So, you’ve attended your first studio class!  Congratulations! While the experience may have been enjoyable, you may  have left with some unanswered questions. If suddenly everyone in around you started to move into some sort of synchronized yoga madness it was most likely the Sun Salutation, a common sequence of yoga poses that typically kick off a yoga class. Everyone moving together in perfect unison can make any novice yogi feel a bit overwhelmed (and maybe a bit lost). But fear not newbies! Get ready for your second class with the help of our simple how-to guide. You’ll be moving through a basic Sun Salutation with ease and confidence in no time.

Tadasana (mountain pose)
Stand with your toe bones together, heels an inch apart (or keep your feet hip width apart). Slowly rock your weight forward into the balls of your feet, and then back into your heels.  After a few rocks, allow your weight to settle evenly into all four corners of your feet, imagining they are roots connecting you to earth. Engage your quadriceps, tuck the naval toward the spine, allow the collarbone to float up, hands to reach down with fingers spread wide and facing forward, and then let the crown of your head float up toward the sky, as all the muscles in your body hug into your bones. I like to call this supermarket line pose, fantastic way to get in a mini workout when you’re stuck standing still. Take a few breaths here in gratitude for your strength and balance.

Inhale – Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
Reach your arms up high into the sky and allow your palms to lightly touch.

Exhale– Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Engage your core, extend your arms out to the side, and begin to dive forward as if into a still mountain pool. Slightly bend your knees and allow your fingertips to trail down toward the earth.

Inhale – Ardha Uttanasana (Half Standing Forward Bend)
Lift half way tucking your naval toward your spine, extending your crown toward the front of the room, and coming up to a flat back.

 Exhale – Transition
Plant your hands on either side of your feet, step back with the right foot, step back with the left foot, and come into a high Plank Pose.

Inhale – Plank Pose
Check that your hands are directly under your shoulders, fingers are spread wide, and wrist creases are parallel with the top of the mat, then slightly round through the shoulders by pressing the ground away. Squeeze your naval toward your spine engaging your core, and reach back through your heels. Much likeTadasana, in Plank Pose every muscle should be engaged.

Exhale – Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) *by far the most challenging pose of the sequence

Option A – Lower your knees to the mat, keep your elbows squeezing in towards your rib cage, and then bring your chest and chin down to the ground while keeping your derrière in the air. (If you find that your core wants a bit more challenge move on to Option B.)

Option B – Keeping your back completely straight, squeeze your elbows toward your ribcage as you lower halfway to the mat. Your shoulders should remain an inch or so above your elbows, and your knees should stay lifted off of the ground. Check in with yourself here, if you find your knees moving toward the ground, or your shoulders dipping below your elbows, move back to Option A and continue building core strength. In order to avoid injury it is very important to listen to your body at this stage in the vinyasa, if your alignment is compromised take it back a notch.

Inhale – Backbend (No mixing and matching here, use the same option as best worked for your body above)
Option A – Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) Slide your torso through the line of your hands, bringing your hips to the ground. Press into all ten toes; gently lift your shoulders and heart off the ground while looking up.

Option B – Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose) Keep your knees elevated (if they touch the ground go back to option A), slide your heart through the line of your hands, raise it up toward the sky, and allow your gaze to drift heavenward.

Exhale – Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
Press the ground away, lift your hips into the air, press your sit bones back as your head drops down, and your heart reaches toward your thighs. Inhale – Look up toward the top of your mat.

Exhale – Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Step, walk, or engage your core and hop your feet between your hands.

Inhale – Ardha Uttanasana (Half Standing Forward Bend)
Halfway lift into a flat back position. Exhale – Uttanasana Fold forward.

Inhale – Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
Sweep your arms around and up toward the sky allowing your palms to lightly touch. Exhale – Keep your palms together and bring your hands down to your heart center. Come back into Tadasana, and repeat.

Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) is by far my favorite way to start each morning; the combination of core strengthening and back bending is extremely energizing, and serves as a great reminder to meet each day with strength, grace, and a smile! Practice this fun sequence at home, and then take it to your local yoga studio and join fun!

Note: The breath determines the pace of this flow sequence. Each time you reach up or expand, inhale. When folding forward or engaging the core, exhale.