When it comes to exercise, I’m wary of using overarching phrases like “the best” and “the ideal solution” because each person’s body has its own unique demands and needs. Forgive me for making an exception to my rule. Today, I’m going to tell you that I think this specific exercise can be enjoyed by the vast majority of people and can offer a plethora of benefits, especially during the more sedentary winter months. It’s quite simple to learn and has a variety of ways it can be done to offer you whatever you need in the way of stretching, toning and/or cardio. Bonus: No equipment needed! I’ve also included two 4-week workout plans; one for beginners and another that is more advanced. So, what is this mysterious exercise? Time to find out…
…SUN SALUTATIONS!!! Whether you’re a yoga-lover or scared to death of spending time on the mat reaching for your toes (they seem so far away sometimes!), sun salutations are a great way to start or end your day. You can limber up with just a few rounds of sun salutations (also called Surya Namaskara in Sanskrit), a process that can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes, or you can devote a longer amount of time to them for additional stretching, toning or cardio benefits. Yoga teacher Krishan Verma said, “It is better to practice daily for 20 minutes than to practice for an hour occasionally.” The beautiful thing about sun salutations is that you CAN reap benefits from them very quickly, so you can easily do them every day – no hour-long gym sessions or equipment needed!
What is Surya Namaskara?
“Surya” means “sun” to Hindus and is revered as the center of the physical and spiritual worlds. Sun salutations are a sequence of asanas (physical poses) intended to salute or show respect to the sun. Some texts claim that the sequence originates as far back as Vedic times, approximately 2,500 years ago. Western cultures adapted the practice in the early 1900s and now people of all different spiritual practices from around the world enjoy it as a physical exercise and outward expression of the desire to connect deeper within. Here is a quick video from a yoga school in Brooklyn which shows how to perform the poses…
Tutorial Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73sjOu0g58M
*I love this video because it takes people through the full traditional sun salutation and how to make each pose work for them. The only thing I don’t like about this tutorial is that it doesn’t show harder modifications of the lunge (with the knee lifted), full chatturunga and upward facing dog. Feel free to choose these harder modifications in the sequence if you are experienced and know them.
Why is Surya Namaskara so ideal for winter months?
- It’s all about focusing on the warming energy from the sun – something we need to harness during the cold and dismal winter!
- It doesn’t require equipment
- It doesn’t require space
- It can be done at different tempos to meet needs for relaxing, stretching or strengthening
- It helps give a full-body stretch to weary limbs and rigid spines that are tight and fatigued from long hours inside and sitting
- It can be done in just a couple of minutes or a longer stretch of time like 20-60 minutes
- It helps clear the mind
- It connects you with your breath – bringing awareness to the breath in general can help you calm down during tense moments of the day
- It tones muscles that might be otherwise neglected while the tennis racquets, swim goggles, hiking boots and soccer shoes sit in the closet waiting for warmer weather
BEGINNERS SUN SALUTATION WORKOUT PLAN:
This plan is ideal for anyone looking to limber and find a little energy to start the day. It’s simple and fast but just tough enough that committing to it takes effort.
Week 1: 5 Sun Salutations/day
Week 2: 10 Sun Salutations/day
Week 3: 15 Sun Salutations/day
Week 4: 20 Sun Salutations/day
ADVANCED SUN SALUTATION WORKOUT PLAN:
This plan requires a lot of commitment and work but can leave a person feeling very accomplished and in great shape. I have built the plan around the goal of accomplishing 108 sun salutations on the final day. 108 is considered a holy number according to several religions and is meaningful in science, literature, martial arts, sports and more. For this reason, many schools of yoga will use 108 as a goal for the sun salutation practice.
Week 1: 10×2, 15×2, 20×2, REST
Week 2: 20×2, 25×2, 30×2, REST
Week 3: 40×2, REST, 50×2, REST, 60×1
Week 4: 70×1, REST, 80×1, REST, 40×1 REST 2-3 days
Final: 108 Sun Salutations
My highest hope is that in performing this practice you can find new energy and happiness! Connect with your breath, find the rhythm in your body and get lost in this sequence! Ommmm….
Yours in health and wellness,