If you’ve just landed here – head on back to this post for a breakdown of the standing sun salutation series.
The rest of the sun salutation involves getting on the floor and adding some different levels to your practice. Add the sequence below to your standing sun salutation and you get the full sequence, along with all of its benefits. Note that this is sun salutation series A, there is also a series B which you can incorporate, along with infinite variations to really deepen your practice. Here’s how you complete your sun salutation variation A:
To plank, fold forward and place your hands on your mat beside your feet. Bend your knees if your need. Step or hop your feet back until the balls of your feet are touching each other, and are parallel with the back of your mat. Your body should be in a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. You will achieve this by holding your core and your triceps strong, but you will feel this pose in all of the major muscle groups of your body. Hold the plank for one breath, before moving to the next posture.
- Chaturanga Dandasana
I’ve found this posture to be very challenging. It seems simple enough – all you have to do is lower your body down in one even motion from plank – as if you’re doing a pushup. However, holding this pose can be very challenging. If you have trouble holding your chaturanga, simply lower your knees to the mat. Focus on keeping your elbows pinned next to your body, your back straight, and your core engaged. Don’t be alarmed if this pose is tricky, just keep working on your technique and you will build your strength.
Hold for one breath before transitioning.
- Upward-Facing Dog
Upward-facing dog is not cobra. You can always modify this pose in your sun salutation sequence with cobra, but you should ultimately aim for upward-facing dog. Upward-facing dog consists of moving your pelvis forward from chaturanga until your arms are straight and your torso is facing up. Your legs are straight, the tops of your feet on the mat, but everything else is elevated. Note that if your pelvis, upper thighs, and shins are on your mat you are in cobra pose.
The goal is to keep your pelvis off the mat for the entire transition from plank, to chaturanga, to upward-facing dog. You may have to modify while you practice but it’s a good idea to aim to keep your pelvis elevated for this part of the sequence. You will build strength and flexibility in your entire body this way.
**The flowing motion that takes you from plank, through chutaranga, to upward-facing dog, is called a vinyasa or flow, and is a great way to get blood flowing and build muscle.
- Downward-Facing Dog
After holding upward-facing dog, or cobra for one breath, move to the final pose in your sequence. Downward-facing dog is a wonderful hamstring and back release and gives you all the benefits of an inversion. Your hands and your feet are both on the mat and your bum is in the air, your legs as straight as can be. But it’s ok to bend your legs to modify, you should really aim to get your back straight and your hips high into the air. Also lower your heels as much as you can, relax your neck… and breeeeaaatttheee. Downward-facing dog is normally held for between three and five breaths and is a great way to relax and cool down the body. It’s often used as a way to re-centre after a more invigorating sequence.
You can find some more tips to help your dog here.
After holding this pose for as long as you like, walk or float your feet back to the front of your mat and slowly stand up in mountain pose once again.
Now you’re ready to do as many sun salutations in a row as you like!
I hope this little series will help you get the most out of your sun salutation. If you know what to work toward and how to modify, you can reap all the benefits of this sequence and of all other aspects of your practice.