Half Sun Salutation

A half sun salutation is the part of the full sequence that is done at the front of your mat before you step or jump back. It is often used as a warm-up for the longer sequence and is a good way to start a home practice session. And sometimes a whole-body reach toward the sky followed by a little forward-bending hamstring stretch is all you need.

On your first few rounds, feel free to spend several breaths in each pose as you transition your body and mind into your practice. Move to the next pose when you a ready on an inhalation or exhalation as designated. As you warm-up, try to do the sequence matching each breath with a movement.

This sequence begins in mountain pose, which will help set your intention and alignment. Next, you will move into raised arms pose, forward bend, flat back, forward bend, and reverse back into raised arms and mountain pose. Here is how to move through the sequence starting and ending with the mountain pose.


Mountain Pose - Tadasana

Woman standing in Mountain Pose
Ann Pizer

Mountain pose will help you set your intention for this sequence and provides you time to get aligned properly. This ensures better posture and spinal alignment, keeping you actively engaged.

  1. Begin by standing at the front of your mat in mountain pose. Take time to set up your alignment.
  2. Bring your shoulders over your hips and your hips over your heels. Roll your shoulder blades down your back.
  3. Engage your thigh muscles, lifting your kneecaps. You can either bring the hands into anjali mudra or let the arms hang at your sides with the palms turned forward.
  4. Take five to 10 ujjayi breaths to arrive fully in the present moment.

Raised Arms Pose - Urdhva Hasatansana

Woman doing Raised Hands Pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Raised hands pose stretches your back and shoulders, helping you maintain proper alignment and posture for the sequence to come. Here are the steps.

  1. Inhale.
  2. Extend your arms straight out to either side and overhead to urdhva hastasana. You can bring your two palms to touch or keep them shoulder-distance apart.
  3. Keep the shoulders relaxed and down away from the ears.
  4. Bring your gaze to your upraised hands.

Forward Bend - Uttanasana

Woman doing Standing Forward Bend
Ann Pizer

The forward bend stretches your spine, glutes, and hamstrings. It's also known as a stress-relieving and calming pose. Yoga poses such as forward bend can improve spinal flexibility, increasing range of motion and boosting quality of life.

  1. Exhale.
  2. Swan dive over your legs into a forward fold.
  3. Lead with your chest. You can bend your knees slightly if you like.
  4. Let your head hang heavy, make sure to keep some of your weight in the balls of your feel. If you lean too heavily into the heels, your hips will move back, bringing them out of alignment.

Flat Back - Ardha Uttanasana

Woman doing the half forward bend
Ann Pizer

The flat back position helps stretch your spine further, as well as your glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, abdomen, shoulders, and neck. This pose encourages good spinal alignment, which is an important aspect of yoga and proper posture.

  1. Inhale.
  2. Lift up to your fingertips, raise your head, and come to a flat back.
  3. Try to keep the pressure on your legs light.

For many people, bringing your hands to your shins will be a better position for flattening your back. You can place your hands anywhere on your legs that allow for a straight spine.


Forward Bend - Uttanasana

Woman in standing forward bend
Ann Pizer

Time to reverse back to the starting position, beginning with folding back into forward bend.

  1. Exhale.
  2. Fold deeply over your legs to return to uttanasana.
  3. Pull your belly in toward your spine to make more room for your forward fold. If you want to take a few extra breaths here to deepen your stretch, go ahead.

Some people like to grab opposite elbows and just hang. You can also grab your big toes for a little traction as you forward bend


Raised Arms Pose - Urdhva Hastasana

Woman in raised hand pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Reverse back to raised arms position before returning to mountain pose next.

  1. Inhale.
  2. Reverse your swan dive to return to urdhva hastasana.
  3. Lead with your chest, just as you did on the way down. When you get to the top, make sure your shoulders didn't get scrunched up along the way.

Mountain Pose - Tadasana

woman in mountain pose
Ann Pizer

Back to the starting position. If you feel ready, you can move on to a full sun salutation after completing these steps.

  1. Exhale.
  2. End back where you began, in mountain pose. Release your arms back by your sides and slide your shoulder blades down your back.
  3. Take several full, deep inhales and exhales before beginning the sequence again.

A Word From Verywell

Half sun salutation can help prepare you for the full version or other yoga sequences and movements. Take your time to feel the full benefits of the stretches in each pose.

Yoga is an excellent way to stretch and align your body. As such, this sequence can also be used before a non-yoga related workout.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Crow EM, Jeannot E, Trewhela A. Effectiveness of Iyengar yoga in treating spinal (Back and neck) pain: A systematic reviewInt J Yoga. 2015;8(1):3-14. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.146046

  2. Grabara M, Szopa J. Effects of hatha yoga exercises on spine flexibility in women over 50 years oldJ Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(2):361-365. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.361

  3. Grabara M. Spinal curvatures of yoga practitioners compared to control participants-a cross-sectional studyPeerJ. 2021;9:e12185. Published 2021 Sep 16. doi:10.7717/peerj.12185

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.