Be an OMbody

If the economy has put a damper on your yoga class attendance, it’s time to start a home practice. Just because you have to cut back doesn’t mean you should cut back on yoga. A home practice can help fine-tune your grasp of the basics, so you can get more out of class time and more bang for your yoga buck. More yoga, better yoga -– it’s a win-win. A home practice doesn’t have to be long or elaborate either; you can easily squeeze it into your day without the extra time needed to get to class. Just unroll your mat in a quiet and reasonably clear space (indoors or out) and go to it. Let’s start with the sun salutations to get you going.

SURYA NAMASKAR A & B
It always amazes me that these thousands-of-years-old sequences are such well-rounded, kick-butt workouts. The sun salutations are traditionally the yoga “warm-up” and are the foundation of a flow practice, plain and simple. You must — I repeat — must get familiar and comfortable with these sequences, and establish them as your practice cornerstones. You’ll be a lot happier in that challenging flow class, or when you try out a new yoga DVD on your own. So many good things happen within this impeccably designed flow. Here are just a few of the big ones:

  • Stretching the muscles in the backs of the legs (uttanasana, down dog)
  • Strengthening the upper body (plank, chaturanga)
  • Backbending and lower back release (up dog, down dog)

Sun salutations hit almost every part of the body. They also cultivate the breath awareness that is so critical to a good yoga flow. Lastly, they bring you into the present moment if you allow your breath to move you through the sequence (essentially one breath per movement). When my students ask me about starting a home practice, my suggestion is to start with mastering the sun salutes without instruction. If you have these sequences ingrained in your memory – and they come from within vs. without, with someone always leading you through it – you’ll notice how effortlessly they will flow for you, even on days when your energy is low. Sun salutations, like the name implies, are the perfect start to any day. Use the photo instructions below and try these combos, ranging from beginner to advanced, or depending on your time frame and energy level, and be sure to save some time for a brief savasana.

Beginner Advanced Beginner Intermediate Advanced

(2) Surya Namaskar A
(1) Surya Namaskar B

(3) Surya Namaskar A
(2) Surya Namaskar B

(5) Surya Namaskar A
(3) Surya Namaskar B

(5) Surya Namaskar A
(5) Surya Namaskar B

INSTRUCTIONS

SURYA NAMASKAR A

Surya Namaskar A

1) Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Stand with your feet together and your hands at heart center in mountain. Draw your navel in towards your spine to activate your core, and lengthen your spine by pushing the top of your head up towards the ceiling as you ground through your feet into the floor. Center here for 5 deep breaths.

2) Utthita Hasta in Tadasana. On an inhale, reach your arms overhead as you take your gaze to your hands.

3) Uttanasana (Forward Fold). On your exhale, fold forward and take your chest towards your knees as you straighten your legs. Let your head be heavy and neck relaxed. If your hands don’t reach the floor, bring them to your shins.

4) Transition. On your inhale, look up and come to a flat back (fingertips should touch the floor or the fronts of your shins).

5) Plank. Exhale and step back to a push up position. Don’t let your head or hips drop, keep your body one straight line. Take a big inhale here.

Surya Namaskar A

6a) Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). On your exhale, lower to hover one inch off the ground, keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor and the body one straight line.

6b) Chaturanga Dandasana Modification (Knees to Floor). On your exhale, drop to your knees and lower onto your belly.

7a) Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog). Inhale and straighten the arms and push off the tops of the feet (legs are off the floor).

7b) Bhujangasana (Cobra) Modification. Inhale and lift your upper body away from the floor (trying to use your back muscles vs. pushing off of your hands – do not come up too high).

Surya Namaskar A

8) Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog). Tuck your toes under and exhale as you push the hips up and back into downward facing dog. Keep your neck relaxed and your gazing point between your feet. Stay here for 5 deep breaths.

9) Transition. Step forward to the front of your mat and inhale to a flat back.

10) Uttanasana (Forward Fold). On your exhale, fold forward and take your chest towards your knees with straight legs.

11) Utthita Hasta in Tadasana. On your inhale reach your arms out and up to come to standing, gazing to your hands.

12) Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Exhale and return to where you began in mountain.

SURYA NAMASKAR B

Surya Namaskar B

1) Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Stand with your feet together and your hands at heart center in mountain. Draw your navel in towards your spine to activate your core, and lengthen your spine by pushing the top of your head up towards the ceiling as you ground through your feet into the floor. Center here for 5 deep breaths.

2) Utkatasana (Chair Pose). Inhale as you bend your knees and raise your arms over your head in chair pose. Bring your palms together (or as close as they can get). Keep your upper arms by your ears and your head lined up with your spine.

3) Uttanasana (Forward Fold). On your exhale, fold forward and take your chest towards your knees as you straighten your legs. Let your head be heavy and neck relaxed. If your hands don’t reach the floor, bring them to your shins.

4) Transition. On your inhale, look up and come to a flat back (fingertips should touch the floor or the fronts of your shins).

5) Plank. Exhale and step back to a push up position. Don’t let your head or hips drop, keep your body one straight line. Take a big inhale here.

Surya Namaskar B

6a) Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). On your exhale, lower to hover one inch off the ground, keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor and the body one straight line.

6b) Chaturanga Dandasana Modification (Knees to Floor). On your exhale, drop to your knees and lower onto your belly.

7a) Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog). Inhale and straighten the arms and push off the tops of the feet (legs are off the floor).

7b) Bhujangasana (Cobra) Modification. Inhale and lift your upper body away from the floor (trying to use your back muscles vs. pushing off of your hands – do not come up too high).

Surya Namaskar B

8) Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog). Tuck your toes under and exhale as you push the hips up and back into downward facing dog. Keep your neck relaxed and your gazing point between your feet.

9) Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I). Step your right foot up between the hands and drop the back heel so the left foot is flat and at an angle. Your right knee bends deeply as you inhale and reach the arms up overhead into warrior I.

10) Plank. Your exhale from Warrior I brings you all the way back to plank; flatten your palms and step back.

Surya Namaskar B

11a) Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). On your exhale, lower to hover one inch off the ground, keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor and the body one straight line.

11b) Chaturanga Dandasana Modification (Knees to Floor). On your exhale, drop to your knees and lower onto your belly.

12a) Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog). Inhale and straighten the arms and push off the tops of the feet (legs are off the floor).

12b) Bhujangasana (Cobra) Modification. Inhale and lift your upper body away from the floor (trying to use your back muscles vs. pushing off of your hands – do not come up too high).

Surya Namaskar B

13) Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog). Tuck your toes under and exhale as you push the hips up and back into downward facing dog. Keep your neck relaxed and your gazing point between your feet.

14) Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I). Step your left foot up between the hands and drop the back heel so the left foot is flat and at an angle. Your right knee bends deeply as you inhale and reach the arms up overhead into warrior I.

15) Plank. Your exhale from Warrior I brings you all the way back to plank; flatten your palms and step back.

Surya Namaskar B

16a) Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). On your exhale, lower to hover one inch off the ground, keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor and the body one straight line.

16b) Chaturanga Dandasana Modification (Knees to Floor). On your exhale, drop to your knees and lower onto your belly.

17a) Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog). Inhale and straighten the arms and push off the tops of the feet (legs are off the floor).

17b) Bhujangasana (Cobra) Modification. Inhale and lift your upper body away from the floor (trying to use your back muscles vs. pushing off of your hands – do not come up too high).

Surya Namaskar B

18) Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog). Tuck your toes under and exhale as you push the hips up and back into downward facing dog. Keep your neck relaxed and your gazing point between your feet. Stay here for 5 deep breaths.

19) Transition. Step forward to the front of your mat and inhale to a flat back.

20) Uttanasana (Forward Fold). On your exhale, fold forward and take your chest towards your knees with straight legs.

21) Utthita Hasta in Tadasana. On your inhale reach your arms out and up to come to standing, gazing to your hands.

22) Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Exhale and return to where you began in mountain.

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5 Comments
Meg

May 04, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Great photos, great yogini!

Peggy Malone

May 05, 2009 at 10:17 am

Yes! just what i needed to remind me, thanks Margaret and so nice to see you again!

Rebecca

May 05, 2009 at 6:47 pm

I love doing Surya Namaskar B! Great article once again.

Krystall

May 10, 2009 at 8:13 am

awesome article!! i need to practice my sun salutations, what perfect timing!! thanks margaret!

Zanyduck

September 17, 2012 at 6:51 am

I’m LOVIN my “home practice” of yoga, but would like a DVD to go along with. Are there any you would recommend? I’ve been at this for a few years and am ready to step it up! 🙂

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