Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation, is a wonderful flow of postures that warms, nourishes and strengthens your entire body. It’s normally practised near the beginning of a yoga lesson and aims to loosen all your muscles as well as create clarity and stillness of your mind.
Although Sun Salutation is considered a basic yoga flow sequence, there is much to consider when practising. There are many variations, and every teacher will have his or her preferred way to teach it. In turn, you will also develop your very own way of practising Sun Salutation. In a way that suits you and your body. With this in mind, here we offer just a few tips so that you can improve your Sun Salutation technique – no matter how you like to do it!
Be mindful in Mountain Pose
Tadasana or Mountain Pose is very often the starting point for Surya Namaskar. We often take this pose for granted or see it as an ‘easy’ one. But, the power of this pose is very under-estimated! While beginning your flow in Mountain Pose, take a few minutes to notice your balance here in standing. Notice any wobbles or imbalance of the body as it sways and moves naturally with gravity. Then each time you return to Mountain Pose again during your flow, take a moment to notice any differences. Has your balance become steadier? Are your shoulders feeling softer? Is your mind a little clearer? These are all questions we should be asking in this mindful pose.
Fold from the hips during Forward Fold
As you move from Tadasana into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold), you will get the best results if you imagine hinging forward from your hips rather than from your waist. As you exhale, imagine folding forwards from your hips into a right angle with a straight spine, before letting gravity take over and letting your head move down towards your knees. When hamstrings are tight, it’s best to leave a softness in the knees as you hinge forward to allow your spine to lengthen and keep in alignment as you bend.
Elbows tight to your chest during Chaturanga Dandasana
One thing we tend to see a lot in yoga class is elbows sticking out to the sides during Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff pose). This can really cause a strain to the wrists and shoulders if performed in this way, so try to be aware of this when moving into this part of the flow. I always try to imagine my elbows are glued to my side ribs as I lower my chest down to the mat, to remind myself to keep them in and pointing behind me as I lower down. This is the same whether you lower your knees to the ground first, or not. This is a strenuous pose, so lowering the knees down first can really help until you have perfected your technique and built up strength here.
Keep awareness of breath and body throughout
It’s quite possible to lose yourself in Surya Namaskar and let the movements take over your mind. However, this flow is most powerful when you keep mental awareness throughout. If you practice each and every movement with attention, grace and gratitude, then the energising and positive results you get out of it will be much greater. Try to keep a gentle and natural smile on your face throughout the flow and keep your breathing natural and keeping in harmony with each movement. This is much easier said than done but comes with lots of regular practice and good guidance from your yoga instructor.