The Sun Salutation

The Sun Salutation

This week’s AdventureBlog post is guest written by Leah Lillios King, owner of Kali Yuga Yoga. Thanks to the ongoing partnership between Kali Yuga Yoga and Lightning 100’s Team Green Adventures, Nashvillians can once again enjoy a season of FREE outdoor yoga with our Yoga in the Park series between June 7th and August 30th.

Each Yoga in the Park session is beginner-friendly. Whether you’re a yogi-master or completely new to the activity, this week’s AdventureBlog explains how to properly do the Sun Salutation, so you can get the most out of your practice!

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I get asked all the time by my students, “What is the one pose I should do everyday.” My answer is always the same, “The Sun Salutation.” Ok, so it’s not just one pose. It’s a sequence of six positions (give or take one or two depending on how you look at it), but hands down the sun salutation is the best thing to do for your body every day.

Let’s start with the first position Tadasana {1}. When done correctly Tadasana or “mountain pose” promotes proper anatomical alignment. The bones are stacked creating balance and stability to strengthen the postural muscles while reducing tension in the neck and shoulders. A key point is to line up your ankle, knee, hip, shoulder and ear.

Next you will move into a “forward fold” or what we call Uttanasana {2}. Very simply put you bend at the hips to stretch the legs and spine. Forward folding reducing tension in the lower back and helps promote blood flow to the brain. Many of us are not flexible enough to touch our toes, so bend the knees in order to reduce strain on the back.

From Uttanasana step one foot back into a “low lunge” or Kapyasana {3}. This lunge helps to open the hips while stretching the front and backs of your thighs. It also deepens spine flexibility. Watch that the front knee stays on top of the ankle and doesn’t bend too deeply, to avoid strain at the knee joint.

You’ll step the other foot back into the “poular plank” or Palakasana {4}. Many of us know from other forms of exercise how great plank pose is for building core and upper body strength. It can be combined with a yoga style push-up to further tone the arms and back as well.

After lowering to the ground you’ll move into “cobra” or Bhujangasana {5}. This is one of the best spine strengthening poses and chest openers out there. It’s simple–keep the thighs on the floor and raise your upper body. Relax your shoulders and pull your belly towards your back.

And now the pose you’ve been waiting for… “downward facing dog”!! We call it Adho Mukha Svanasana {6} but that’s a bit of a mouthful. Down dog is often mistakenly called a resting pose- its definitely not! You’re working your upper body, abs, back and legs all the while stretching the shoulders, upper back and hamstrings. Its a pretty technical pose, but if you’re trying it for the first time, aim to make the shape of an inverted “V.” If your back is rounding, bend your knees and stick your tailbone toward the ceiling to bring more weight into the legs. You want to feel the stretch in the hamstrings more than the back.

To complete the round, step your legs forward by either stepping one foot at at time or “hop” both feet between your hands. This will bring you back into the forward fold (Uttanasana {2}). Roll up, one vertebrae at at time, and conclude the set with mountain pose (Tadasana {1}).

There are countless ways to modify the sun salutation, but even in its most basic form you’ll get a total body workout. Practice the sun salutation fluidsly for about 3-6 rounds to experience the meditative aspect of yoga– a gentle awareness that helps to calm and quiet the mind. Don’t forget the best part of your yoga practice- Savasana (relaxation pose). Lie on the floor, on your back, for 3-7 minutes to allow the body time to rest and restore itself. Imagine the tension releasing from your toes, calves, knees, thighs, hips, lower back, abs, upper back, shoulders, arms, fingers, and forehead. Let your thoughts flicker away as quickly as they come to you. When your time is up, slowly bring awareness back to your fingers and toes, then take your time to get into a seated position. You’ll feel like a new you in no time!

Are you ready to try it out? Come over to Yoga in the Park with Team Green Adventures featuring teachers from Kali Yuga Yoga and do a sun salutation under the sun, and a tree pose among the trees!

-Leah Lillios King (Kali Yuga Yoga owner)

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