Surya Namaskar A: Sun salutation flow for beginners
The almighty sun.
Whether you see it as a burning ball of hydrogen and helium or the source of your summer glow, the sun is a remarkable force and the reason for life on earth.
So, it’s hardly surprising that our ancestors have been saluting the sun for centuries, and why we continue to do so today.
Known as Surya Namaskar or sun salutations, the prayers appear in various ancient yogic texts and were believed to grant health and prosperity.
In modern yoga, Surya Namaskar has evolved from a prayer in motion to a sequence of asanas typically performed in a Vinyasa flow and Hatha yoga class or as a warm-up exercise.
Aside from being the perfect way to start and end your day, sun salutations boast a number of amazing health benefits.
Discover everything there is to know about sun salutations and how you can soak up its goodness with this step-by-step guide for beginners.
What is a sun salutation sequence?
The sun salutation practice typically involves a sequence of 12 poses or asanas that are repeated to give yogis a full-body stretch and open up the heart, shoulders, and chest.
In most yoga classes, you’ll find three variations of the sun salutation practice: sequences A, B and C.
Each variation of Surya Namaskar is slightly different and designed for a specific level.
A is ideal for beginners while B and C feature more strenuous and complex asanas that would be more suitable for intermediate or advanced practitioners.
The sequence is repeated several times with a strong focus on breathwork, mantra and chakra awareness.
What are the benefits of Surya Namaskar?
Surya Namaskar is food for the mind, body and soul.
Flowing from one asana to the next will help you feel more grounded and in tune with your body, amongst many other benefits.
Flexibility is a core aspect of yoga practice, but it’s also one of the hardest to master.
Whether struggling to reach your toes or open your hips, a daily dose of sun salutations is a great way to improve flexibility in the entire body.
Each asana is designed to loosen up tight muscle groups, and when repeated several times, will lubricate stiff joints and increase range of motion.
Builds upper body strength
Sun salutations are either performed standing up or flat down on the mat with most of your body weight held up by your arms.
As you transition from mountain pose to downward dog, onto plank, cobra, and then back to mountain pose, your chest, shoulders and arms receive an excellent workout along with the rest of your body.
This type of upper body workout is very low impact and a great way for yogis to tone and strengthen key muscles groups in yoga.
Aids weight loss
Sun salutations have also been praised for their remarkable weight loss abilities.
Performing these fluid movements in the morning stimulates your digestive system, boosting your metabolism and helping you burn calories much faster than a normal Hatha yoga class.
When incorporated in fitness-focused classes like Hot or Power yoga, you will start to see the results.
Yoga practices like Vinyasa flow combine breathwork with calming movements to unblock chakras and help you focus on the present.
The slow pace of sun salutations also allows your muscles to relax and tension to release.
Boosts overall health
Surya Namaskar practice involves rhythmic breathing exercises and fluid movements which helps increase circulation throughout the body.
This ensures your organs are functioning properly and bolsters your overall health.
Promotes a natural glow
When practising sun salutations, it’s only apt that you do so beneath the fiery star.
Practising each morning and evening will leave your skin sun-kissed and glowing from increased circulation and relaxation.
When should you practise Surya Namaskar?
As its name suggests, sun salutations should be practised outside when the sun is just starting to peek its head over the horizon.
Practising in the morning is a great way to stretch out stiff or tense areas from the day before and warm up your body for the day ahead.
If you’re not a morning person or only have a moment to spare after work, performing sun salutations any time of the day will do the trick!
How to do Sun Salutation A
Sun salutation or Surya Namaskar A is a warm-up sequence that is ideal for beginner yogis or those who are looking to relax and recharge after a hard day.
The sequence is made up of 12 basic asanas that flow from one pose to the next, creating a form of moving meditation that is guided by breathwork.
While moving between the various asanas, you’ll feel a rhythm start to form as you sync your breath with each movement.
During your session, you might lose track of time or feel incredibly awake and focused.
Everyone’s experience is different, so make it your own and just have fun with it!
1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Stand at the top of your yoga mat with feet hip-width apart.
Straighten your back and allow your arms to relax next to your sides.
Take a few breaths here and begin to feel the soles of your feet root into your mat.
2. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
Inhale and lift your palms to the sky until they touch in the centre.
Once in the raised arms position, push your chest forward and open your heart chakra.
Arching your back slightly, gaze up and feel your lower back stretch.
3. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
On exhale, hinge at the hips and slowly bend forward, feeling each vertebra in your spine release and your back and shoulders begin to relax.
When you reach your maximum, you can rest your hands on your mat, feet or let them hover overhead on a yoga block.
4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Low Lunge)
With your hands grounded on the mat, move your gaze forward, take a deep breath in and bring the right foot back in the Equestrian pose.
Keep your left foot aligned with your hands and feel your hips open up.
5. Dandasana (Plank Pose)
Push your left leg back so that it meets your right foot in a plank position.
Focus on your frame, ensure your back is in a straight line, your core is engaged and your weight is evenly distributed.
Hold your breath and focus.
6. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
On exhale, bend your elbows and dip your chest to the mat until your arms are in a perfect right angle position.
Gaze forward and keep your arms tucked in next to your sides.
7. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)
Take a deep breath, tuck your toes into the mat, straighten your arms and lift your chest to the sky, coming into the cobra pose or upward-facing dog position.
Feel your chest open as you push your shoulders back and angle your gaze upward.
If this is too uncomfortable, you can keep your elbows bent in the baby cobra pose.
8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
As you exhale, come into downward-facing dog by bringing the soles of your feet to the mat and lifting your hips to the sky.
Root your hands into the mat and lengthen your arms.
To push deeper into the stretch, press your heels further into the ground.
9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Low Lunge)
On inhale, step your left foot forward between your palms, returning to low lunge.
Look forward and centre your frame.
10. Hasta Padasana (Standing Forward Bend)
For the next pose, simply bring your right foot forward to meet your left, coming into a standing forward bend.
As you release your breath, straighten your legs further and notice any differences in the body.
11. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
Take a deep breath in, lifting your lower body up towards the sky and meeting your palms together overhead in the upward salute position.
12. Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)
With your chest lifted, slowly exhale and drop your hands to your heart in the prayer position.
Take a moment here to acknowledge your body, breath and emotions in the present moment.
Practising this sun salutation sequence every day will do wonders for your mind and body and help you improve your performance and skills level in yoga.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll be ready to take your practice to the next level on a yoga retreat.
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