Active Rest through Yoga

As Brittany mentions in her Workout Structure at Any Level post, active rest is an essential part of any workout schedule. There are many ways you can actively rest, but one of my favorite ways is yoga!

I’m going to guide you through one of the most basic yoga flows – sun salutations. I like to begin every yoga practice with a few rounds of sun salutations. This  sequence really helps me find my breath and gets my muscles nice and warm for the rest of my practice.

*An important thing to remember as you’re going through this sequence (and any yoga sequence, for that matter) is that you should never be feeling any pain! You should feel a nice stretch throughout your body, but only go as far as you are comfortable and able to continue breathing steadily. Take modifications when necessary! Another important thing to remember is that every day is different. Some days you might be able to touch your toes no problem in your forward fold, and other days it might not happen at all. Listen to what your body needs and respond appropriately.*

Sun Salutation Sequence (Surya Namaskar A for all of you sanskrit lovers!)

Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

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  •  Don’t let this pose fool you! Mountain is a very active and engaged pose.
  • Take a few deep inhales and exhales and really begin to ground yourself. Press both feet into the floor equally and keep your spine long and straight. Imagine there’s a string going from the crown of your head down through your spine and someone is pulling the string in opposite directions. Shrug and roll your shoulders a few times and bring awareness to your shoulder blades. They should be pulled down and back, creating space between your shoulders and your ears. In other words, your shoulders should not be shrugged.
  • When you’re ready to begin your first sequence, bring your hands together at heart center.

Inhale  – Stretch Your Arms Up Overhead (Urdhva Hastasana)

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  • On your next inhale, sweep and stretch your arms up overhead and reach towards the sky.
  • Look up towards your hands if that feels good for you. If not, just look straight ahead.
  • Feel free to add in a little backbend if you’d like.

Exhale – Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

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  • As you exhale, hinge at the hips and begin to forward fold, keeping your back straight as you reach your hands towards the ground.
  • Keep the spine straight as long as you can, then gently round your back into your full forward fold.
  • Remember it’s okay if you can’t reach the ground, and bend your knees if you need to! You should feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings, but no strain.

Inhale – Halfway Lift (Ardha Uttanasana)

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  • On your next inhale, lift up to a half forward fold.
  • You can gently press your hands into your shins as you bring your chest and gaze forward.
  • Keep the spine straight and back flat as you really ground into the floor through your feet.

Exhale – Forward Fold and Hop/Step Back to Plank and Chaturanga (Chaturanga Dandasana)

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  • As you exhale your upper body back down, place your hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart, and hop or step your legs back into plank position.
  • In the same exhale, bring your body weight forward onto your toes, and begin to lower down into chaturanga. Arms should be bent at 90 degrees, and your elbows should be tucked in close to your ribs
  • Chaturanga alignment can be confusing. I like to think of it more as projecting my body forward rather than down. You want to be careful not to let your core get saggy or let your butt stick up in the air. Think of your body as a board and the whole board lowers down as one piece from that up-on-your-toes plank position until your upper arms are parallel with the floor.
  • Chaturanga can also be taken with your knees to the floor. The same principles apply as far as keeping your body straight and elbows tucked in towards the ribs.

Inhale – Upward-facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

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  • As you inhale, roll onto the tops of your feet and lift your chest for upward-facing dog.
  • Press your hands into the floor and draw your shoulder blades back and down (away from your ears, just like in mountain pose!).
  • Keep your leg muscles active.
  • You can also take cobra pose here, keeping the legs on the floor and just lifting through the upper body.

Exhale – Press Back to Downward-facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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  • As you exhale, roll back onto the bottoms of your feet and use your core strength to pull your hips up and back into downward-facing dog. Really push into your hands  and through your shoulders here and lift your tailbone high to the sky. The top of your head should be pointed down towards the floor.
  • Actively press your heels towards the ground. Feel free to bend your knees if you need to!
  • You can also ‘walk-it-out’ by alternating pressing one heel into the ground while bending the opposite leg knee, and then switching to really get a good stretch.
  • Stay here for a few breaths just taking the time to stretch out and get comfortable.
  • On your last exhale of your downward dog, hop or step your legs back up between your hands and continue to exhale to forward fold.

Inhale – Halfway Lift (Ardha Uttanasana)

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  • On your inhale, lift your upper body and press your hands into your shins for another halfway lift. Remember to bring your gaze and chest up and to keep your spine straight.

Exhale – Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

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  • Exhale, bringing your body into forward fold once again.

Inhale – Stretch Your Arms Up Overhead (Urdhva Hastasana)

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  • Inhale and bring your body upward, with your spine straight, and reach arms up and overhead. Again, you can look up towards your hands or just keep your gaze forward.

Exhale – Hands to Heart Center in Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

SunSalutations-1

  • Exhale and bring your arms back down to heart center in mountain pose.

Congratulations, you just made it through your first round of the Sun Salutation A sequence! Repeat this sequence several times to bring some heat into your body and get a really good stretch after killing your workouts all week!

 

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