Salutations are great for warming up, creating tapas (heat and burning away things you want to release), and as a moving meditation to intensify your practise intention.
Used at the beginning of a practise they help prepare and warm the body. Muscles and ligaments are softened by the heat. Joints are lubricated by the movement. By starting softly and gradually building in intensity you get the body ready for more intensive poses.
Salutations also help release things. The movement, heat, and exertion release toxins (not just physically, but also emotional, mental, and spiritual, – all energy layers). If you are feeling stressed out the exertion of the movements can help burn away and work through the challenging feelings and thoughts.
Finally, salutations help quiet the mind when done with intention. The repetitive motions become a mantra or mandala. They help draw in the senses (pratyahara) so you can more easily focus and block outside distractions.
There are numerous variations of sun and moon salutations. Here is a variation of Sun Salutation A you can try now focusing on one or more of the benefits listed above.
- Tadasana/Mountain Pose/Standing Steady – Stand as tall and steady as possible with your feet together or slightly apart. Arms can be down by your side.
- Urdhva Hastasana/Standing with Arms Overhead -Staying tall, inhale and reach your arms overheard.
- Uttanasa/Forward Fold – Exhale, fold all the way forward and rest hands on floor or legs.
- Ardha Uttanasana/Half Forward Fold – Inhale halfway up with a flat back and rolling up the hands so only the fingertips touch the floor or legs.
- Plank OR Chaturanga – Exhale back down. Bend your knees. Touch the floor and step back into EITHER a plank on your toes or knees OR a bent armed plank variation called Chaturanga.
- Hold for an inhale. Exhale lower to the floor.
- Bhujangasana/Cobra – Inhale, lengthen the spine and try to pull your chest through your arms. Press the tops of your feet and toes into the floor and gently come up partway into a small back-bend.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana/Down Dog – Exhale, press knees into floor and push your hips up toward the sky to come up into an upside down V-shape. If this is not comfortable for you, just come onto hands and knees.
- Hold for 5 breaths. Really notice and breath deeply.
- Ardha Uttanasana/Half Forward Fold – Inhale, roll up to the tippy toes and press the rear up toward the sky. Exhale, bend the knees, look in between the hands and step or jump forward into Ardha Uttanasana as done earlier.
- Uttanasana/Forward Fold – Exhale back down into a forward fold.
- Urdhva Hastasana/Standing with Arms Overhead – Inhale, look forward, spread the arms out to the sides, and come up to standing with a flat back.
- Tadasana/Mountain Pose/Standing Steady – Exhale, lower the arms back down to your original standing pose. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and notice how you feel.