Sun salutations basic yoga workout

By Charlotte Dodson, Photography by Mel Koutchavlis

Sun salutations basic yoga workout
This basic five-step yoga sequence will help reduce stress and improve digestion and flexibility.

This yoga sequence is known as Sun Salutations, or Surya Namaskar. It can be performed on its own or with other yoga poses. The poses linked in a series can lengthen and strengthen many of the main muscles of the body while improving your energy flow.

There are many Sun Salutation variations and each asana (posture) can be modified depending on your level of strength and flexibility.

Traditionally, the Sun Salutation sequence consists of two rounds of 12 asanas. Move from posture to posture by either an inhalation or an exhalation and always breathe through your nose. Here is one variation you can try at home.

1. Mountain pose and upward salute

The Mountain Pose [A] is great for improving posture. Stand with your big toes touching, heels slightly apart and with your weight balanced evenly on the feet. Firm your thigh muscles and lengthen your tailbone towards the floor. Hang your arms beside your torso, your palms facing forward. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds, breathing easily. With an inhale, sweep your arms up towards the ceiling. Press your palms firmly together, extend your elbows and reach up. Tip your head back slightly and gaze at your thumbs [B]. Hold for a few breaths. This pose stretches the stomach, improves digestion and helps to relieve mild anxiety.


2. Standing Forward Bend

From Upward Salute exhale as you sweep your arms out to the sides, tip your torso forward to fold into Uttanasana [A]. With this forward bend the emphasis is on lengthening the front torso, not reaching your toes. If possible, with your knees straight bring your palms to the floor, next to your feet. If this isn’t possible, bend your knees slightly and cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Press the heels firmly into the floor and let your head hang. Uttanasana stimulates the liver and kidneys, strengthens the thighs and knees and reduces fatigue. To deepen the pose, come halfway up with a straight spine and lift the head [B]. Hold the pose for a few breaths.


3. Downward facing dog

From the Standing Forward Bend exhale and move into Downward Facing Dog. At first, keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lift your bottom towards the ceiling, then with an exhalation, stretch your heels onto or down towards the floor. Straighten your knees but don’t lock them. Firm out the thighs. Firm the arms and press the fingers into the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back. Keep your head between your arms, don’t let it hang. Stay in this pose for about one minute. Downward Facing Dog has many benefits. It calms the mind and helps to relieve stress. It also stretches the shoulders, legs, hands and feet and improves digestion. If you find it too challenging to open your shoulders in this pose, raise your hands off the floor on the seat of a chair.


4. Plank

From Downward Facing Dog move into the Plank position [A]. Inhale and then draw your torso forward until the arms are perpendicular to the floor and the shoulders are directly over the wrists, with your torso parallel to the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then spread them away from the spine. Look straight down at the floor. The plank position strengthens the arms, wrists and spine and also tones the abdomen. From plank, exhale and bend your knees to the foor and then lower your chest and chin to the floor [B]. Keep your chest open and your elbows close to the side of your ribcage.


5. Low Cobra

 You are now ready to move into Low Cobra. This is a modification of Cobra that is more suited to beginners. The pose helps to increase mobility of the spine and strengthens the muscles in the back, which is important if you spend your days hunched over a computer. Keep your palms on the floor next to your chest, with your fingertips in line with the front of your shoulders. Press your hands firmly into the floor and begin to lift your chest into a mild backbend. Keeping your elbows by your sides, press your shoulder blades into your upper back. With a deep inhale, expand your chest, pulling it forward and up. Make sure your shoulders don’t bunch up, keep them away from your ears. Lengthen your neck by lifting the base of your skull away from your shoulders. Rest or reverse the sequence to return to the Mountain Pose.



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