Learn How to Do Surya Namaskar A

Ashtanga Sun Salutation Basics

If you're doing vinyasa yoga, you're probably practicing Ashtanga sun salutations without even realizing it. Sun salutations are a sequence of 10 yoga poses designed to warm up the body and clear its energy pathways.

Although these sequences are used in many other styles of yoga as well, in the Ashtanga primary series, each practice starts with five rounds of surya namaskar A followed by five rounds of surya namaskar B. Unless otherwise noted, movement from one pose to the next occurs on each breath.

1

Samasthiti (Tadasana)

Mountain Pose - Tadasana
Mountain Pose - Tadasana.

Ann Pizer

Surya namaskar A begins in samasthiti, also known as the mountain pose. This pose is a way to check in with your body so you can be mindful of your form through the rest of the poses.

To do it, stand with your big toes touching. Next, raise yourself on your toes to fan them out. Engage your quadriceps (the front of your thighs) and rotate your thighs inward to widen the sit bones.

Draw in your stomach while maintaining the natural curve of your spine. Open your collar bones and shrug your shoulders, rolling them back to release your shoulder blades. Keep your arms naturally at your sides with the palms facing forward, your neck long, and your chin level.

2

Raised Hands Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)

Raised Hands Pose - Urdhva Hastasana
Raised Hands Pose - Urdhva Hastasana.

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Inhale as you begin to transition into raised hands pose or urdhva hastasana. Bring your arms up over your head with your palms together so they are facing each other. Keep your shoulders back and down.

3

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Standing Forward Bend - Uttanasana
Standing Forward Bend - Uttanasana. Barry Stone

Exhale and fold forward over your legs. Your fold should originate in your pelvis as opposed to originating in your back.

Bring your fingertips in line with your toes and press your palms to the mat. Engage your quadriceps to draw open your hamstrings, the muscles at the back of your thighs.

4

Half Standing Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)

Half Standing Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)
Flat Back.

Barry Stone

Inhale as you raise your upper body so you are up on your fingertips. Your back is flat.

5

Four Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)

Chaturanga Dandasana
Chaturanga Dandasana.

Barry Stone

Exhale and flatten your palms. Either jump or slowly step back to four limbed staff pose or chaturanga dandasana.

This yoga posture starts as a plank position with your arms and legs straight, your shoulders over your wrists. You then shift the plank forward and bend your elbows straight back, hugging them to your body. Your toes remain tucked.

6

Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Upward Facing Dog - Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Upward Facing Dog - Urdhva Mukha Svanasana.

Barry Stone

Inhale, then roll over your toes and straighten your arms to upward facing dog. Try not to bring your thighs to the floor during this transition. Open your chest toward the ceiling and keep your shoulders over your wrists.

7

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana.

Barry Stone

Exhale and roll back over your toes to downward facing dog, sometimes referred to as just downward dog or down dog. Take five breaths and let your head hang while moving your shoulder blades toward your hips.

This position can be uncomfortable for new yoga practitioners. If you find it difficult to be in downward dog, engage your quadriceps. This will take more of the weight off your arms.

8

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Standing Forward Bend - Uttanasana
Standing Forward Bend - Uttanasana. Barry Stone

Exhale and jump or step forward as you transition back into the third position used in the surya namaskar A sequence. Again, be sure that you are folding from the pelvis as you don't want a curved spine.

If you can't press your palms flat on the mat during standing forward bend, you can use yoga blocks under your hands. If you are able to bring your weight onto the balls of your feet, your hips will stay over your ankles.

9

Raised Hands Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)

Raised Hands Pose - Urdhva Hastasana
Raised Hands Pose - Urdhva Hastasana.

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Inhale and bring your arms back up above your head. During this next-to-last posture, you are returning to the second pose used in this sun salutation sequence. Keep your gaze up and toward your thumbs. Microbend your knees to help protect these joints.

10

Samasthiti (Tadasana)

Mountain Pose - Tadasana
Mountain Pose - Tadasana.

Barry Stone

Exhale and return your arms to your sides. Keep in mind that this last pose isn't just about returning to your original stance. The goal at this point is to ensure that every part of your body is in alignment, stacking all of your bones in proper form and keeping your spine long.

You have now completed surya namaskar A and are ready to enter the rest of your Ashtanga yoga sequence.

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