The Sun Salutation is a flowing sequence of postures which gets your heart pumping, increases blood circulation, assists and improves the lymphatic and immune system. It provides the body with a complete thorough work out. The postures flow from one into another with use of the breath (See the diagram above). This generates heat in the body which acts as a detox to cleanse the entire body system. The focus on breath awareness also helps to detox the mind. This sequence can also be slowed down and turned into a moving meditation by holding each pose e.g. for a count of three breaths in and out. Performed first thing in the morning it can really help set you up for the day.
Benefits of the Sun Salutation:
- (Diagram 1) Tadasana helps to ground you, allowing you to build correct core and body alignment, increases body awareness and allows you to find your inner strength thereby centering you.
- (Diagram 2) Back bends increase flexibility in the spine works the abdomen, opens the chest and improves lung capacity. Back bends also help to lift your mood and can help with mild depression.
- (Diagram 3) Forward bends brings length into your spine, stretches the hamstrings, calves and hips, allows inner focus and soothes the mind.
- (Diagram 4) Lunges can improve your athletic performance by working into the glutes, building strength in the quadriceps and also works into the hips, creating greater flexibility, strength and stamina.
- (Diagram 5) Plank works the muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest and abdomen. It is a weight bearing exercise which helps to prevent osteopenia or osteoporosis.
- (Diagram 6) Knee, chest and chin or Chaturanga Dandasana . For beginners’ knee, chest and chin to the floor is a more gentle approach. This pose increases flexibility in the spine and neck and opens the chest by stretching the pectoralis muscles. It is also weight bearing and helps to strengthen the arms, shoulders, legs, abdomen and back.
- (Diagram 7) Cobra stretches your upper body, chest, lungs, abdomen, shoulders and it works into the glutes. As it a back bend it can lift your spirit and overall mood. As it opens the chest area it helps to improve breathing.
- (Diagram 8) Downward-facing dog is an inversion. Inversions help to calm the mind and helps relieve stress and mild depression. It stretches the entire body – hands, shoulders, spine, hamstrings, calves and feet. As it is also weight bearing it helps to prevent osteopenia or osteoporosis. It also helps to relieve headache, insomnia, back ache and fatigue.
Sun salutations can also be adapted with the added challenge of lunges, side angle stretch, warrior sequence, side plank etc. , being included. All these poses stretch the body, strengthen and bring it back into balance. It also helps to expand a personal yoga practice as you can add and take from the sequence to suit your own personal time and needs.