Earth Salutations are grounding, meditative and calming.
The perfect sequence at the end of a busy day when you want to reconnect to self and enjoy a quieter practice. I love to start the opening yoga session of my yoga retreats with Earth Salutations. I guide my retreat guests through a few slow rounds, inviting them to focus on their breath and how they feel in the body.
I also love to do a couple of rounds of Earth Salutations in the morning before I move into Sun Salutations (see below for slight adaptation for morning practice).
What are the benefits of practising the Earth Salutations?
The salutation series of sequences are used to limber up the whole body and prepare it for a full asana practice. The particular benefits of practising the Earth Salutation sequence are:
- To ground your body by flowing through a sequence of mat asanas
- To calm your mind by focusing on these very grounding movements
- To slow your breathing by coordinating every asana to an inhale or exhale
- To stretch your muscles – but especially the shoulders and arms
- To strengthen your mind, body, breath connection.
Ground your body
Your body never gets higher than a downward dog in the Earth Salutations and for this reason the movements are very grounding. Plus the repetitions of child’s pose with arms extended feels very much like you are saluting the Earth – relish those feelings of gratitude.
Calm your mind
Precisely because you never get higher than your hips reaching skyward in the downward dog, you don’t have to worry about balance with Earth Salutations. I like to practise several rounds with my eyes closed, this allows me to ‘check out’ from the outside world and centre myself more easily.
Slow your breathing
As with Sun Salutation, every move is synchronised with an inhale or exhale – always through the nose. Try slowing your Earth Salutations down so that you fully exhale any stale air and fully inhale oxygen deep into your lower lungs. This slowing of your breathing rate sends a signal to the brain that you are safe and secure – enjoy this sense of calm you are creating for your body and mind.
Stretch your muscles
A wonderful sequence for anyone looking to bring flexibility and openness to their shoulders. The repeated child’s pose with extended arms and the threading of the needle with each arm help to build toned, open shoulders. Each round of Earth Salutations particularly boosts flexibility in your spine, strengthens and tones your shoulders and arms, as well as limbering up the whole body.
Strengthen your mind, body & breath connection
Once you have mastered the flow of these asanas, you can perform the Earth Salutations as one continuous sequence, coordinating your movements with your breath to experience an enriching mind, body and breath connection. I am a huge fan of salutations for that very reason – you can flow through the movements and focus on your breath and the different perceptions you are experiencing in your body. It’s an effective and fast way to shut down an over busy mind.
Adapting Earth Salutations to a morning practice
When I do a morning yoga practice, I do quite a thorough warm-up in a seated position before enjoying ten to fifteen minutes of breathing exercises. This warms up my diaphragm, as well as bringing flexibility to my rib cage and lower back.
In the first few rounds of Earth Salutation, I don’t do the half camel as that can be quite an intense backward bend. I switch the half camel to what I call ‘baby camel’. I place both hands on my lower back, inhale and turn my head up to the sky as I open my chest. In the video above, the first round is the gentler round with baby camel and in the second round, I do a half camel.
Once I am warmed up, I switch to the Earth Salutations sequence shown below.
START by sitting with legs folded under you, hands at heart. Right side first.
Inhale – arms reach up
Exhale – fold forward into child’s pose, arms extended
Inhale – into table top
Exhale – spare exhale here as there is no movement
Inhale – drop belly into cow pose, eyes look up
Exhale – draw belly & diaphragm up into cat pose
Inhale – into downward dog
Exhale – knees to the mat
Inhale – right arm stretches up into half camel pose
Inhale – place both hands on lower back and open into baby camel pose
Exhale – hands to the mat to prepare for downward dog
Inhale – into downward dog
Exhale – knees to mat
Inhale – right arm stretches up
Exhale – right arm threads the needle through left arm (stay for 2 breath cycles)
Inhale – return to child’s pose (stay for 2 breath cycles)
Exhale – kneel back with hands at your heart ready to start the other side.
Repeat the same sequence of poses, with the left arm reaching up into half camel and threading the needle.
Start your practice by downloading a PDF version of Earth Salutations
Click here to download a PDF of the Earth Salutations sequence to your laptop or phone.
Take your time to embed the sequence and then use it to ground you when life has become too busy. A few rounds will bring you back to calm.
I hope you love this salutation as much as I do. Let me know how you get on.