Gliding Through Sun Salutations

Reflections of a curious Yogi

Nova Scotia has some incredible perks. One is the amazing summer enjoying evening paddles across the lake, backyard BBQ’s and dips in the ocean. The mighty sun beats down on us as if to say “you earned this” and the whole east coast rejoices as we pack our tents and prepare our bathing suit bods for those three short months of summer.

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In Vinyasa yoga, Sun Salutations prepare us for deeper stretches by warming us up, they bring flow between asanas (yoga poses) and in traditional principle celebrate and give thanks to the sun that offers life through its energy.

Here are some tips to help get you feeling good about your sun salutations as you move through a vinyasa class at Shanti:

Mountain Pose

Feel strength through your feet and energy from your palms as they open to the front.

Raised Arm Pose

Keep your shoulders away from your ears and take a long breath in; feeling your rib cage expand. A little smile goes a long way in this pose.

If you’ve practiced back bends you can reach further towards the back ceiling but make sure your lower spine stays long and protected.

Standing Forward Bend

This is a great wake up for your hamstrings, lengthen through your lower back and bend your knees if you feel too much pull.

Your hands can go to a block, your shins or the floor. Remember if you have to curve your back to get your hands lower, ease off a bit.

Half Forward Bend.

I love the stretch this one provides along the top of the pelvis. It reminds me of a turtle reaching to peek out of its shell.

Use your hands on your hips if you have some lower back sensitivity.

Stepping Back

Tip toeing your way back to your first downward dog gives a sense of where your weight is this day ( it changes every day) and warms you up before your first jump back.

Downward Dog

My recent class with Kevin gave me some more insight into downward dog. Pushing the energy through the hands up the arms and spine to lift your pelvis to the sky he said, allows for room for you heels to reach down into the mat. This pose is so energizing and strengthening. The importance should be placed on lengthening your lower back more than getting your heels to the mat.

Plank

SQUUUUUEEEEZZEEE!! Here are the places you should feel strength in this pose: Your bum, your hamstrings and your abdominals. If you can find spice in these areas, plank will feel like a breeze.

Lower Down Chatarunga Dandasana

This one is a little tricky. Keep your bum elevated so you don’t end up doing a reverse version of the worm on your way down. Think of puffing up through your upper back between your shoulder blades for added strength. It’s important to keep your arms at a 90 degree angle so if you can’t tell, get someone to check for you so you can feel the difference.

Upward Dog or Cobra

This is such a satisfying pose for the front of the body to stretch out and open through the chest. It’s so important to engage your back so your spine stays long. Compression in the lower half of the spine can cause some pretty intense injury so don’t push yourself to achieve upward dog. It’s just not worth the potential for injury. Cobra will be just as effective as you work on your strength. The lift should come from your back muscles and not from pushing into your hands.

Push back to Downward Dog

Again make sure you come down and lengthen through the spine before you push back. To gain strength first lower from cobra or upward dog, push up through plank then go to downward dog. Think of those three movements and as you progress it will become all one.

Downward Dog (again)

Here is a moment to check in with your breath and take some rest or get an extra bit of stretch in. Enjoy the feeling of being upside down and remember to press your index and thumb into the mat.

Bend your knees and hop! To the front of the mat.

If you’ve ever tried frog hops in class those help a lot with the progression of getting that nice soft landing. Put your hands in the mat and bend your knees a lot hop up from the mat and back down feeling your pelvis over your shoulders. If you’re afraid you’ll hop too far practice them near a wall that can catch you or have an instructor help.

As you arrive back to mountain check in with your body, it will feel different. Heart beating, circulation flowing and warming through your core. Remember, every body is different. The only “right” or “wrong” happens when we ignore our very unique bodies. Sun salutations will help you get to know your body’s needs and eventually you’ll be able to glide through like a canoe paddle in the glassy Nova Scotian lake waters.

Want some more outdoorsy yoga experiences? Check out Shanti Hot Yoga’s free outdoor classes! Thursdays in Victoria Park Halifax, Fridays in Dewolfe Park Bedford and Mondays at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth. (Weather permitting) Check out the schedule for more details.