Sun Salutes for Any Body

There are a lot of reasons why someone might struggle with the step-through action done in Sun Salutations. Here, Baxter Bell offers an alternative.
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There are a lot of reasons why someone might struggle with the step-through action done in Sun Salutations. Here, Baxter Bell offers an alternative.

Over the years of teaching and leading Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar), which I personally enjoy doing myself, I have observed time and again, the challenge of one particular transition in the sequence: going from Down Dog to High Lunge as you finish up one round of a salute.

There can be any number of reasons why this is so challenging for some of us. The muscles around the hip can be strong but tight. Body proportions, such as a longer torso paired with shorter legs and arms, can make it tough to get the foot all the way up between the hands. And if you have a larger midsection, this can also interfere with the movement.

Although I have taught many tricks on improving the forward stepping of the leg you are bringing into lunge, I had a new idea on a recent teaching trip in Washington, DC. Why not create a Sun Salute that omits that transition while retaining essentially everything else the series has to offer? And so was born the Severed Sun Salute! Or as some have already preferred, the Fractured Sun Salute (we can be so sensitive to some words!). I present it here, as I have already been getting lots of good feedback from teachers in the DC area who learned it and are teaching it to their students with encouraging results. It has two parts and a lot of steps, which I'll discuss and demonstrate below.

Part 1:

Stand in Tadasana at the front of your mat.

Inhale the arms overhead into Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute),

and on the exhale, fold over into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend).

Inhale your left foot back into High Lunge, and as you exhale, bring the left knee down to the floor, the right hand to the right knee, and rotate your belly and chest to the right.

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Inhale and lift the left knee as you return to full High Lunge.

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Step forward to Uttanasana as you exhale, and inhale your arms up. Exhale hands in front of heart in Anjali Mudra. Repeat the sequence on the second side. Do this a few rounds.

When you've finished, stand at the front of the mat, close your eyes, and mentally repeat the pattern without actually moving. Allow your mind to fully experience the new pattern.

Part 2:

Opening your eyes, dosey doe to the back of your mat (you might even imagine a little square-dance tune!), and stand at the back edge facing the front.

Inhale the arms up, and exhale into Standing Forward Bend.

Get all 10 fingers on the mat, even if you need to bend your knees a bit, and on your inhale, walk your hands toward the front of the mat.

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As you exhale, push the hips up and back into a nice Downward-Facing Dog.

As you inhale, come forward into either Plank, High Cobra, or Up Dog.

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As you exhale, walk your hands back toward your feet until you are standing in Uttanasana at the back of your mat.

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This last move takes some practice to do efficiently. It is helpful to use Ujjayi breath to extend the exhalation and give you enough time to get into Uttanasa.

Now, inhale up to Urdhva Hastasana, and exhale to finish in Anjali Mudra.

Repeat the sequence 3 more times, and once again, when you finish, close your eyes and mentally match your breath to the imagined pattern.

In addition to providing you with an accessible alternative to traditional Sun Salutations, this new pattern will challenge your mind to adapt and learn new movements. I believe these kinds of slight variations in practice will keep our minds agile and adaptable as we age. Give it a go!