Surya Samaskar – or “Sun Salutation” is the fundamental yoga sequence that forms the backbone of almost every flow in modern vinyasa yoga. They can be practiced by themselves, or you can add in your own postures to create a longer sequence.
Learn to practice Surya Namaskar with great alignment using this 8-step guide and you will have a great foundation from which to take your yoga practice forwards.
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
To start the sequence, come to the top of your yoga mat and stand in Tadasana (Mountain pose). Stand tall, lengthen your spine, and allow your weight to spread evenly across your feet. Let your two big toes touch each other. Focus your attention on your breath and breathe steadily.
2. Mountain pose, arms raised (Urdhva Hastasana in Tadasana)
As you inhale, swing your arms forwards and reach upwards above your head. turn your palms in to face one another and allow your chest to open outwards.
3. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
As you exhale, gently fold forward from your hips. Don’t worry if you can’t reach your head all the way down to your knees – just explore what movement is available to you. If you feel a strain on your lower back then feel free to soften and bend your knees a little bit.
4. Raised forward fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
As you inhale, straighten your back and lift your chest and head slightly upwards so that you can look forward. If you are flexible then your hands can remain on the floor, otherwise allow them to slide up your shins towards the knee.
5. Plank Pose
On your next exhalation, place your palms on the yoga mat at shoulder-width apart. Step or lightly jump your feet towards the back of the yoga mat. In this posture the top of your wrists should be directly above the back of your wrists, the spine is straight and your feet are hip-distance apart. If you are using your Yogaline Alignment mat then you can use the tailor-make alignment guides to find your hand and feet positioning.
6. Chaturanga Dandasana
From Plank, exhale and bend the elbows, keeping them close to your chest as you lower yourself towards the floor. Stop lowering before you touch the floor.
7. Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Point your toes backwards, inhale, arch your back and straighten your arms. Your shoulders should be positioned directly on top of your wrists in this posture in order to prevent injuries to the lower-back and shoulders. Pull your shoulders down and back, lift and open your chest. Keep your leg muscles engaged by try to relax your gluteal muscles as this will help protect the spine. If you are using a Yogaline Alignment mat then your hands should already be in the correct position.
8. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Come back onto your toes, press into the palms of your hands and lift your hips up and exhale backwards to come into downward-facing dog. It is important to keep the spine long in this posture, so keep your shoulders pulled back and down your spine, lift the tailbone high and press your chest towards your toes. It is totally fine to bend your knees slightly in this pose if it helps you to keep a long spine. Relax your neck and allow your head to hang.
9. Mountain Pose
To finish the Sun Salutation, inhale, take a slight bend in the knees and then either step or jump your feet towards the top of the mat, in between your hands. From this forward-fold position, raise your chest up from the hips and lift your hands up into the sky before exhaling and relaxing the arms back down to your sides.
The Sun Salutation is the most fundamental sequence in yoga and it is well worth taking the time to master. Once you learn to feel your way through this sequence with good posture and alignment, you will naturally carry this form into more advanced yoga asanas.