Mindvalley Blog

Try This Hatha Sun Salutation For More Energy

sun salutation

Even if the terms surya namaskar A and surya namaskar B are foreign to you, you’ve probably flowed through these sequences if you’ve ever been to a yoga class in the US. Quick transitions between chaturanga, upward facing dog, and downward facing dog are the hallmark moves of these ashtanga-based sun salutations.

Less commonly practiced, though, is the classical hatha sun salutation. It happens to be my favorite, and there’s no other series that feels quite as fluid as this age-old version of surya namaskar.

Surya Namaskar – The Classical Hatha Sun Salutation

Surya namaskar means ‘salutations to the sun,’ and this exercise can be used to awaken the solar aspects of our own psychology and spirit. These include our authenticity, our personality, and our quest for light and truth.

Ancient texts like the Suryopanishad say that by worshiping the sun as god, a person becomes powerful, intelligent, and acquires long life. While you can choose whether to believe this or not, practicing surya namaskar undeniably improves health and overall well being.

classic sun salutation

How Practicing A Sun Salutation Can Improve Your Health

At the physical level, the classical hatha sun salutation is a series of twelve postures that alternate between forward-bends and back-bends. This action creates a supple spine—the key to youth, according to yogis. Few forms of exercise compare, as this sun salutation really does stretch the whole body.

But along with the postures, surya namaskar can be a complete sadhana or spiritual practice in itself. It contains pranayama, mantra, and meditation. More advanced yogis should pair each movement with the breath, but can take these sun salutations even deeper by chanting each movement’s corresponding mantra and by rotating their awareness to the corresponding chakra. This differentiates the classical hatha sun salutation from surya namaskar a and b, which don’t have a mantra or chakra component.

For beginners, start with the postures. You can absolutely practice this classical hatha sun salutation at home once you understand its flow. Ideally practice facing the rising or setting sun, but fit it in wherever and whenever.

How to Practice the Classical Sun Salutation Surya Namaskar

Take care not to overstretch when practicing the first few rounds of each session. Consider the initial rounds a warm up, helping you to gradually loosen the muscles before other yoga postures.

1. Pranamasana: prayer pose

Stand about a foot behind the front edge of your mat with your feet hip distance apart. Pigeon-toe your feet slightly so that the outer edges are parallel.

Point your tailbone toward the floor.

Exhale and bring your palms to meet in prayer in front of your chest.

2. Hasta utthanasana: raised arms pose

Inhale and separate your arms as you reach them forward and up. Face your palms forward.

Once your upper arms are aligned with your ears, gently arch back in one fluid motion.

3. Padahastasana: hand to foot pose

Exhale and hinge forward, bringing your palms to the floor beside your feet.

Bend your knees as much as you need to plant the hands flat on the ground.

4. Ashwa sanchalanasana: equestrian pose

Inhale and step your right foot way back.

Lower your right knee to the ground and rise onto your fingertips to stretch and arch the spine. Gaze forward.

5. Kumbhakasana: plank pose

Plant your hands on the ground, fingers spread wide.

Hold your breath and step your left foot back. The feet should be about hip distance apart.

daily hatha sun salutation

6. Ashtanga namaskara: eight point salute

Exhale and lower your knees, chest, and chin (or forehead) to the ground.

Eight points should be touching the floor: 2 feet, 2 knees, chest, 2 hands, and chin or forehead. The bottom should be up in the air and the elbows rotated in toward the body.

7. Bhujangasana: cobra pose

Inhale and use your hands to pull the chest forward and then up, rising into cobra. Untuck your toes so that the backs of the feet press against the floor.

The arms will be nearly straight (avoid locking the elbows) and upper thighs on the floor.

Bring life into the posture by rolling your shoulders down the back rather than collapsing into them.

8. Parvatasana: mountain pose

Exhale and tuck your toes, then push back into mountain (also known as downward facing dog) by reaching your tailbone toward the sky behind you.

Make sure that your fingers are spread wide, and that the thumb and index fingers are pressing into the floor to protect the wrists.

9. Ashwa sanchalanasana: equestrian pose

Inhale and step your right foot forward and in between your hands.

Lower your right knee to the ground and rise onto your fingertips to stretch and arch the spine. Gaze forward.

10. Padahastasana: hand to foot pose

Exhale and step your left foot forward so that the feet are hip distance apart. Fold in a standing forward bend. Keep your legs straight if possible, energetically drawing your nose toward your knees.

11. Hasta utthanasana: raised arms pose

Inhale and reach your arms forward and up, keeping them about shoulder distance apart.

Once your upper arms are aligned with your ears, gently arch back in one fluid motion.

12. Pranamasana: prayer pose

Exhale and bring your palms to meet in prayer in front of your chest.

These twelve postures are considered one half of surya namaskar. In order to complete a round, practice the entire sequence once more, stepping the left foot back and forward.

Because sun salutations can be tiring for those new to the practice, it’s best to not worry too much about linking movement to the breath in the initial learning process. Instead, focus on the flow. Once you have the sequence memorized and find some comfort in the postures, work to match each movement with an inhalation or exhalation. Practiced in this way, surya namaskar is a fluid, continual sequence.

practice sun salutation

How Many Sun Salutations You Should Perform

You might be surprised by how quickly a few rounds will increase your heart rate and warm your body…even if you’re an athlete in great shape! (Who said yoga isn’t good cardio?) This is a whole new way of moving and demands strength from muscles that most of us are less accustomed to using.

Total beginners can benefit from just 3 rounds a day. After a week or two, add one more round, then another after that, working up to 6 rounds a day (or several times a week). 6 slow, mindful rounds will take around 10-12 minutes to complete.

More seasoned yogis can work toward 10 – 12 rounds. Those looking to lose weight will benefit from even more, and might try even 20 or 24 rounds a day!

Don’t Forget To Wrap Your Practice With Savasana

After practicing sun salutations, always rest for a few minutes in savasana (corpse pose). Yoga is meant to create energy rather than take it away. If you flow through your sun salutations and then immediately move on to your next activity for the day, you may feel depleted.

Resting for a few minutes in corpse pose (lying on the back with the legs and arms spread wide, eyes closed) is restorative and replenishing.

For me, the classical hatha sun salutation is an integral part of my practice. I use it as a warmup and a yoga session in itself.

On days when I’m blessed with plenty of time for a long yoga session, I practice about 12 rounds as a warmup before holding other yoga postures. On days when I only have 5 or 10 minutes for exercise because I’m rushing off somewhere or coming home after a long day of work, I like to practice 6 rounds of sun salutations and a twist. This combo stretches the spine in all directions. It also immediately calms my mind, making it both a meditation and a stress-relieving practice.

Sun salutations really work wonders! You’ll be amazed by how much your flexibility improves and your stress levels lower if you can practice a sun salutation each day. If you’re looking for another yoga challenge, try the Zenward yoga challenge:


Are you familiar with sun salutations? What part of this practice do you find the most challenging or rewarding? Tell us in the comments below!

Mindvalley

Mindvalley

Education for People Who Refuse to Fit into the Ordinary World

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