What if one yoga sequence could pump up your circulation, increase the amount of oxygen to the brain and muscles, and boost your central nervous system? You’d want to learn that sequence, right? Then greet the Sun Salutation. Simply a series of fundamental poses, it’s the only sequence you really need to build core strength, as well as strength throughout the entire body. Once you know this sequence you can make it through practically any class. It’s also a great workout for home. When done with proper alignment, called “integrity” in most yoga classes, Sun Salute will help you grow strong and limber, not to mention relaxed.
So go ahead and get your flow on with the following steps. Don’t be intimated by the number of movements. Watch the video until you get the hang of it.
1. Start in Mountain pose, or tadasana. With your big toes together, your thighs will spiral outward, tailbone drops down, shoulder blades relax down the back, belly pulls in, and ribcage closes. Your spine is completely erect and your body is floating, free of tension and muscular contraction.
2. Inhale as you bring the hands down and around the body. At the very top of the inhale, bring the palms to touch about your head and slightly arch the upper back.
3. Exhale and dive forward, hinging at the waist, knees bending only when you can no longer keep the back flat. Fingertips come to the sides of the feet, crown reaches toward the ground, chin toward the shins.
4. Inhale to "prepare pose"—bend like a hinge at the waist again but keep a flat back. Simultaneously lift the sternum toward the sky, arching the upper back only, lengthening the neck in line with the spine, as far away from the tailbone as possible and tipping the chin skyward. Do not rise up off the legs any more than 45 degrees off the floor.
5. Exhale and fold toward the shins again, bending the knees deeply if this strains your back.
6. Then step or jump the feet back to Plank pose. Shoulders in line with the wrists, lift your butt and abdomen and press the underside of the thighs toward the sky. Your heels should reach away from the crown of the head.
7. Exhale and lower into Low Push-Up or chaturanga. Squeezing the elbows into the body, lower yourself to the floor like a slow alligator, bringing the body slightly forward to keep the weight balanced.
7a. For many newbies the muscles required to ease into Low Push-Up will not be there at first. Instead place the knees down, point the toes, and use the arm strength to lower the body toward the floor with the elbows squeezing inward (just like above).
8. Hover inches above the floor or bring the body all the way to the floor.
9. Slide the hands 7 inches back so they are directly under your shoulders. Inhale and stretch the arms straight, lifting the upper body and thighs off the floor. Do not clench the buttocks or pinch the low back. This is Upward-Facing Dog. Roll the shoulders way back, lift the sternum, lengthen out the tailbone so the arch happens in the mid- and upper back, not the lower back. Then look skyward.
9a. If lifting the legs is too intense or the arms feel wobbly, turn this pose into Baby Cobra by keeping the legs and navel on the ground but lifting the upper chest off the floor.
10. From Upward-Facing Dog or Baby Cobra, exhale and float back into Downward-Facing Dog. To do so lift the hips skyward, then send them way back, bending the knees if your back begins to round. Spread the fingers wide. Plug the index finger into the mat, make sure the wrists are parallel to the front of the mat and the middle finger is perpendicular to the mat. Lift up under the armpits and work the shoulders away from the ears. Close the ribcage and draw the abdomen toward the spine. Even if your heels are not touching the ground, you are thoroughly stretching the back, arms, and legs.
The most strenuous part of this vinyasa or flow involves Plank pose, followed by an exhale and moving into a Low Push-Up. From there you inhale and move into Upward-Facing Dog, ending with an exhalation in Downward-Facing Dog.