I'm coming to the end of the course for this year and my students have asked for yogic "homework" to do during the holidays to keep them strong and flexible (and zen!) whilst away from their usual weekly yoga classes- so here it is.
Unfortunately sun salutation doesn't cover everything - there is no twisting or balancing nor an inverted position, and to ensure a "complete" yoga session it would be great to include these too. So I am proposing here a more complex salutation than one is probably used to, which includes a balancing and inverted asana (together). It would be enough to do this version plus a twisting position at the end of the sequence for the session to be more complete.
This version was taught to me by my yoga maestra Beatrice Calcagno.
Big thanks to Gianluca for the photos.
1. Stand at the front end of your mat and allow your shoulders to fall forward completely relaxed, your back will become open and round . Your head drops down, chin towards throat. Backs of hands against your bum. Breath slowly, fully.
2. Bring your hands back behind you, finger tips together, slide your little fingers together so the outside edges are touching, then slide your hands, your little fingers apart bringing your palms flat against your back (fingers pointing upwards), elbows close together. Take a full in breath (or two), lift your sternum, keep your thighs tight, drop your head back and arch your back backward. Remain like that for a few breaths.
3.Bring yourself forward slowly, breathing in bring your arms out by your sides and up over your head (with a semi- circular movement).
4.With your knees slightly bent bring yourself down, directing your abdomen towards your thighs whilst trying to keep your arms above the line of your ears for as long as you can while you come down.
5.Place your palms by your feet on the mat. Try to keep your back straight - if necessary bend at the knee a little more.
6.Bring your left leg back,bring your upper body up and abdomen away from your thigh, if you'd like to intensify lift your left knee slightly from the floor . Bring your arms away from you, hands down palms facing outward.
7.Come back down placing palms by your feet again. Bring right leg back and come into plank position.
These side balancing postions may be left out if you wish to try something a little less demanding. Simply go straight on to step 9.
8.Turn yourself over so you are balancing on your right hand and on your right foot. Your hand should not be directly under your shoulder but pushed forward. Come back into plank and turn over to the other side (if you'd like to "turn up the volume" instead of trying to push your rib cage upwards the ceiling - which makes the whole position lighter- try to keep your body perfectly straight and aligned from your shoulder to your feet). Come back into plank.
9.Breathing in come into downward-facing dog.
10.Bring knees and elbows down and slide your chest forward towards the mat, when your shoulders are above your wrists push your upper-body forward and up, your elbows remain in line with your wrists without opening out to the sides.
11.Bring your hands with fingers interlocked behind you, forehead to the ground and lift your head and chest up.
12.Place your hands under your shoulders and lift your entire body into the plank position.
13.Breath in, come into downward-facing dog.
14.Lift your right leg up towards the ceiling and swing your right leg forward through your arms (without lifting your palms from the mat!) foot lands in line with your hands.
15.Bring your upper body up and away from your leg, open arms, head back.
16. Place palms back down by feet. Ease the weight of your body forward to lift left leg up towards the ceiling - bring both hands to your ankle and stay there for a couple of breaths. Try to ease your chest downward and your abdomen to your thigh.
Gently bring your left leg down, roll your body back up (head comes up last) so you are standing and start again from the first position - making sure you "swap legs" so your left leginstead of the right, comes forward during the sequence.
Do the whole sequence at least once on both sides.
This is a fanatastic sequence to do just as you get up in the morning (preferably facing the sun). It gives you a huge energy boost (in fact I would avoid doing this before sleeping)and really sharpens the mind, brings the body's flexibility back after staying relatively immobile for several hours during the night, it gets you focused, makes you feel strong - it's wonderful for the heart and the edocrine system (thyroid, adrenal and pancreatic glands to name but a few). It influences hormones produced increasing serotonin levels (feel-good hormone) and reducing hormones released during stress.
I will try to do a short home-video of this too - so keep posted!
Have a wonderful summer and hope to see you all on the 7th of September when Lotus Pocus re-opens!