Today we are talking about exercise, on our poll, exercise came in second place as one of the challenges associated with this sadhana. We have busy lives and many of you might be wondering how you can possibly get any exercise in your daily life. I have two words for you, Sun Salutations!
There are many variations of Sun Salutations but this image I found comes closest to the Kundalini way of teaching them. Let’s go over each pose along with the breath component so you know how to properly practice this series of postures that combine breath, movement, stretching, strength training and inversions; basically all the elements of a complete yogic practice. When practiced at a fast pace Sun Salutations can help you to lose weight while getting a good cardiovascular workout as you stretch and tone all the muscles of your body.
Sun Salutations are an excellent warm up for practicing yoga and is beneficial as an exercise in its own right. It increases cardiac activity and circulation, stretches and bends the spine, massages the inner organs, aids the digestive system, exercises the lungs, and oxygenates the blood. When practiced with awareness, this exercise improves one’s ability to maximize performance and enjoyment of all yoga postures.
To warm up before a yoga practice I have my students practice Sun Salutations for six rounds at a slower pace since we are warming up the body. If you want to make this your only form of exercise for the day I would suggest starting out slowly and increasing your pace as your body warms. A good Sun Salutation workout would last 15-30 minutes.
But I’m busy you say? I have no time for that you add? Think about how you start your day right now. Do you just climb out of bed and begin rushing around getting ready for your day, hopping in the shower, brushing your teeth, combing your hair, getting dressed and grabbing something to eat before you rush out to wherever you have to get to? Or do you just lazily get out of bed and right onto the couch to watch television? What if you began your day by connecting with your breath and your body, gifting yourself with just fifteen minutes of movement and breathing. Think about how that would affect the rest of your day if you set your alarm for fifteen to thirty minutes earlier than usual to breathe, move and make your health a priority. Think about that.
I know that you are worth at least fifteen minutes of time to gently exercise. Do you know that you are worth it!
Here is how this simple practice is done:
1. Stand up straight, feet together, toes and heels touching, weight evenly distributed between both feet. Find your balance. Your arms are by your sides with your fingers together. (Stand Up Straight)
2. INHALE and bring your arms up over your head, palms touching. Elongate the spine, lifting the chest and relaxing the shoulders. Be sure not to compress the vertebrae of the neck and lower back. Look up at the thumbs. (Stretching Up)
3. EXHALE and bend your torso forward. As you bend forward, keep your spine straight, elongating it as if reaching forward with the top of the head. Relax the head as close to the knees as possible. Keep the knees straight and place the hands on the floor on either side of the feet with the fingers and the tips of the toes in line. Gaze at the tip of your nose. (Front Bend)
4. INHALE and raise your head up, straighten your spine, keeping the hands or fingertips on the floor, gaze at your Third Eye Point. (Gaze)
5. EXHALE and bend the knees, stepping or jumping back so that the legs are straight behind, balancing on the bottoms of bent toes. Your elbows are bent, hugging your rib cage, and your palms are flat on the floor under your shoulders, with fingers spread wide apart. Your body is in a straight line from forehead to ankles. Keep yourself equally balanced between hands and feet. Do not push forward with your toes. (Push Up)
6. INHALE, straighten the elbows and arch the back. Stretch through the upper back so that there is no pressure on the lower spine. Point the forehead at the sky and gaze at the tip of the nose. Fingers are spread wide apart. (Cobra Pose)
7. EXHALE, lift the hips up so that the body is in balance in an inverted v-shape. Feet and palms are flat on the floor, elbows and knees are straight. Fingers are spread wide apart. Gaze towards the navel and hold this position for five breaths. (Triangle Pose)
8. INHALE and jump or step back into GAZE position #4.
9. EXHALE and bend forward into FRONT BEND position #3.
10. INHALE and come all the way up back into STRETCHING UP position #2.
11. EXHALE and return to the STAND UP STRAIGHT starting position with the arms by the sides.
While Sun Salutations can be practiced at any time of the day, the best time would be the first thing in the morning when you wake up. That way you have started your day out on the right foot, with the gift of health for yourself and it is out of the way so you won’t have to stress if something comes up later in the day and you can’t find time to exercise.
Start the day tomorrow by greeting the sun with Sun Salutations!