Salute the Sun

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow” –Helen Keller

I enjoy the outdoors, regardless the season, but there’s nothing quite like springtime. The warmth of the sun on a day when the air is still a little crisp is an ephemerally precious event that can’t be matched by any other. To spread a blanket out on the grass and stretch my winter-pale limbs under the sun, no agenda at all, is pure joy. Just a few minutes of vitamin D and my outlook brightens. Sunlight is a natural mood enhancer. Additionally, it facilitates our bodies in the production of vitamin D, which is essential to bone growth and the overall health of our immune systems. According to the Mayo Clinic, just 10 minutes of sun exposure is enough to prevent vitamin D deficiency. Hooray for sunshine!

Without the sun, life would not exist. Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutation is the ancient technique of expressing gratitude to the sun, the source of all forms of life. Yogis originally practiced outdoors and Sun Salutations were practiced facing the direction of the rising sun. Sun Salutations are cleansing. Consisting of 12 movements, the sequence generates heat, increases circulation, and takes the body through a full range of motion. One of the many wonderful things about the sequence is that it can cultivate a calm, focused mind. Because with Sun Salutations you assign each breath to a specific movement, the rhythm can lead you into a moving meditation, especially when done repeatedly.

Ready to practice outside? Forget your mat. Take your shoes off and feel the cool grass beneath your toes. If you can practice with the rising or setting sun, great! If not, pick a quiet, shady spot with a pleasant view. Take the first Sun Salutation slow, spending a few breaths in each posture to warm the body. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) is a great modification for Upward Facing Dog, and a good pose to practice the first time through. Notice where you tend to rush and where you lag. Can you assign the entire length of the breath to each movement? Settle in and allow the breath to guide you gracefully in and out of postures. Let the transitions become just as important and deliberate as the poses themselves. Be fully present and experience the joy and simplicity of time unfolding right before you.

Surya Namaskara A

  1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
  2. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
  3. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)
  4. Arda Uttanasana (Half-Standing Forward Fold)
  5. Plank Pose
  6. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff)
  7. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)
  8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
  9. Ardha Uttanasana (Half-Standing Forward Fold)
  10. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)
  11. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
  12. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

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