Rise and Shine with the Sun Salutation

What are Sun Salutations and how can they be beneficial to your daily life.

The Salute to the Sun is one of yoga’s best-known sequences that honours the sun.

Surya Namaskar is the Sanskrit name for the Sun Salutation: Surya, meaning the sun, and Namaskar, to bow to, which is also similar to Namaste, to bow down to, thus literally meaning to salute the sun.

The sun is our main life-sustaining source, providing us with power, growth, and energy, as well as radiating light and warmth. The sun is also symbolic of our consciousness, our wholeness and our self-illumination. The sun is the heart of the physical and spiritual worlds. The seat of light and wisdom is found in the heart, like the healing energy of the sun.

The Sun Salutation consists of 12 postures representing the twelve months of the year, moving in and out of each pose with synchronized breath and flowing together as one movement, much like a dance or a meditation in motion.

The Sun Salutation is an excellent full-body warm-up exercise, or it can be a complete practice in itself. The ideal time to practice is upon rising, preferably facing the east and outdoors, weather permitting, of course. It makes for a great start to your day; waking up your body by setting the tone and intention for the day and creating focus, energy, and a sense of peace and purpose. If the morning does not fit into your schedule, you can do it when you come home from work to unwind from the day; it is always best on empty stomach.

The numerous other benefits include stretching out the whole body, a cardiovascular workout that lubricates joints and limbers up the spine, toning muscles, increasing strength, stamina, and flexibility, opening your heart, lungs, chest and shoulders, bringing balance to your nervous system, aiding digestion, elimination, and circulation.

There are many variations, but these are the two basic ones with one being more vigorous than the other. Make sure to adapt the posture to meet your body’s needs and current conditions. Always respect your body’s limitations and use props like a chair or the wall to assist you with the proper stretching. With practice, you will gain confidence, coordination and graceful movement.

  • Start by standing in the Mountain Pose with feet parallel and hips-width apart with hands and palms together with in front of your chest. Breathe in and stretch your arms over your head as you tighten your buttocks and lean back. Make sure to elongate your back and lift out from your waist, not by arching your back.
  • Exhale as you extend downwards into the Standing Forward Bend, keeping with knees straight and touching the floor with your fingers on the outside of your feet. 
  • Inhale as you slightly bend the left leg and slide your right leg back into the Lunge, looking up and keeping the left leg vertical as you straighten out the right knee.
  • Hold your breath as you bring your left foot back alongside the right foot as you straighten both legs in the Plank pose.
  • Exhale as you bend your knees, arch your buttocks up in the air, and bend your elbows as you keep them close to your chest and slowly lower your chest and chin to the floor. Slide forward until you are flat on the floor.
  • Inhale as you raise up into the Upward Facing Dog, lifting your forehead, nose, chin, and chest while the lower part of your body remains on the floor from the navel down.
  • Curl your toes under as you exhale into the Downward Dog, raising your hips until your arms and legs are straight, flattening your heels onto the floor and work your head toward the floor.
  • As you inhale, swing your right leg forward into the Lunge, aiming to bring your right foot in line with your fingers, bottoms down, chin up.
  • Exhale as you bring the left leg forward beside the right, placing the palms of your hands down on the floor beside your feet as you are now back in the Standing Forward Bend. Maintain straight legs, bringing your chest down along the legs until your forehead stretches below the knees. 
  • Inhale as you reach up and raise your arms over your head. 
  • Exhale as you return to the Mountain Pose by drawing your hands and palms back together in prayer position. Feel the flow of energy, also known as Prana, the life force within you.

Repeat the whole sequence, but this time start off with the left leg. One complete round consists of two sets, one leading with the right leg and the other leading with the left leg.

As a beginner, start slowly and do as many rounds as you can, gradually working up to twelve rounds. Do not rush, and remember that each time you practice, you will improve, so don’t get frustrated if you cannot do each posture correctly in the beginning. Just do your best.

There are many beautiful yoga posters and tutorial videos available today. However, taking a yoga class will give you the opportunity to get personal guidance, instructions, and tips to make sure you are doing it correctly.

What a great way to invigorate your body, steady your mind, and brighten up your day.

I salute the sun and the light within.


Antoinette Giacobbe