A sun salutation is a series of yoga postures. Its Sanskrit name, surya namaskar, stems from surya, “sun,” and namas, “to bow to” or “to adore.” Yoga practitioners in India have been bowing to the sun for at least a century, and possibly as long as 2,500 years.
Start each movement with a breath.
1. Tadasana (mountain pose): Stand with feet directly beneath the sitting bones, hip-width apart, second toes pointing forward. Lift your toes to direct your weight equally between the pads of the feet and the heels. Keep the arch in your feet as you inhale, rotate the shoulders back, and raise your arms with the breath. Extend through your torso to the top of the head. Don’t arch the lower back.
2. Uttanasana (forward bend): Exhale, bending forward from the hips. Release the head completely.
3. Ardha uttanasana (half forward bend): Inhale and fully extend the spine, rising halfway up from the hips, until muscles engage on either side of the spine.
4. Exhale while jumping back to the plank position. Press your hands against the floor directly beneath the shoulders, with your body straight behind you. Look forward. Continue exhaling as you lower down to your knees, chest, and chin.
5. Inhale as you slide forward to baby cobra: Press your legs together, reach your tailbone slightly toward the heels, lift and extend the chest, and raise the hands one inch above the floor.
6. Adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog): Exhale, press into your forefingers and thumb pads, raise your tailbone, and lift your knees off the floor. Avoid hyperextending the elbows.
7. Inhale, jumping up to uttanasana (forward bend): Use the breath to “float” up. Aim for a silent takeoff and landing. Exhale and release the head completely.
8. Tadasana (mountain pose): Inhale, and rise to standing, hands in namaste.