What is a Sun Salutation?
Sun Salutations – Surya Namaskar – put together the most basic yoga poses in a flowing, dynamic series led by your breath. This cycle is infinitely modifiable and the ultimate in portable, adjustable exercise and mindfulness.
In the course of a Sun Salutation, you'll practice mountain, modifiable backbending, forward bending, one sided poses, leg and arm stretching, a mild inversion (Downward Facing Dog) if you choose it and core work - all customizable to you.
The basic components flex and extend the spine dynamically, open the shoulders and hips, include weight bearing on the upper extremities, and an inversion. Surya Namaskar is a complete practice in and of itself.
Other poses can easily be interposed between those of the standard cycle adding variety and creating flow.
The most important component of this cycle is moving with the breath, and maintaining a smooth, long breath through your nose. Feel free to stay in one of the poses for a few extra breaths to allow your breath to catch up when you begin to feel out of breath. You can always rest in child’s pose to catch up, too.
There are many variations of how to link the postures, and the simplest one is what we’ll learn in this sequence. Over time and with experience, you’ll learn how to insert Warrior postures and perhaps add jump-backs and other enhancements, but the basic sequence of folding the spine and opening the spine, forward followed by back bend is always the same. Allow your sequence to flow with your breath, working up to one posture for each inhale or exhale, but as you’re learning allow yourself to remain in a posture long enough to have a calm, steady breath before moving on. For your first several rounds, focus just on moving with your breath. After you have a feeling for the flow, you can focus on when to inhale and exhale.
One round is actually 2 salutes - one stepping back with one leg, the other stepping back with the other leg. Start with 2-4 rounds. Progress only when you are able to perform the cycles with smooth and even breath and attention to form.