Woman doing yoga

How to do Yoga Sun Salutations

Here, easy instructions for this classic 12-pose yoga sequence, called Surya Namaskar, that can help you work out the kinks and find fuel for your day.

In This Article

The Benefits of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar)

The Sun Salutation is a complete Ayurvedic exercise also known as Surya Namaskar. This series of postures simultaneously integrates the whole physiology including mind, body, and breath. It strengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups, lubricates the joints, conditions the spine, massages the internal organs and increases blood flow and circulation.

How to Breathe in Sun Salutations

Traditionally, it is a cycle of 12 postures performed in a fluid sequence one right after another. Each motion should be synchronized with the breath. Alternatively, you may want to try giving each posture time to activate the movement of prana (energy) by staying in each posture with deep nasal breathing for 1-2 minutes.

How to Practice Sun Salutations

If you are new to yoga, I highly recommend taking a few classes with an experienced teacher to ensure that you have the proper alignment. If in doubt, move slowly and be gentle with yourself and your ability. You do not need to do the poses perfectly to benefit.

Ideally, perform Sun Salutations for a minimum of 12 minutes each day.

Practice the flow on a sticky mat or a blanket. 

Note: Pain is always an indication that you are pushing too hard. You will reap the most benefits by relaxing into these postures, rather than straining through them.

The Sun Salutations Sequence

Mountain Pose (Tadasana): Start standing with your feet together or hip-width apart. Stack your hips over your ankles, and your shoulders over your hips. Bring your palms together in the center of your chest, or let your arms relax by your sides, palms turned out.

Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana): Inhale and reach your arms up, gently backbend while you continue rooting through your feet. Bend your knees or put your hands on your shins or thighs (but not your knees) or blocks if that is more comfortable.

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana): Exhale and fold forward. Inhale and lift your chest and head, finding length in your lower spine.

Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana): Exhale and step your right foot back for a low lunge. Inhale your heart up.

Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana): Exhale and step back to Downward-Facing Dog, with your feet hip-width apart and your hands shoulder-width apart. Keep a bend in your knees if that helps you maintain a long spine. Line up your ears with your arms and gaze toward your shins.

4-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana): Inhale forward to a Plank Pose and then lower all the way down or drop to knees, then chest, then your chin.

Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) or Cobra Pose (Bhujanghasana): Inhale and press into your hands as you lift your chest. Straighten your arms and lift your knees off the floor for Upward-Facing Dog, or leave your knees on the ground and keep a bend in the elbows for Cobra Pose.

Downward-Facing Dog Pose: Exhale and back to Down Dog. Inhale here.

Low Lunge: Exhale your left leg forward to a Low Lunge. Inhale and lift your heart.

Standing Forward Bend: Exhale and step your right foot forward to meet your left and fold. Inhale and come half way up; exhale and fold.

Upward Salute: Inhale to come up and into a gentle backbend.

Mountain Pose: Exhale your arms down and take several breaths in Mountain Pose.

If you do another round, step back with the opposite leg.

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