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We are going to work through Sun Salutation A today (Sun Salutation B is a continuation of this, and will be covered next week!). See last week’s Clinic for a nitty gritty breakdown of Tadasana!
Sun Salutation A Sequence
Start at Tadasana, getting rooted and centered in your space, eyes open!
Transition from Tadasana to Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Fold
Dive forward (either literally, with swan arms, or by passing your palms together in prayer through heart center) into Standing Forward Fold.
Only a few tips for this pose, as utilizing proper technique in the previous poses should set you up well.
Points to keep in mind:
- Don’t hunch your shoulders–as always keep your shoulders and rib cage well rooted in your back.
- Don’t lock out your knees or hyperextend them–stay soft in your knees by engaging your quads, and firm in your feet by maintaining the weight in “all four corners” of your feet.
- Keep your center of gravity at the center of your pose–like crosshairs drown from your belly button to the ground and eyes to your knees. You are not aiming for compression and constriction here–and if you force it by laying your torso against your legs, you will overstretch and strain the hamstrings. The first time that you come into the pose, keep your knees even softer–bend as needed to get your hands flat on the ground.
Transition to Ardha Uttanasana (Inhale)
(standing forward fold at attention) The purpose of this pose is to neutralize the spine. Lift up as much as needed in order get a flat back–this might be just the tips of your fingers, for others it will be the shins. Try to get back to Tadasana back–that nice soft, flat back.
Transition to Chaturanga Dandasana. (Exhale)
Return to standing forward fold, plant your hands, and either step or spring back to high plank or Chaturanga Dandasana.
Remember Tadasana? You form should be exactly the same just in the horizontal, and with your upper arms at your sides. So here is what I am doing wrong and doing right:
Gaze and shoulders
My eyes are just about perpindicular with the ground. I could even afford to lower it another few degrees. My shoulders and rib cage are pretty well rooted in my back, which is how I want them to be–not hunched or tensed
My arms are nearly 90*, which is right where I want them to be. Many people come down too low in Chaturanga. Fix the mistake tip: take a yoga strap or resistance band, what have you, and loop it around your arms at your elbows. Perform Chaturanga, but don’t go lower than the strap with allow–this will show you how far down you should be going!
This is where I am messing up. I have my hips about 1/2 in too high, and it is causing me to arch my back rather than keeping a soft and neutral spine like in Tadasana. Doing so opens my spine up to danger and puts unnecessary pressure on the area. Fix the mixtake: keep your glutes and abs equally engaged–in the same way as Tadasana. Quads engaged to protect the knees.
If you are just holding Chaturanga, aim to stack your ankles. If you are going to be going into upward dog as part of that sequence, push forward onto your toes (see how my ankles are engaged and pushing forward?). You want energy moving throughout your legs from toes all the way up to the crown of your head.
Transition to Upward Facing Dog (Inhale)
Keep the bottom of your toes on the ground until you have swooped through to updog, then lay them on the ground one by one. Reroot your shoulders down your back and use that energy to push up off the ground. Engage your legs, and by doing that as you push downwards, your legs should lift off the ground. Gaze gently up to the corner of the room (as it were). Remember the queen? Be her again. Equal weight in hands and the tops of your feet.
You should feel a lovely stretch down the front of your body. It is one of the best starting stretches for your hip flexors and also a great one to do after your abwork!
- Looking way to far up, or looking down. Remember to keep your spine as neutral as possible!
- Don’t lock your arms. It looks like I am here, but I am actually just before that.
- Hunching your shoulders. ROOT THEM DANG IT.
- Touching the ground with other than the tops of your feet and your palms. Even weight in each!
- Relaxing your legs–they should be engaged–it is this engagement and the rooted shoulders that will lift you off the ground! Glutes are involved and helping to protect the lower back, which should
- Make sure that your feet are straight and that your toes aren’t pointed in.
To transition to Downward Facing Dog. (exhale)
Hold your position with your hands, and using your core (!!!), push back and, as you do, gently pick up and flip over your feet.
You know your doggy? Get like him.
Gentle ankles, aim for even pressure through the feet and hands. Push off your hands, through your arms, to your booty, down your legs, to your ankles, to your toes.
To get the most of your down dog:
- You want your hips a bit further back from center–gentle tension on your hamstrings, and don’t hyperextend or lock your joints. Use your quad engagement to help you push into your hamstrings.
- As always–shoulders away from your ears!!
To finish the sequence, you would spring (or walk) back to your forward fold, forward fold at attention, then swan back up to tadasana/mountain.
**Common Mistake alert–spring lightly back to forward fold. Exhale as you do this for maximum lightness! Same breathing technique as you return to standing.
A little bit briefer this time, but I wanted to get to the sequence. We will continue next week with the Warrior series of Sun B!
Challenges for you with these poses?
Questions for me? Advice?
I am not a certified yoga teacher, though I am a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Please understand that you assume your physical activity at your own risk. These posts are meant only as a helpful reference, and should not overrule the teachings of certified practitioners.