Yoga is for You! Sun Salutation A for Beginners
Let’s be honest, stepping onto your yoga mat for the first time can be a little scary. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a studio setting or watching a video on Practice Everywhere in your living room, yoga is intimidating.
Maybe you keep saying to yourself “I’m not flexible I won’t be able to do anything.” Or in the back of your mind, you see pictures of yogis on Instagram half naked doing wild poses and think, “I don’t look like that, I’ll just look silly.” Every single one of us has been there. All of us did yoga tapes secretly in our basements or were dragged to a class by a friend, rolling our eyes the whole way there. But I want to tell you yoga is for you! It is not something to be afraid of. It is a wonderful physical practice that reconnects the mind and the body – and is just plain fun!
Today I’m going to introduce you to Sun Salutation A or Surya Namaskara A (SOOR-yuh nah-muh-SKAR-uh), which is the base for most yoga classes and is something you will almost always see each time you practice.
Sun Salutation A is a warming series of eight poses. This sequence is designed for you to match your breath and movement together. Many yoga classes use this sequence as a way to warm up. Checkout the list below where I broke down each of the eight poses, provide modifications, and breath cues:
1. Standing Mountain (Tadasana)
Stand with your feet hip width distance apart. Hold your palms together at heart center (Anjali Mudra). Take a breath in and out your nose.
2. Extended Mountain (Urdhva Hastasana)
Breathe in and reach your arms and hands above your head while you look up towards the sky.
3. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Breathe out and reach towards the floor. Try to keep your back straight as you bow, you may have to bend your knees to do this. If you can’t reach the floor that’s okay! Simply grab a block or two and rest your hands on the blocks, this allows you to get the full benefits of this pose while also bringing the floor closer to you.
4. Half-way Lift (Ardha Uttanasana)
As you breathe in, straighten your back by pulling your shoulder blades together. Rest your hands on your shins. Lengthen your neck by reaching through the crown or top of your head. Engage your core by pulling your belly button up and in towards your spine.
5. High Plank
Breathe out and step back to a high plank. Ensure your heels are stacked on top of the balls of your feet as if you are pressing your feet against a wall. Lift your hips in line with your shoulders and press the mat away with your hands. Remember you can drop your knees! Stay for a breath in and stay strong.
6. Four Limbed Staff (Chaturanga Dandasana – Teachers usually will just say “Chaturanga”)
Breathe out and bend your elbows while you hug your arms into your sides. Lower yourself halfway (almost like a push up). You can do this with your knees up or down.
7. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Breathe in and flip the tops of your feet onto the mat. Press into your hands to lift your chest up. Keep your shoulders pulled together and open through your collar bones.
8. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Breathe out, tuck your toes under once more, and press your hips back. Open your fingers wide and push into the finger pads of your hands. Point your tailbone to the ceiling. You have the option to straighten your legs or keep your knees slightly bent. This pose can be uncomfortable at first and if that’s you don’t despair because you have a few options! First, you can use press your hands against a wall or blocks to make the floor higher and take the intensity out of this pose. Second, you can always drop your knees for table top pose.
Now do it all again by stepping to the top of your mat into forward fold. All together your flow will look like this:
Extended Mountain (Inhale)
Forward Fold (Exhale)
Half-way Lift (Inhale)
High Plank (Exhale step back, Inhale and stay strong)
Upward Facing Dog (Inhale)
Downward Facing Dog (Exhale to press back, Inhale look forward to your hands)
Forward Fold (Exhale)
Extended Mountain (Inhale)
Each teacher adds their own variations and flair, for example, as you see above, I like to add high plank between Forward Fold and Chaturanga. I promise the next flow class you take you will immediately recognize and be familiar with this basic sequence like the yoga pro you now are! Yoga is not so scary after all.
About the Author
Molly Hall-Harvey is a Yoga Teacher based out of San Antonio. She came to the practice in college and fell in love with the way that Yoga offered her movement in a supportive, non-competitive way and its adaptability for different phases of life. As a teacher Molly blends accessibility with inspiration and motivation. Molly is also a sought after meditation guide offering true to life meditation practices that are ultra honest, kind and approachable. Take Molly's classes here.