What is a Sun Salutation?

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A Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskar sequence, is a flowing series of postures which is most popular in Vinyasa Yoga classes. This sequence contains 11 postures and can vary slightly based on the tradition being taught. The 11 poses at the core of the practice are described below.

  1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana): Stand tall at the front of the yoga mat with your hands at your heart's center and feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Volcano Pose (Urdhva Hastasana): Inhale and reach your arms out to the side; extend until your palms are touching overhead while looking up past the thumbs.
  3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana): Exhale and swan dive forward, hinging at the hips while moving the heart forward and down; your arms should reach out toward mat, hands press flat on mat, and your weight is forward on the balls of the feet.
  4. Extended or Half Standing Forward Bend (Utthita or Ardha Uttanasana): Inhale and lengthen the spine. Look forward halfway, and either press your fingertips to the floor or your hands to the shins.
  5. Low Plank Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana): Exhale, step one leg at a time or float both legs together back into a low push up; keep your arms strong and elbows hugging in to the ribs, gaze at the floor, and maintain a long, straight body hovering over the mat.
  6. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana): Inhale and use your toes to roll forward as you press into your hands with the elbows straight. Reach your heart forward, and keeping the shoulder blades together, back, and down away from your ears, look up. Your toes should be untucked and your hips and thighs slightly lifted off the mat.
  7. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasan): Exhale, press into your hands, tuck the toes, and lift the sitting bones up and back, lengthening spine. Press your thighs back and heels toward mat. Gaze at your naval.
  8. Extended or Half Standing Forward Bend (Utthita or Ardha Uttanasana): Inhale, stepping or floating feet up to a forward fold position. Lengthen your spine and look up.
  9. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana): Exhale and shift your weight forward in the fold so that your hands reach to the mat.
  10. Volcano Pose (Urdhva Hastasana): Inhale and reach your arms out and all the way up overhead, palms touching, while looking up past the thumbs.
  11. Mountain Pose (Tadasana): Exhale and close the sequence by pressing your palms together at your heart's center, stand tall, and close your eyes.

This sequence is commonly practiced several times during a Vinyasa yoga class.

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