Enjoy the warmth and glow after this modification of the famous yoga sequence
In some of our Pilates classes, you may get a taste of the 'Salute to the Sun' or Sun Salutation. This is a common ritual and practice in all yoga styles and it has tremendous physical and mental benefits. To 'salute the sun', we are bowing down and respecting the energy, power and life the sun brings. It can be practiced anytime, but traditionally and typically is done each morning facing the sun as it rises. Not all of us are out of bed at this time, so make it one of the things you do every morning to charge the batteries, and say hello to your mind and body.
At The Fix Program, we cannot go past the amazing challenges it brings to our postural awareness, control and strength. From the breath with the diaphragm, to the mindfulness of good neck, trunk and pelvic posture, this sequence will have you on your toes, but feeling amazing for it.
So, what are the benefits of this practice?
- If done quickly, this series of postures can have a cardiovascular effect on your heart and circulatory system.
- If done slowly, there is a toning of muscles, and a 'resetting' if you like of the neuromuscular system to have your skeletal system working in the balanced way.
- There is a meditative effect with flowing movements, and the effects of slow and deep breath.
- The peripheral nervous system can be invigorated, from all that sliding and stretching of the nerve pathways. Think of the latter pose in 'downward dog' and the stretch through the lumbar spine and associate sciatic nerve. Wonderful!
- The central nervous system is also invigorated with increased mindfulness and heightened awareness of breath, movement and your body. Keeping those brain neuronal pathways firing and becoming more intricate.
- There is also thought to be positive effects on the digestive system, from stomach to the gut, and other positive effects of the organs as a knock-on effect of the improvements in circulation and blood flow.
Can I challenge you to try an easy Sun Salutation at home?
So if I've convinced you to give this a go, be patient and take time to learn this easy series of postures. Many of them (in fact almost all) are stretches and exercises already known from regular class attendance. It is now just about putting them together in a flowing sequence.
Being that it is me, physio from The Fix Program asking you to try this, be very mindful of all you have learnt from your classes here. Just because it is a Yoga practice, please don't forget all of your Pilates cues! These things will protect you from injury and allow for you to achieve balance in your postural muscles. So, to remind you, here are the basics again for think of throughout your sun salutation:
- Observe safe neck and upper back posture, so think of your 'mangos under your chins' and 'shoulders melting into the upper back pockets'. Watch this particularly when your arms are holding your body weight.
- Observe good alignment of your thorax over your pelvis. Think of your 'floating and stacked rib plates', trying not to collapse or spring in front.
- Observe your awareness of safe and appropriate pelvis alignment in all poses. Where is your 'pelvic bowl' – straight (ish), level and in neutral. Remember to float about in neutral and not feel too rigid in this.
- Watch your breathing continues and is 'deep and wide'.
- Be mindful and make adjustments to hip, knee and midfoot posture, so that you stack your legs under your hips well.
- And remember that if a little more care is taken with all of this, your postural muscles will be working for you (yes, this means all of the pelvic floor, deeper abdominals, hip, upper trunk and shoulder girdle muscles). Hallelujah!
Let's get started with the flow of the poses!
Keep referring to your mindfulness of all the postural cues above.
- Begin in tall Active Standing. Breathe in to prepare.
- As you exhale, roll down through your spine
- Step your right foot back behind you at hip width and sink your hips forward into an easy 'Warrior 1' pose. Hold for 3 deep and wide breaths.
- If this is too challenging for your balance and strength, modify this pose with your right knee grounded to support you. Hold for 3 deep and wide breaths.
- Step your feet back together.
- Step your left foot back at hop width and sink into an easy 'Warrior 1' pose for this side. Again, modify if you feel you need. Hold for 3 deep and wide breaths.
- Step your right foot back to meet with the left. You are now in 'Yoga plank pose'. Really watch your alignment and postures here to protect your neck, shoulders and lower back. Keep breathing.
- With control, lower your plank to the floor, keeping your spine long and protected and elbows bending at your side near your waists.
- Rest for a moment on your tummy and on an inhale, extend your arms to peel your chest and trunk from the floor with your legs still on the mat and toes pointed. Hold for 2-3 deep and wide breaths.
- On an exhale, with toes curled back under, lift your hips and push them back towards your ankles. You are now in 'downward dog' pose. Watch your neck posture and melting shoulders, and imagine your sitbones lengthening to the sky. Try to extend out your knees and lengthen your heels to the floor. Hold for 3 deep and wide breaths.
- If this is too challenging, allow your knees to bend as you push back into your heels. Hold again for 3 deep and wide breaths.
- Let your knees bend and step your feet forward to your hands. Enjoy the heaviness of the relaxed body.
- As you next exhale, roll up though your spine.
So this is the sequence. You will learn it quickly. Try to repeat it a few times if you've time. I aim for 5 rounds of this sequence, but this is personal. Some avid yoga fans can run through a 'sun salute' similar to this up to 20 times each morning!