Ask A Yoga Teacher: Sun Salutations

surya namaskara a

Hi, and thanks for stopping by my weekly-recurring blog, “Ask A Yoga Teacher.” My name is Tara — and I’m a writer by day, yoga teacher by night. I recently graduated with my 500-Hour Yoga Certification… and I’m obsessed with yoga! I love learning new poses and am constantly seeking that yoga “high” you get from taking an amazing class.

Each week, we invite readers to submit questions related to all-things yoga. You can email me at talk at herdaily dot com and I’ll do my best to answer your question. Last week, I promised to explain surya namaskara, or sun salutations, a typical series of poses you do in a vinyasa flow class. There are actually three different types of sun salutations, but I’ll break down surya namaskara A. This flow sequence is all about moving with your breath. See how slowly you can move through each pose.

Begin at the top of your mat in tadasana. Push evenly through all four corners of your feet (big toe side of the foot, little toe side of the foot and the back two corners of your heel). Stack your torso directly over your hips and elongate evenly through all four corners of your waist. Inhale and bring your arms up overhead (Step one, above). Exhale and hinge at your hips as you fold over into uttanasana (Step two, above). Bend your legs if you have tight hamstrings and you have to compromise your back in order to fold in half. Inhale and lengthen, keeping your back straight — your legs can remain bent if your fingertips can’t touch the ground while you look forward into ardha uttanasana (Step three). You can also place your hands on your shins.

Firmly plant your palms flat on the ground and step back into the top of a push up (plank pose, which I went over here). Keeping your elbows tucked in toward you side, slowly lower into chaturanga (Step four). Inhale and point your toes as you push the floor away from you and arch your back from your upper back — not your lower back! Look up at the ceiling if it feels OK on your neck (Step five). As you exhale, flip over your toes and push your hips up and back into adho mukha svanasana, or downward facing dog. Remain in this pose for five even breaths.

Inhale, stepping your right foot forward to meet your hands, followed by your left (switch which foot steps forward each time you do a sun salutation). Now you’re back in ardha uttanasana (Step three and six). Exhale and fold, uttanasana (Step two and seven). Sweeping your arms out to the side and up overhead, inhale and come up with a flat back. Touch your palms together (Step one and eight). Exhale, lowering your arms as you come back to tadasana.

I hope this post explained surya namaskara A enough for you to do it at home… or so you can follow along easier in a class. I’d be happy to follow up or expand on anything I mentioned today. If anyone else has any questions, big or small, feel free to email me at talk at herdaily dot com or ask me on Facebook or Twitter. Use the hashtag #askayogateacher so I can see your question. Next week I’ll answer Dani’s question, “Is it ‘un-yogic’ of me to listen to music while I’m doing yoga at home?”