Sun salutations can feel intimidating if you’re a beginner and leave you feeling a little confused after class. We move at a faster pace of one breath per movement through a series of postures with little time to check if we’re approaching each posture with the right intention and approach.
In this blog we’ll be breaking down in detail how to do sun salutation A for complete beginners. Really focusing on the poses that make up the sun salutation A, different options you can experiment with, and steps to follow to progress your sun salutation practice.
Want to jump straight into a guided practice? Practice along with my Beginnner Sun Salutation A YouTube Video.
Sun Salutation A Steps
1) Mountain Pose, Tadasana
We start our sun salutation A sequence in ashtanga, vinyasa and hatha yoga by standing at the front of our mat in a tall, stable position known as the Mountain Pose, Tadasana.
We can take the time to ground through our feet, allow our posture to be tall and let our head and shoulders stack above our hips.
This is a great opportunity to establish a slow and steady breath that we can maintain as we start to move through our sun salutations.
So pausing in this position and taking a few deep inhales and exhales with the eyes close until you find a balanced rhythm to your breath.
2) Standing Arms Overhead, Tadasana Urdhva Hastasana
The next we pose we come to in the sun salutation A is reaching our arms overhead.
We do this on an inhale, lengthening the arms actively up while keeping the shoulders heavy.
In a typical sun salutation, we would transition through this posture with just one breath.
But if it is one of the first times that you’re exploring a sun salutation you could pause here a little longer to get familiar with the position.
3) Standing Forward Fold, Uttanasana
On your next exhale you can start to fold all the way forward over your legs, allowing your knees to bend a little if you need.
See if you can allow your weight to lean into your toes and let the weight of your head drop down and relax.
Again typically we pause in this posture for just one breath but option to stay a little longer if you wish.
4) Halfway Forward Fold, Ardha Uttanasana
On your inhale lengthen through your legs and spine as you open your chest halfway up.
Fingertips can rest on your shins or hover in front of your toes.
In the position we’re actively drawing our belly in and gazing forward.
5) Table Top Pose, Bharmanasana or Plank Pose, Phalakasana
From here use an exhale to ground your palms with your fingers spread and step back either to a table top or plank pose.
If you have tension in your wrists and plank pose doesn’t feel appropriate you can come first to a table top position and really work on engaging the arms and your belly. Over time you can build strength up towards coming into the plank pose.
6) Chaturanga With Knees Down or Full Chaturanga
As you keep exhaling lower all the way down to lie on your belly. Doing your best to keep your elbows close to your torso.
You can begin doing this with the knees on the ground to ease a little but less weight out of your arms. Once you can lower with both arms at the same time you could try this directly from a plank pose.
7) Cobra Pose, Bhujangasana
Inhaling as you reach your chest forward as you keep your shoulders and feet heavy.
Seeing if you can keep maintaining length through your spine here and breath steady.
8) Childs Pose, Balasana or Downward Facing Dog Pose, Adho Mukha Svanasana
Exhale as you press your hands into the ground and move your hips back. You could start by coming into the childs pose and allow your body to rest. Hips dropping down towards your heels and arms out in front. Staying here for five breaths.
Over time you could build up towards resting for five breaths in the downward facing dog pose with your arms active, hips reaching up and back, and weight drawing back towards your legs. This is the one posture in the sun salutation A that you hold for five breaths (vs. one breath per movement).
9) Halfway Forward Fold, Ardha Uttanasana
Inhale as you step your feet forward towards your hands, bending the knees here if you need and transitioning into your halfway lift with straight arms and legs.
10) Standing Forward Fold, Uttanasana
Exhale folding back forward with your upper body and again letting your head hand and be heavy.
Relax your shoulders and face.
11) Standing Arms Overhead, Tadasana Urdhva Hastasana
Inhale, as you reach the arms all the way back up and overhead and come back up to a tall standing position.
12) Mountain Pose, Tadasana
Exhale, as your arms come back down alongside your body and you reach the end of your sun salutation.
Sun Salutation Guide: Tips for Practice
1) Sun Salutation A with Your Breath
When you’re a beginner you can find that you’re focusing so much on the different yoga poses and your technique of the sun salutation a that it’s hard to also think about your breath. By moving a bit slower through the sun salutations and taking extra breaths (rather than only one breath per movement) it can be really helpful to make sure you keep some focus on your breath and that you keep breathing freely without holding your breath.
As you then start to get more familiar with the sun salutes it will allow you to slightly speed up the movements so that you can practice using one slow breath for each transition between the different yoga postures.
2) How Many Times to Practice Sun Salutations
I often get questions about how many times you should practice sun salutations. You could start by doing anything between 3 – 10 rounds of the sun salutation A. Perhaps moving a little slower and pausing in the postures during the first round and then gradually progressing to a pace that allows you to transition to one slow breath (counting to around 3 or 4).
Finding a routine where your practice several times a week—even if it’s only for 5 minutes— will help you see progress in your ability to remember the sun salutation A sequence, breath consistently and other benefits like becoming more flexible and stronger.
3) Use Practice Sheets to Learn Sun Salutation A Poses
If you've been practicing with me for a while you know that I really encourage you to learn the fundamental yoga practices off by heart. Allowing you to get really familiar with the sequences and use them for your home yoga practice.
If you're struggling to learn the sun salutation A off by heart start by using the below practice sheets and after some regular practice you'll find you can do them independently without the sun salutation graphic.
4) Sun Salutation A Variations for Beginners
When you're starting sun salutation A as a beginner it's useful to use the variations shown above without worrying about the plank pose, chaturanga and downward dog. All of which can feel complex as a beginner.
As you practice over time and build up strength and flexibility you can try swapping out the table top pose for plank, lowering down to chaturanga and switching the childs pose to downward dog.
You can experiment with this step-by-step over time, as you start to feel comfortable in the first versions of the poses.
Remember there's no rush to do this and if the first versions of the postures feel better for your body you can continue practicing the sun salutation A without plank, chaturanga and downward dog.
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