Be sure to learn the first part of the Sun Salutation before continuing on to part 2.
After you have breathed in your lunge position for a few breaths, place both hands on the ground under your shoulders. If you are strong enough, step your second foot backwards so your body is straight with your toes on the floor behind you and your hands under your shoulders for plank positions. If you need to bring your knees to the mat that is a great idea. You can also put your forearms on the mat as well rather than your hands if your wrists are not strong enough. I do this but it is important to know that this puts more pressure on your back when you do put your forearms on the mat. Try to keep a straight body from your neck and shoulders to your feet or to your knees if you have your knees on the mat. Hold for one to two breaths and then lower your body to your mat.
This next pose is often skipped by even practiced yogies. I like to think of it as the inchworm pose but it is most commonly referred to as eight points. If you are doing this pose, as you lower your body to your mat from your plank, aim to only contact the floor with your hands, shoulders, knees, and toes. Keep your bottom and stomach up off the floor. This encourages a small backward bend in the lower spine. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and try to lengthen your neck. Your shoulders/chest should be between your hands and your elbows tucked against your body. Breathe here for a few breaths and then relax your body to the mat the rest of the way. Rest for a moment, this is the half way point of your Sun Salutation.
When you are ready to continue, keep your legs relaxed on the ground and lift your head and gently lift your shoulders into cobra pose. Have your hands at your shoulders and tuck your elbows up against your body. You can put some gentle pressure into your hands but for the first week or so of doing this practice daily do not consider pushing more. Cobra can be painful for your back so be gentle with your body. Encourage a gentle pressure on your back by lifting your head up and looking forward. Breathing here will push a little additional stretch into your back. Be sure to keep your shoulders relaxed. To complete this pose, relax your head and shoulders back down.
Next we move into one of the most popular poses in all of Yoga, downward dog. You may need a chair to help you get into this position. In essence, using your abdominal muscles, pull your hips upwards first to create an upside down V with your body. You may want to get onto your knees first with your hands on the floor as a transition position to this pose. In this pose, have your hands at shoulder width apart with fingers slightly spread for balance support. Feet should be a few inches apart behind you. Relax your feet and heals into the mat. Your heals will probably not touch the mat. Focus on having your knees straight but not locked first and then lengthening the back of your leg to reach your heels towards the ground. You should also have a straight line from your hips to your palms. This means your head should not be lifted but think of having your hears touch your arms so your head says inline. You should feel a gentle stretch in your armpits but also remember to keep your shoulders down and pulled together behind your back. This is one thing to keep in mind through your whole Sun Salutation.
Stop back in a few days to see part 3 and continue your Sun Salutation learning.
Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. The Dancing Herbalist posts on this blog every Thursday. For more of our posts, join us on Patreon. Jillian also presents regular live classes in The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online. For more learning opportunities or to work one-on-one with Jillian with her wellness and herbal consultationsvisit The Dancing Herbalist.com.