Modifying Sun Salutations

Modifying Sun Salutation A

A Sun salutation is a series of poses completed in a sequence thus creating a flow of movement that is coordinated with your breath. Completing multiple sun salutations in a row, helps you to build heat in the body, which is one reason why they are often done as a part of the warm up portion of a yoga class.

In this blog we are going to focus specifically on Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskara A), the most basic of the various types of Sun Salutations, and how to modify it in various ways. As the Sun Salutation A sequence is described below, you will see numerous examples of ways in which you can modify each portion of the sequence. Remember, in yoga we always want to listen to the body and do only what feels good. If you can’t perform one pose as it is demonstrated by the teacher, use one of these modifications below to help you successfully complete your Sun Salutation A sequences in a way that honors your body where it is in the moment.

  1. Begin in Mountain pose (Tadasana)

Usually there aren’t many accommodations needed for this pose, other than perhaps allowing arms to hang freely if turning palms out is uncomfortable. If standing is uncomfortable, then try doing the chair yoga rendition of sun salutations. That is not the subject of this blog, however, a quick Google search will net you what you need in that case.

  1. Inhale arms overhead into Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

If you bringing arms overhead creates any issues, pain, discomfort, etc. for your shoulders or arms, a nice alternative is to bring your hands to your forehand or heart (whichever is available) in prayer position.

  1. Exhale and fold forward into Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

If you have any health concerns that make being bent forward with the crown of your head pointing to the floor problematic, another option is to go to #4 below, half-way lift. You can also keep a hand on the wall or a piece of furniture if that helps with balance.

  1. Inhale to half-way lift (Half Standing Forward Fold or Ardha Uttanasana)

Similar to #3 above, if you have any health concerns that make being bent forward even half-way challenging (especially in your back or neck area), you can always take a long slow descent into a standing forward fold and skip the pause in a half-way lift.

  1. Exhale and fold back down into Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

See #3 above.

  1. Inhale and step back both feet into High plank

If high plank is not available to you, then step back into table, bringing your knees to the floor. From here you can lower down into a version of Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana) as described in #7 below.

  1. Exhale lower down to Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)

If you were in table for #6 above, gently lower yourself down to the floor, stretching your legs out long on the mat behind you) preparing to go into Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasna), #8 below.

If you were in High plank for #6 above, but Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana) is a challenge, you can lower your knees first and then lower your upper body to the ground, preparing to go into Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasna), #8 below.

  1. Inhale up to Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasna)

If Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana) is not available to you today, consider Cobra or Sphinx instead. Either of those poses are good options here.

  1. Exhale pressing back and up into Downward-Facing Dog (Adha Mukha Svanasana)

Again, if using table as a transition pose is helpful, first come into table, then push up into Downward-Facing Dog (Adha Mukha Svanasana). Additionally, try placing blocks under your hands to raise your upper body off the floor a bit more – sometimes that can make the pose more accessible as well.

  1. Jump or walk your feet forward into Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

See #3 above.

  1. Inhale to half-way lift (Half Standing Forward Fold or Ardha Uttanasana)

See #4 above.

  1. Exhale and fold back down into Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

See #3 above.

  1. Inhale and roll up bringing arms overhead into Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

Roll up slowly and for other modification ideas, see #2 above.

  1. Exhale arms back down into Mountain pose (Tadasana)

See #1 above.

There are many ways to modify this and other yoga poses. Again, the key is always to listen to your body. Only take it where it comfortably can go today. And when taking an in-person class, don’t hesitate to ask the instructor for modification ideas for poses as well.

Be safe in your practice. Namaste.

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