I absolutely love using Sun Salutations to warm up in my practice or as a standalone practice when I'm pressed for time. One round can make me feel happier and loosen up my body from head to toe. Its a great option for anyone experiencing pain or stress, while keeping any of those areas of pain in mind as they relate to your movement and alignment of course.
Surya Namaskar: Sanskrit for "bow or salute the sun"
Sun Salutation Poses
You will probably see a TON of variations to the traditional Surya Namaskar, but these six asana are the OG poses.
- Standing Forward Fold
- Halfway Lift
- Plank to Mid-Plank
- Upward Facing Dog
- Downward Facing Dog
You can start in Mountain, extended Mountain (arms overhead), or Standing at Attention (hands at heart center) - depending on what feels the best for your body during that particular practice. I'm a firm believer that if you are using alignment suited for your musculoskeletal history, then there is no wrong way to get your Sun Salutation on!
How Surya Namaskar Eases Your Pain
Everyone will feel different individual benefits of these poses in their body, but below are my top three ways that a Sun Salutation can help you manage pain.
Improves range of motion
For those of us with muscle tension or injuries that never fully healed "right", range of motion may be lacking in those joints. The poses in Sun Salutations can help with flexibility and strength in muscles, tendons and ligaments, especially in the most commonly injured joints such as the hip and shoulder. For example, Extended Mountain Pose can help move through "stickiness" in the shoulder joint when reaching the arms out then up allowing the scapulae to rest naturally versus raising your arms straight up. Try them both and notice if there is a difference in the way your shoulder blades want to rest.
Yoga has been noted as an effective way to increase circulation in the body with simple, accessible poses such as the ones in Sun Salutations. By practicing inversions, the blood flow is reversed as your head moves below your heart and gravity pulls oxygenated blood to the brain. Anyone who has pain from poor circulation (aches, swelling, etc.) may benefit from yoga poses that invert you, such as Downward Facing Dog and Standing Forward Fold.
Melts away stress through moving meditation
Meditation is a proven stress reliever, especially when practiced daily. With a focus on vinyasa (moving with intention) and pranayama (breath control), you can turn your Sun Salutations into a moving meditation. Try matching each inhale and exhale to the poses in Surya Namaskar as noted below. Breathe slow and controlled. Start with a 3 count inhale and 3 count exhale. As that count becomes easier, increase it to 4 and so on.
Breath Pattern for Sun Salutations:
Inhale - Mountain; Exhale - Fold; Inhale - Halfway Lift; Exhale - Chaturanga Dandasana; Inhale - Upward Facing Dog; Exhale - Downward Facing Dog
About the Author:
Tiffany Lord is a corporate yoga coach and founder of Love + Asana, a virtual studio launched in 2016 offering workplace wellness sessions, workshops and program design. Her sessions incorporate movement and mindfulness focusing on benefits for stress relief and chronic pain. Tiffany’s fun, approachable style makes classes feel like you’re hanging out with friends while also improving your mental and physical health.
She is an E-RYT with the Yoga Alliance and currently enrolled in a 500-hour training with Yoga Medicine focusing on yoga applications for common range of motion issues. Continuing education in meditation, breathing techniques, myofascial release, yoga for COVID-19 recovery and training as a massage therapist help make her sessions relevant and beneficial to clients who want simple movement and mindfulness techniques that improve their quality of life. Her articles on wellness through yoga have been featured in online and print publications, such as fyi50+ and CO Yoga + Life magazine.
Questions? Contact Tiffany at firstname.lastname@example.org