Sun Salutation Routine to Start Your Morning
Finding the motivation to complete a workout in the morning can be difficult. If just the idea of running or lifting weights at 5 a.m. is exhausting, we have a yoga alternative for you.
A sun salutation is a series of yogic movements that warm up the body without much strain on one’s muscles or joints. In addition to increasing your knowledge of different poses, these movements can reduce stress, improve cardio-respiratory fitness and increase flexibility.
Although there are countless variations of sun salutations, the one described below is a modified version of the Ashtanga Primary Series Sun A. Casey Day, a Michigan native and instructor at Tiny Buddha Yoga, developed this version to cater to both beginners and advanced users.
These exercises can be performed at the beginning of a longer yoga session or used as stretching before a different workout. If you want to use this as a stand-alone exercise, increase the rate you perform the movements at to increase your heart rate.
Every posture is linked with a deep inhale or exhale, and as you get more comfortable with the series, you will be able to repeat the sequence several times for the full physical and mental effect. When performing the movements, try to focus on coordinating one breath with one pose. This is a 12 breath/12 movement routine with poses that can be modified as needed.
Let’s get started!
- Step 1: Heart Center [exhale] – Begin by standing at the top of your mat with your feet together (big toes touching and heels slightly separated). Stand up straight and bring your hands together gently touching the chest at heart center. Close your eyes and take a moment to notice any sensations you feel in your body.
- Step 2: Upward Salute [inhale] -Reach your arms up overhead and press the palms together as you let the head fall back and gaze upward. Extend through your spine as much as possible.
- Step 3: Forward Fold [exhale] – Fold forward from the hips and tuck your chin slightly. Beginners can bend their knees and place their hands slightly in front of their feet, while those more advanced can straighten their legs and place their hands in-line with their feet. Shift your weight forward so your hips are directly over your ankles.
- Step 4: Half-Forward Fold [inhale] – Peek forward as you straighten the spine, keeping your fingertips on the ground or placing your hands on your shins.
- Step 5: Four-Limbed Staff Pose [exhale] – Plant your palms on the ground and step the feet back to a high plank position. Immediately lower down by bending the elbows while keeping the arms tucked to your side ribs. Make sure to engage the core and keep your spine flat. Beginners can drop their knees as they lower, while more advanced students can jump back into their push-up rather than stepping back.
- Step 6: Upward Facing Dog [inhale] – Sweep your chest forward as you roll to the tops of your feet, lifting your head into upward facing dog. Make sure to roll the shoulders back. Beginners can leave their knees on the ground, while more advanced practitioners can press into the tops of their feet and lift their thighs off of the mat.
- Step 7: Downward Facing Dog [exhale] – Lift the hips and tuck the toes into downward facing dog. The shoulders should be relaxed and the spine fully extended. Feel free to bend the knees as needed. The heels do not have to touch the floor.
- Step 8: [inhale] – Rise to your tip toes and gaze between the hands.
- Step 9: [exhale] – Step or jump the feet between the hands, making sure the big toes are touching.
- Step 10: [inhale] – Peek forward as you straighten the spine, keeping your fingertips on the ground or placing your hands on your shins.
- Step 11: Forward Fold [exhale] – Fold forward from the hips and tuck your chin slightly. Beginners can bend their knees and place their hands slightly in front of their feet, while those more advanced can straighten their legs and place their hands in-line with their feet. Shift your weight forward so your hips are directly over your ankles.
- Step 12: Upward Salute [inhale] – End by reaching your arms up overhead and pressing the palms together as you let the head fall back and gaze upward. Extend through your spine as much as possible.
The routine can be repeated as many times as you feel is necessary. While also being a workout, it’s a great way to practice mindfulness and see if you can set your thoughts aside for a moment to be present in the workout.
If you liked this blog, check out:
- Yoga poses for pain relief
- 5 Ways to Improve Flexibility Through Yoga
- Yoga Classes in Michigan Everyone Can Afford
Main image photo credit: Jack Affleck
Yoga poses photo credit: Olivia Wash, A Healthier Michigan
Special thanks to Casey Day for demonstrating!