the inversion in the previous pose, slowly begin to peel your head off of your legs and gaze forward. Begin to move your upper body up (without moving your legs) until your head is in line with your hips, and your back is flat and parallel with the floor. You can rest your hands on your thighs, or wherever feels comfortable for you. In this pose, aim to straighten your back and your legs as much as possible. If you cant’ do both, bend your knees until your back is flat so you can get the feeling of length down your entire spine.
Flat back works your entire mid section: core, side body and back body, and gives your back a much-needed stretch. From half stance, you may choose to come back to standing and start the sequence over again to continue your standing sun salutations. Or, you can go to the next step, stay tuned for a step-by-step guide on the next part of your sun salutation sequence!