Yoga for the complete beginner: A guide through Sun salutation A

After starting to post some short yoga flows on my Instagram page I was asked to provide more of a guide for those who were a complete beginner, either with descriptions or voiceovers. In light of this I thought I’d write a blog guiding you through one of the most common and foundational sequences you’ll see in many styles of yoga, including Asthtanga and Vinyasa: sun salutation A.

An important disclaimer: I am NOT a qualified yoga teacher. The advice I give here is purely from someone who practices yoga, not someone who is trained as an instructor.

 

  1. Mountain pose (Tadasana).

 

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Mountain pose is a key standing posture, bringing your body into alignment. The main elements to mountain pose are:

  • Stand so your big toes are touching, with your heels slightly apart.
  • Engaging the glutes – to set your pelvis in a neutral position. Squeeze your bum and tuck in your tail bone.
  • Gentle engage the quads (thigh muscles) to slightly lift your kneecaps – this is a soft action but will help bring stability to the posture.
  • Engage the core – support your spine by contracting the core. Ensure you keep the bottom ribs tucked in
  • Shoulder posture – correct your posture if needed by rolling your shoulders back and down.
  • Draw you head back so it lies above the spine
  • Have your arms straight by the side of your body with the palms facing forwards.

 

  1. Upward salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

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  • As you inhale bring you arms out to the sides in a sweeping motion until they are above your head.
  • Bring your palms together with extended elbows reach upwards.
  • Follow your gaze to the sky, but only do so if you can do so without compressing the back of your neck, just tip your head back slightly.
  • Tuck in your lower ribs, pull them down in towards your spine.
  • Stay strong in the legs, feeling grounded to the mat.

 

  1. Forward fold (Uttanasana)

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  • Exhale and fold forwards, your arms sweeping downwards in a swan-dive like motion. Bend from the hips, not the wait.
  • Focus on lengthening your spine – each inhale lift and lengthen your torso slightly, releasing deeper into the stretch with each exhale.
  • Relax the back of the neck and shift your weight slightly to the balls of the feet.

 

  1. Half-way lift (Ardga Uttanasana)

 

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  • Inhale, straighten your elbows and lengthen your spine, coming up to a flat back.
    • If you can’t have a flat back with your finger tips on the floor being them to your shins.
  • Hold your gaze forwards.

 

  1. Plank pose

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  • Jump or step back into a plank position, whichever your feel more confident doing.
  • Your arms should be perpendicular to the floor, shoulders aligned above the wrists.
  • Contract your core, making it parallel to the floor.
  • Rotate your outer arms in slightly and press upwards to avoid sinking into the shoulders.
  • Spread your collarbones and engage your shoulder blades.
  • Engage your quads but keep the spin lengthened.
  • Look straight down towards the floor.

 

  1. Chaturanga Dandasana

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  • Inhale and shift your weight forwards slightly, so your shoulders are in front of your wrists.
  • As you exhale slowly bend your elbows, lowering your torso and legs just above and parallel to the floor.
  • Tuck in your tailbone, avoiding poking it up towards the ceiling!
  • Keep your legs active, rotating your thighs slightly inwards.
  • Keep your core engaged, supporting your spine.
  • Keep the spread in your collarbone and hold your elbows in towards the torso, try not to them splay out towards the sides.
  • When holding this posture your elbows should be in line with your shoulders (parallel to the floor), and your elbows in line with your wrists (perpendicular to the floor).

 

  1. Upward-facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

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  • Inhale and roll over the toes so the top of the foot is pressing into the mat.
  • As you are doing so straighten your arms to lift your chest, bending your back such that your front can feel the stretch.
  • Push the tops of the feet into the mat and engage your thighs by pulling up your knee caps.
  • Your legs should be hovering above the ground.
    • If this is too challenging, rest your legs on the ground in high-cobra pose.
  • Keep your arms firm, rotating the triceps outwards so that the elbow crease points forwards.
  • Open your heart by rolling your shoulders back and away from your ears.
  • Keep the glutes engaged but not firmly contracted.
  • Ensure your ribs are tucked in.
  • Look straight ahead.

 

  1. Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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  • Engage your core and press firmly through your arms.
  • As you exhale tuck your toes under and lift your tailbone to the sky, keeping your legs straight.
  • Your tailbone will move upwards and backwards from its position in upward-facing dog.
  • Roll the inner thighs inwards and rotate the triceps outwards slightly.
  • Keep space between your shoulder blades.
  • Draw the heels towards the mat.
  • Stay here for an inhale and exhale for 5 breathes (or more if you wish!).

 

  1. Return to half-way lift

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  • Look forward, come up onto your toes and bend your knees, bringing your hips back slightly.
  • On an exhale jump (or step) to the front of the mat.
  • Inhale, lift and lengthen to half-way lift.

 

  1. Return to forward fold

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  • Exhale and fold forward, returning to a forward fold.

 

  1. Return to upward facing salute

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  • Inhale and root through the feet.
  • Sweep your arms to upward-facing salute, gazing up at the sky.

 

  1. Return to mountain post

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  • Exhale and bring arms down through heart’s-centre, holding them in prayer position.

 

An accompanying short flow centred on sun salutation A is up now on my Instagram feed, @the_lifestylepill. I’ve tried to incorporate the modifications I mentioned, such as placing your hands on your shins in half-way lift if you are in a tight body.

 

I hope this help you master your sun salutations A

If you’d like more blogs/videos like this please let me know.

Emma x

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