Hanuman, the monkey hero and friend to Rama in the Ramayana epic, had early interactions with the sun. When he was young, Hanuman saw the sun and thought it was a ripe mango, so he tried to eat it. Born from the wind god, Vayu, and a celestial nymph, Anjana, Hanuman was able to jump closer and closer to the sun, in some versions of the tale he’s able to grab hold or take a bite into the sun.
When Hanuman grew older, his mother asked the sun god, Surya, to be Hanumans tutor. The Sun god refused initially, remembering Hanumans early mischievousness as well as the complications of trying to teach on the move. Hanuman assured the sun god he would be able to keep up with the suns constant movements, and Surya became Hanumans tutor.
To honor Surya, the sun god, for teaching him, Hanuman created the Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar.
Sun Salutation A, honors the rise and fall of the sun. The focus is on staying with your breath and trying to match your inhales and exhales with the transitions. Typically inhales will be on lifting motions and exhales on lowering motions.
There are many variations and modifications to be had with Surya Namaskar, knowing the basic structure of the salutation can help you better understand how to modify and adjust. When making adjustments or modifying try to look for the ”why” of the pose as well as the “why” of your practice. Your practice should reflect yourself and your body, so don’t be afraid to do things your way, but work with your yoga teacher if you have questions or want to work on specific modifications.
Mountain Pose [Tadasana]
Standing feet hip distance apart or big toes and inside ball of the feet touching with heels a fist distance apart. Arms by side, fingers spread, palms forward. Inhale pull the energy up from the ground, exhale push the energy back into the ground.
Upward Salute [Urdhva Hastasana]
From Mountain, Inhale to extend the arms overhead, clasping the hands together at the top or staying shoulder width apart with the arms. If hands are clasped, going into a small back bend.
Standing Forward Fold [Uttanasana]
From Upward Salute, exhale and extend your arms out to the sides, hinge from your hips and fold down through a flat back towards your legs and feet, give a slight bend to your knees once your folded, or more bend if desired.
Half Standing Forward Fold [Ardha Uttanasana]
From Forward fold, inhale and lift your chest and back parallel to the floor, place your hands on your legs (anywhere but your knees) or utilize blocks under your hands to bring the floor to you. Extend your spine from your tailbone, out the top of your head.
From Half Forward Fold, exhale and plant your hands, step one leg back then the next, coming into plank. Plank is a total body activation pose, and there are many modifications and adjustments to be had here. My recommendation for those that want to build into a plank (particularly the arm and core strength part of plank) come into either table top (on all fours-hands under shoulders, knees under hips) and/or plank with one knee down, and you can alternate knees with each salutation (I.e. have the right knee down with left leg extended the first flow, then have the left knee down with right leg extended for the next flow) Again remember your “why” and check in with your body each time you practice to see what you may need. If you choose to do a full plank, palms under the shoulders, hands spread wide, plant though the ball of your hand and inside of your hand (thumb pad) to help take pressure off your wrists, rotate elbows in so they point behind you. Shoulders are down (away from your ears) uses your hands to pull your chest forward. Shoulder blades and rib cage squeeze towards one another, exhale low belly towards spine. Ball of the feet are planted, heels reach back. Your legs and tailbone are moving back and down through the feet, your spine is lengthening forward out the top of your head and down through your hands.
Four-Limbed Staff [Chaturanga Dandasana]
From Plank, inhale and shift your weight forward so your shoulders are past your fingers tips and you’re balancing on your arms and toes. Exhale as you hinge from your elbows, bringing your body parallel to the ground and arms hugged in towards your body. Modify Modify Modify. This is essentially a tricep pushup. This pose puts a lot of your weight in your arms and upper body. you can use a block for support or a strap looped around your upper arms to help “catch” you. You can also come down with one knee on the ground or in table top position. The primary focus is keeping a flat back, lengthened spine and engaged core, through the duration of the movement. Slow this transition and pose down. We’re trying to stay in our body the whole time, but this pose in particular needs your whole attention.
Upward Facing Dog [Urdhva Mukha Svanasana]
From Chaturanga, inhale and use your hands to press your chest upward, keep shoulders down from the ears, and lengthen spine. Place the top of the feet on the mat. keep bent elbows or come onto forearms instead for less of a back bend in this pose.
Downward Facing Dog [Adho Mukha Svanasana]
From Updog, exhale and plant your hands and transition your shoulders back and hips up, curl your toes and come onto the ball of your feet or plant your feet if it’s within your practice. Use your hands to bring your shoulders back and lift up through your hips, and your hips bring energy down your legs to bring your feet toward the ground. Try to keep your ears in between your arms. Again lots of modifications, find what works for you and your practice.
Low Lunge [Anjaneyasana]
From Down Dog, inhale to raise one leg up, exhale to sweep that leg forward and bring that foot in between your hands. Plant your front foot and ball of your back foot down. You can extend your arms upward or keep them on the ground or on blocks. You can also bring your back knee down for more stability.
From here we transition back, completing the cycle as it began:
From Low Lunge bring your back foot forward so both feet are underneath you and inhale into Half Forward Fold. Exhale into Standing Forward Fold and Inhale as you lift your arms out to the sides and bring yourself upright through a flat back. Arms are extended overhead and exhale bring your arms down by your sides, back into mountain.
Mimic the movements of the sun with Surya Namaskar A. Focus on the breathwork of the transitions and how you feel moving into and out of poses. Discover your way of honoring yourself and the Sun.