Morning Yoga Stretches
Surya Namaskar Yoga Illustrations
Morning is undoubtedly one the best times to practice yoga and the perfect morning yoga set is Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation, as it incorporates some excellent poses to help stretch the entire body. Surya Namaskar should probably have been the very first article on this blog, instead of now four years later, but hey, better late than never .
Surya Namaskar is a set where you flow from one yoga posture to another. This style is called Vinyasa or Flow Yoga and it is a wonderful way to practice yoga. Flowing gracefully from pose to pose, when done with full awareness and attention, allows you to extract the calming and harmonizing aspects of yoga, in addition to it’s well known physical benefits.
As mentioned above, the poses which are incorporated into Surya Namaskar really stretch the whole body and they are also individually some of the best poses from Hatha Yoga. Surya means Sun and Namaskar means Salutations, and this set done in the refreshing early morning hours when the Sun is just rising, is a great way to salute the new day and a great way to prepare the body for it.
Below you will find all the details needed to practice this wonderful sequence, which will become Chapter 22 in our ongoing Free Online Yoga Sets E-book. As with all yoga practice please follow the guidelines from the following 2 articles: 10 Important Guidelines for Kundalini Yoga Practice and Essential Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Practice. Finally, I will be putting together a new class for daily yoga practice, using Surya Namaskar, so be on the lookout for that on our free online yoga classes page.
Morning Yoga Poses for Stretching – Surya Namaskar
Illustration of Surya Namaskar
Best Morning Yoga Poses for Stretching:
A. How to Do Surya Namaskar:
- Stand straight up with feet feet together and palms together at chest level as in illustration #1 above.
- Raise your arms up and reach back, arching your back but keeping your elbows and knees straight. This will stretch your entire back, neck and shoulders. Illustration #2. Inhale deeply.
- Next reach down towards your toes. Here make sure you only go as far as comfortable while keeping the legs straight. If you can, bring the palms of your hands down to the floor next to your feet. This is called Yoga Head to Toe pose and is excellent for stretching your hamstrings. Illustration #3 above. Exhale.
- Now come into forward lunge. To do this, reach back with your left leg as you lunge forward gently. Your left knee will touch the floor. This is a wonderful yoga pose for stretching and opening up your hips. Look up and press forward as you do this as in illustration #4 above. Inhale.
- Then come into Downward Facing Dog Pose. Press your heels towards the floor and your head down between your shoulders as in Illustration #5. This pose will stretch your calves, hamstrings and shoulders. It is also great for strengthening your arms and shoulders. Exhale.
- From here come into the pose shown in illustration #6. Here your chin, knees, chest an toes are touching the floor only, while your rest on your palms. Great for upper body strength. Come down nice and slow into this pose if you can. Inhale, then exhale.
- Then come into Yoga Cobra Pose with straight arms as shown in Illustration #7. This will give your back and spine a great stretch and strengthen your arms, shoulders and chest. Inhale.
- From Cobra Pose come back into Downward Facing Dog. Don’t forget to keep your awareness and attention in the present. Exhale.
- Now lunge again, but this time reach back with your right leg. Thus stretching the other hip. Look up and press forward. This is illustrated in picture number 9 above. Inhale.
- From here return to Head to Toe pose as in illustration #10. Exhale.
- Then reach forward from the hips as you come all the way up and back into back stretch pose. Inhale.
- Finally return to the starting posture as shown in illustration #12 above. Exhale.
B. Repetitions for Surya Namaskar:
- Sun Salutation is generally done in the morning, although it can be done anything during the day. It is also a great way to warm-up prior to doing more difficult poses and sets. I suggest starting with 3 rounds and building up from there slowly. Add 1 round every few days until you reach 12 rounds. As this set is so good for you, you may wish to do even more repetition is you like.
C. Benefits of Sun Salutation:
- Excellent for stretching and opening up the entire body. Especially back, shoulders, arms, neck, hamstrings, hips, quads and calves.
- Great way to get the whole body going in the morning.
- Helps your digestive, circulatory, respiration and nervous systems.
- Great for reducing stress and bestowing a calm, peaceful mind.
- Known for helping in weight loss and helping you be slim, trim and fit.
- Helps strengthen the arms, back, shoulders and legs.
- Helps open up the shoulders and hips.
D. Practice Tips and Cautions for Surya Namaskar:
- The entire sequence above is done along with a particular breathing pattern. This pattern follows the rule where you inhale on the poses where you are expanding the chest/abdominal region and you exhale on the poses where you are contracting the chest/abdominal region.
So you inhale into illustration #2, exhale when moving into illustration #3, etc. I have marked the sequence above where you inhale and where you exhale as well.
- Only stretch as far as comfortable, don’t force any of the stretches. When you practice many rounds, you will find yourself getting more flexible as you do the later rounds. You will also find yourself getting more flexible over time as your practice this set regularly.
- When you do the lunges your front foot is between your arms. If you can’t bring it up there in one smooth motion, adjust and "walk" in up.
- For the pose where you reach down towards your toes when standing, let your head hang down and allow it’s weight to help you stretch.
- If you have high blood pressure or other serious injuries, specially to the back, do this sequence gently only and develop your capacity slowly over time.
- Surya Namaskar has been used by many famous actors and actresses to lose weight and get fit. This is true and if it can work for them, it can surely also work for you.
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