Yoga blog

A Beginners’ Guide to Sun Salutations

Sun Salutations are fantastic! They move every muscle and joint, providing a perfect whole body workout, while also warming the body up for other poses (asanas) and increasing strength and flexibility. But they can be the most daunting part of a Yoga class for beginners, so as my next batch of Beginner Courses all start this week here’s my Beginners’ Guide 🙂

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Tadasana

Stand with toes together, heels slightly apart. Inhale and lift arms. If you have low back pain keep a straight back. If not you can squeeze your glutes, draw your abdominals in and lean back as far as comfortable. Then keep your knees soft and bend as much as you need to as you exhale forward into Uttanasana

 

Uttanasana (Forward Fold)

forward fold

Don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on the floor with straight legs. Bend your knees, bend them more… bend them so much that you have your hands on the floor. Putting some weight through the hands takes the pressure out of your lower back. Also in this position lead with your heart, not the crown of your head, so you keep your spine long and allow your chest to remain open so you can take full, deep breaths. From here step one foot back and lower the knee coming into a low lunge.

Aswa Sanchalanasana (Low Lunge)

Low lunge SS

Don’t let the knee come past your toes. If you have any hip injuries keep this position more boxy, if not you can sink your hips forward more coming deeper into the lunge.

There are two options for what comes next:

  1. Bharmanasana (Table)

Table

Any pain in the knees you can double fold your mat under them here. Knees under hips, wrists under shoulders. Spread your fingers. Keep a micro-bend in your elbows so they are not locked out and use your triceps to rotate your inner elbows towards one another.

 

Or

 

2. Kumbhakasana (Plank)

 

Plank

Any pain in the wrists in this position come to the forearms.

 

 

The transitions…

 

In plank lower your knees first so you are in Table. From here you have two options:

  1. Bring your right forearm down, then your left forearm down. Make sure your forearms are relatively wide apart. Then keeping your hips lifted lower your chest down in between them.

Forearms DownForearms down chest down

 

2. Keeping your elbows into your body, lower your chest and your chin. This will require more upper body strength. If this is not available to you now do not give up hope, the best way to get stronger is to practice the first option, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time you are building the upper body strength you need.

Ashtanga Namaskar SS

3. From Plank, roll a little forwards. Keep the elbows into the body and lower yourself in one straight line to the floor. If you find yourself doing a belly flop stick to one of the earlier options to protect your back and build strength.

Chaturanga

NB: I know it can feel like you just want to be able to do everything straight away, but Yoga practice remains fun and interesting because there is always a challenge to be working towards, your body is beautiful and strong just how it is, so never worry about what anybody else is doing.

Bhujangasana (Cobra)

Sphinxcobra-ss.jpg

If you’ve come down forearm by forearm, you may prefer to lift into Sphinx to keep the flow. Equally if you have low back pain Sphinx gives more support. Only lift as high as feels comfortable. Or if you want a deeper backbend, then you can bring the hands alongside the ribs and lift up a little higher.

From here you can push back into Downward Facing Dog. However, pushing back to Downward Dog can be quite strenuous, so you can come through Table pose, tuck your toes under and lift up into it to begin with.

Ardo Mukta Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Downdog

In this pose don’t worry so much about getting the heels down to the mat. Focus on getting along spine, by pushing actively into the hands and sending your chest and belly back towards the thighs. Spread your fingers, push into the knuckles and fingers. Keep your thighs active, gently pushing your heels down.

 

More transitions…

 

  1. To begin with get used to lowering your knees down from Downward facing dog and coming into Table. When in table you can take hold of the right/left leg and bring it forward into a low lunge. Make sure you assist your ankle so it comes under your knee.
  2. If you have the flexibility you can step your foot all the way forward between your hands from Downward Dog. If it doesn’t quite make it, take hold of the ankle and bring it forward between the hands.

 

From your low lunge, you can then step together into a Forward Bend and rise up to Mountain/Tadasana, closing the sequence by bringing your hands to your heart ❤

 

Happy practicing!

Namaste Hx

 

 

Yoga blog

Your Yoga, Your Body, Your Option: Or overcoming the ego in Yoga

Ashtanga NamaskarI want to share the story of my journey to being able to perform Chaturanga Dandasana or the bottom of a yoga push up. It was a slow process involving a lot of collapsing to the floor, frustration and self-doubt. That went on for a long time and then I started to do something I wish I’d done years before. That was taking an alternative option – in this case Ashtanga Namaskar or five-pointed bow pose.

It took me so long to choose this option partly because I had almost exclusively done yoga in a gym where the focus had been on strength and power, so no one had ever told me there was an alternative to a belly flop in the middle of my sun salutations. And partly because my ego was getting in the way of my practice and I just wanted to be able to do what the person next to me was doing. The irony is that when I started regularly performing Ashtanga Namaskar I quickly built up the strength for Chaturanga in a way I hadn’t by performing Chaturanga incorrectly.

Options in yoga aren’t there because one pose is better than another, but because every human body is different and there’s no need to rush or force yourself into a posture. Rather than giving in to feelings of inadequacy or skipping a pose, taking an option allows us to participate and build strength for other poses in the future.

The other absolutely fantastic thing about options in yoga is being able to use equipment. Blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters, jellies… they are all brilliant and should never be shunned. Using blocks and straps I can achieve variations of Utpluti Dandasana (Floating Stick) and Rajakapotasana (King Pigeon). Maybe one day after using the equipment these poses will be achievable for me. But even if not, I like to remember this quote ‘yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down’. Now I challenge you to go and look up a variation or option of a pose you never thought you’d be able to do and give it a go!