The Sun Salutation is a series of poses performed in a sequence to create a flow of movement. Each pose is coordinated with the breath: Inhale to create space, and exhale to fall deeper into the pose. Sun Salutations build heat in the body and are often used as warm-up sequences for a yoga practice.
There are a number of variations to a sun salutation sequence, however, the following are eight basic postures, in order of performance, that are commonly found in a beginner yoga class:
Mountain Pose (Tadasana) Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Press your palms together in prayer position. Rest your thumbs on your sternum and take several breaths.
Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana) Inhale as you sweep your arms out to the side and overhead. Gaze toward the sky.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) Exhale as you fold forward from the hips. Bend your knees if necessary. Rest your hands beside your feet and bring your nose to your knees.
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) On an exhale, step your right foot forward between your hands. Lower down onto your left knee and release the top of the left foot on the ground. Take your fingertips to the ground on either side of your hips and relax your shoulders away from your ears.
Plank Pose Tuck your toes and lift your hips so you make a straight line on the entire backside of the body. With your shoulders stacked over your wrists, engage your arms by keeping a tiny micro bend in the elbows, and draw your shoulders back toward your feet. Engage your abdominal muscles by drawing your navel in toward your spine.
Low Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana) In low plank the hands and feet are on the floor, supporting the body, which is parallel to and lowered toward, but not touching, the floor. It looks much like a pushup, but with the hands quite low (just above the pelvis), and the elbows kept in along the sides of the body.
Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) From low plank, slowly drop the hips forward toward the floor. Press palms down into the floor, drop the shoulders down and back, press the chest forward and reach the crown of the head up towards the ceiling. Inhale and lift thighs and legs off of the floor by pressing the tops of the feet down.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) From upward facing dog, tuck your toes under and lift your hips up and back so that your body resembles an upside down V shape. Spread your fingers wide on the mat and press down with all four corners of your hands. Draw the hip bones up and back and release your heels to the mat as far as they will go