A Salute to the Sun
The Sun Salutation is a sequence of yoga poses, generally practised in rounds of twelve, that is just what it says it is – a salute to the sun, a way of showing gratitude to our planet’s burning orb.
It does not appear in the traditional Tibetan or Indian yogic writings; it is thought to have been absorbed into yoga practice through a fusion of gymnastics and temple sun ceremonies that were aimed at thanking the sun for rising once again.
Health benefits to both body and mind
Whether you practice it on your own at home or in a yoga class, indoors or out where you can see the sun, it brings tremendous health benefits to both the body and mind. The twelve rounds of the Sun Salutation make for a wonderful 20-minute morning routine and you can do it without a yoga mat wherever you are – at home or away on business.
Here are some of the ways your body and mind benefit from the sequence:
Tone your muscles
The Sun Salutation lengthens and tones your muscles and increases flexion in the spine. Unfortunately, the modern-day person’s lifestyle, often desk-bound, means our posture (and our breathing) suffers. A strong core and flexible spine are essential to keeping lower back problems at bay.
Love your heart
The twelve rounds of the sequence will increase your heart rate and provide a cardiovascular workout for your entire body. The sequence not only improves your blood flow but also gives your digestive system a boost too!
Inflate your lungs
The asanas, or yoga positions, practised during the sequence are coordinated with the breath. This helps expel stale air in the lower lungs and teaches us to breathe (more) deeply. Shallow breathing, a habit we don’t even realise we do, is particularly common in office workers due to a slumped work position at the desk.
Calm your mind
The combination of movements matched with the breath makes the Sun Salutation a moving meditation. The ‘sun saluter’ aims to focus the mind on the breath, thereby keeping the monkey mind from bringing a constant stream of thoughts. As the rounds go by, the thoughts still, the breathing deepens and the rhythm of the routine brings us to a moving meditative state.
Everybody loves the sun and if there were a morning when it didn’t rise all life on our planet would die. As well as saluting the sun, the sequence can be an opportunity to be grateful for other aspects in our life. Focussing on the good in our lives helps us live a less stressful more balanced life.
With exercise and meditation combined, the Sun Salutation is the perfect antidote for the pressures – both physical and mental – of modern-day life.
Other yoga salutations
Although the Sun Salutation is the most well known of the yoga salutations, there are also Moon and Earth Salutations.
I am a huge fan of the Earth Salutations – a few rounds of this salutation is both grounding and calming. I love to start my Norfolk Yoga Retreats with this calming practice – it’s the perfect way for my guests to reconnect their to self and their retreat intention.
I love the Earth Salutations so much that I’ve illustrated the sequence which you can download for free on the Earth Salutations page.
I’ve also recorded an Earth Salutations video with a couple of variations (see below), depending on how much flexibility you have in your lower back.
Let me know which one you love more – sun or earth!
by Bridget Rooth