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Season 3 - Episode 7

Basic Sun Salutations

35 min - Practice


Margi guides us in a basic and accessible Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) practice, breaking down the movements with the breath.
What You'll Need: Mat, Blanket, Block (2)

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(waves crashing) Hi, welcome. Thanks for joining me. This is a practice about sun salutations. And sun salutations are challenging, invigorating, life-affirming. They get your heart rate going.

They get your limbs moving. They link breath to the movement. And they should make you feel quite alive in this world. So we're gonna start going over things a little bit slowly and then we'll pick it up. At any point if you need to rest, it's integral in yoga that you don't force yourself and you find notice when you get a little winded or tense and you pause.

You put a big sharp knife through any stress that the practice might be causing you and take time to nurture yourself and to rest. It reminds me of a Mary Oliver poem where she invites us to let the soft animal of our body love what it loves. She starts the poem by telling us we don't have to be good, we just have to come into our body and let it love what it loves. So I encourage you to go with that wisdom. We'll start just closing the eyes and taking three breaths to arrive.

Inhale. Exhale one. Inhale. Exhale two. If I'm counting too fast or too slow for you, you just go with your own pace.

Inhale. Exhale three. Soften your eyes and let the eyelids slip open. Gonna come on to hands and knees, placing the blanket to the side. But if you would like to have your blanket underneath your knees if your knees are at all tender, it's important to create softness if the knees feel tender.

You wanna avoid all unnecessary suffering. It's an ancient wisdom. Okay, linking the breath with the movement. We're gonna come into cow pose with an inhale. The head and the tail lift.

And then with an exhalation we round the spine. Lifting the front body into the back body. Inhale, open the front of the body coming into cow pose, letting the belly hang and the sitting bones lift. And as you exhale, round into cow pose. This is cat pose.

Inhale, opening the front of the body. I remember this is cow pose 'cause I think the utters hang down. Otherwise, I think it's kind of a faulty name for a pose. Exhale, round your spine into cat pose. Couple more on your own and see if you can be really deliberate about matching your movement with your breath.

(breathing deeply) And then come into a neutral spine. Let's tuck the toes. Sit back, we're gonna stretch the soles of the feet for a moment, and just let your wrists circle. In the yoga practice, we spend more times on the hands than maybe what human beings are necessarily designed to do these days. So any time you need to take a little break and move your wrists around, feel free to do that.

Okay, so coming back. We're gonna talk about a few sections of the sun salutation. First of all, plank to lowering to the floor. So in a little bit we'll link some things together, but you'll find your way into plank. And then there's two choices, basically, to come to the floor.

One is to lower the knees. You wanna keep your chest broad. Take your elbows straight back and lower down. The other option from plank position is to keep your legs strong, and as you lower, see if you can have the legs hit the floor last. That one takes a fair amount of upper body and leg and core strength, as does the other.

So those are your two choices for plank to lowering. The knees can come down first or you can just lower straight down. And then we're gonna go into little cobra for now. Few important things. You want your toes pointing straight back.

There's a tendency for the legs to roll to the inner edge of the legs. Your toes pointing straight back and your begs lengthening back. You might think of a puppy if I had socks on, and the puppy was pulling back on my socks. Really lengthening through each toe, even the baby toes. And then the cobra is about the upper back lifting, so, for a moment, come up and lift your hands up off the ground so you can really feel the engagement of the upper back.

These are integral muscles to be strong for having us stand tall in the world. So the hands can rest, but for now they're not pressing. Another thing that happens often in cobra is the neck is very flexible so we overdo it in the neck and don't really life the chest. So we have a big bend in the neck without a swooping arc of the back. So we wanna keep the back of the neck long.

So it's more about the collarbones lifting, the chest lifting. I have another class on this site on back bending where we talk about the lift of the breast bone and the width of the collarbones. You can refer to that. Okay, and then we'll come up, tuck the toes, press back into downward facing dog. So another thing in sun salutations that is pretty challenging is stepping the foot forward to a lunge.

So if you look here for a moment, you can come to your knees and just look. Here's what we're going for. However, what often happens is the foot gets stuck, and it's just a little bit of lack of connection developed in the low belly and the psoas muscles. So a few options that you have from downward dog. First of all, you wanna shift your weight forward.

Second of all, you wanna pick up that foot as much as you can, and then when you step forward, most people have to lift the hand a little bit to create space for the foot to come forward. If your foot gets stuck, don't worry. A couple options. You can take the same hand as foot, right foot, right hand, and hoist it forward. That works pretty well for most people.

Another option that also is very convenient, it works well, bring your knees to the floor and then step the foot forward. Come back into the lunge. And the third option is to have your blocks. This is pretty wonderful, it makes it quite a bit more easeful. And you have that much more space to step the foot forward in a lunge.

So you'll be responsible in this practice to use your options wisely. Okay, coming back into downward dog. Planting the hands, lifting the pelvis up and back. And then come into your plank for a moment. Shoulders right over wrists.

Maybe you have to walk your feet back. And for now, when we go back into downward dog, I'm gonna ask you to keep your hands and your feet where they are. It might feel a little longer than what you're used to, but with your hands and your feet really far away from each other you can maybe find more length to the spine. It's perfectly fine and actually a good idea to keep your knees bent if, when your legs are straight, the hamstrings pull on the pelvis in a way that makes the spine round. Always find to bend your knees to find the length of the spine.

Walk your hands back to your feet. Take a moment with your hands. It's like going back to the foot tutorial that I've done. Spread your toes, use the hands to open the toes, see if you can see the color of your mat in between every one of your toes. And then lift the arches of your feet.

Hold onto your elbows. Let your head hang down into the frame of your arms. Bend your knees a little bit. Feel the spine releasing, pouring towards the head. Re-straighten your legs, and then you decide if it's better for you to have bent knees or straight legs.

And take a few breaths here. Let your hands come all the way to the very, very tops of your thighs. Not near your knees at all, but right where your legs meet your pelvis. Press your thighs back. Make sure you're not pressing back in the knees.

Keep the shins moving slightly forward. Press back on the thighs and take your head as far away from your tail as you can. For some of you, this might mean coming up pretty high if the hamstrings are tight to get the spine elongated. For others of you, the spine might stay low. What we're looking for is an elongated spine, not necessarily parallel to the floor.

Pressing back on the thighs is a great way to help that feeling of getting the spine as long as possible. And then take your elbows towards the ceiling so the chest is broad, and feel the crown of the head lengthening forward. There's a teensy hint of little cobra in this pose in the upper chest. And then let your hands release down, fold over. You're welcome to have your hands on blocks.

Come up to stand, reach your arms out to the side, all the way up. And as you exhale, hands together in front of your heart. And then make a gentle fist with your left hand, put it right at your low belly, and take your right hand, gently wrap your right hand around your left hand. We call this walking meditation mudra. Put your attention down into the soles of your feet, and walk to the front of your mat.

Stand with your feet a little apart from each other, or together, but make sure that they're parallel. And release your hands to your sides. We'll do a couple times through arda surya namaskar. Arda means half, surya is sun, namaskar is bow or salute. So rooting through the feet.

Inhale, sweep your arms out and up. As you exhale, dive all the way over your legs. Again, fine to have blocks, fine to bend the knees. Breathe in, lengthen your spines. Put the hands on the shins this time.

Exhale, fold over the legs. Relax your head completely. As you inhale, take your arms to the side. Lengthen your spine, come up. It's fine to keep your hands a little apart from each other or forward if your shoulders are tight.

Exhale, hands to prayer and down to your sides. Again, I'll talk you through it one more time, then I'm gonna have you do it on your own. So pay a little attention to the sequence. Inhale, you go up. Exhale, you fold forward.

Inhale, elongate. Exhale, fold. Inhale, reach out to come up. Exhale, hands in front of your heart and down. Okay, on your own.

Okay, now that you've done that on your own, you know it. You don't need to have your phone or your computer to do it. You can wake up tomorrow morning and do five half sun salutations. Moving along, here we go. Reach up, it starts the same way.

Inhale. Exhale, fold forward. Now, instead of flat back, well we do do a flat back, but the same time the right foot steps back to a lunge. You elongate, head forward as the right foot steps back. Here we are in the lunge.

The legs are supporting, back leg really strong. Left thigh pulls back. The spine lengthens out of the bowl of the pelvis. From here, the hands press, the back thigh lifts up. Let the back thigh pull you into downward facing dog.

Inhale, plank position. Here we are with the options. Lower down. Point your feet, feet point straight back. Lift your chest.

Make sure the back of the neck is not crunching. And then to come back up, you could go through plank or hands and knees, tuck toes, lift the pelvis. Downward facing dog. Take a big inhalation. As you exhale, begin to shift your weight forward, step your right foot forward.

If it gets stuck, right hand gets it, pulls it forward. To open your chest, come to your fingertips. Take a big breath in, and as you exhale bend the back knee a little so you can press off of it. Step forward. Inhale, come up to stand.

Exhale, hands in front of your heart and down to your side. That's first side. Second side, inhale, reach up. Maybe it's a little bit fun. Exhale, you fold forward.

Head goes forward as the left foot steps back to a lunge. Step far enough back, be very bold, step way far back so that the right thigh can really drop parallel to the ground. Chest opens, spine long, eyes, tongue soft. Hands root. Pelvis, left thigh, pull you, drag you back into downward facing dog.

The legs are pulling back with abandon. Stretch the spine. Breathe in, plank position. When you lower, you shift your weight forward a little bit to lower. Toes point, chest lifts, little cobra.

Press back, downward facing dog. Breathe in. Exhale, step your left foot forward. Inhale on your fingertips so the spine can elongate. Exhale, step your back foot to meet your front foot.

Inhale, come all the way up to stand. Palms press up overhead. Exhale, hands in front of your heart, and down to your sides. Again, inhale, reach up. Exhale, fold forward.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body. Right foot back to a lunge. Soft animal of your body. Downward dog, love what it loves. Breathe in brings you into plank position.

Feel your spine, long, free, spacious. Lower to the ground. This time, since we're getting a little warmer, come to your little cobra and then press your hands down and just lift up another inch or two or three or four, you lift up until you get a yellow light. You get a green light, green light, green light, green light, yellow light. Probably something in the back will start clenching or grabbing.

Soften down, make it feel healthy, nutritious, stable, free, and open. Press back, downward facing dog. It's a teenage cobra. Breathe in. Exhale, right foot steps forward.

If it gets caught, you have your options. Breathe in. Exhale, back foot meets the front foot. Inhale, come up to stand. Float your heart towards your hands.

This pose, urdhva hastasana, has a little bit of a upper body back bend, to vasana, mountain pose. Second side, inhale we reach up. With joy, exhale, we fold forward. Inhale, head forward, left foot back. Pull back, downward facing dog.

Inhale, plank. Exhale, lower. Inhale your cobra. Downward facing dog. Breathe in deeply.

Exhale. Left foot forward. Inhale, find your long line. Exhale, back foot meets the front foot. Inhale, reach out to come up.

Exhale, hands in front of your heart and down to your side. We'll do one more a tiny bit faster. Keep calm, keep rooted, keep breathing, keep yogic. Inhale, reach up. Exhale, fold forward.

Inhale, right foot back. Exhale, downward dog. Inhale, plank. Exhale, lower. Inhale your cobra.

Exhale, downward facing dog. One inhale here. Exhale, right foot forward. Big breath in, fill your balloon-like lungs. Left foot meets the right foot.

Inhale, come to stand. Exhale, fold right back over. We're gonna link the two sides together. Left foot to a lunge. Downward facing dog.

Inhale, plank. Exhale, lower. Inhale, cobra. Exhale, downward dog, Breathe in. Exhale, left foot forward.

Big breath in, refresh yourself. Exhale, back foot meets the front foot. Inhale, come all the way up. Exhale, hands in front of your heart. Stand for a moment.

You can close your eyes or keep your eyes open. Feel your heart beating. Your heart's been beating since 22 days after you were conceived. Still with you. The lungs, every inhalation, the lungs expand and they hug that beating heart.

So we're gonna expand a little bit on the sun salutations. There are infinite amount of sun salutations, variations, options, so you should play with them a little bit. We'll just do about two more, then we'll rest for a few minutes. Inhale, reach up. Exhale, fold forward.

Inhale, step your right foot back to a lunge. We're gonna add a twist here. We're gonna root the right hand. Keep the legs strong. And then put your left hand onto your left knee, turn your belly, turn your chest, and you're welcome to stay right here.

This is a great place to stay. Or you can reach your left arm up towards the ceiling. Try not to be too heavy on your right hand. And let the back of your right side of your back descend down as the belly turns from right to left. As you exhale, bring your left hand down.

I'm gonna get some blocks. Put the blocks on either side of the front foot and straighten the front leg. As you inhale, bend your front knee, come into a lunge. And as you exhale, straighten your front leg and fold. Two more times like that.

Inhale, bend the front knee, opening the chest. Exhale, straighten and fold. Inhale, bend the front knee. Blocks to the side, hands down, pelvis lifts, downward facing dog. Inhale brings you to plank.

Exhale, lower down. Take your arms back. Point your feet. Lift up, shalabasana. Just a little different position of the arms and legs.

Legs are lifting, arms are lifting. Hands by the ribs. Press back, downward facing dog. Inhale deeply. Exhale, step your right foot forward.

This time we're gonna lower the back knee down to the mat. Please put a blanket underneath your knee if it feels at all tender. And then reach up. Exhale, hands down. Step forward.

Inhale, flat back this time. Exhale, fold over. Inhale, reach out to come all the way up. Again linking, exhale, fold back over your legs. Left foot to a lunge.

Left hand roots. Right hand to the top of the right thigh. Press down to help you turn open. Keep the right thigh pulling back, the left leg strong. Expand your right arm if that's working for you.

Keeping the right hand down is perfectly fine. And then with your exhalation, unwind. You might not need blocks if you have long hamstrings, but I'm thinking most of us would like to have blocks. The leg straightens. When the leg straightens, the spine can release like a forward fold, and then when you come into your lunge, there's a flat back feeling.

Inhale. Exhale. Hips pull back, especially the right hip. Head releases, heart soft. Inhale.

Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale, bend your front knee. Move the blocks to the side.

Pull back, downward facing dog. I'll get my blanket now ready for my knee when it comes down in a little bit. Inhale, come forward. Exhale, lower down. Again, arms back, chest lifts, legs lift.

Back of the neck is long. Ears, eyes, tongue, lips soft. Hands by the ribs. Press back, downward facing dog. Take a big deep breath in.

Exhale, left foot steps forward. Right knee softens down. So nice to have a little blanket there. Reach your arms up. Lift the low belly to protect the low back.

Stretch your heart center. Exhale, hands down. Step forward. From here, interlace your fingers behind your back. Just reach your arms up.

Bend your knees. Maybe the arms go overhead a little bit. Then let your hands come to your back. Brush your hands down the backs of your legs. Come down into a little squat.

And then come back onto your hands and your knees. And we will lie back onto our backs. Feel free to put your blanket underneath your head. We're just gonna rest for a couple of minutes here after that exciting, invigorating yoga practice. So, lying down.

You're gonna start with the feet a little wide and let the knees drop in towards each other. We'll bring the feet pretty close together. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Then hold on behind your left knee. See if you can draw the right hip away from your right shoulder.

And then take both of your legs just an inch to the left, just to get into some different territory there in the right hip. This hip opener is very different kind of pose than the salutation, so we're just doing a little, a little variation here to open the body and quiet down. And then release your left foot to the floor and keep rolling the hips over to the left. So you'll roll to the pinky side of the left foot and the sole of the right foot will come to the ground. Open your right arm, straight open to the side.

And use your left hand. We did this in the side facing pose. Just have a feeling of kind of ironing and lengthening the right inner thigh. Feels quite wonderous, I find, in this deep psoas muscle and the outer hip at the low belly, low spine. With each exhalation, let the belly deflate towards the low back.

And then bring yourself back up. We'll just do those two poses on the second side. Left ankle over. Right knee, hold on behind the right knee. Again, there's a tendency for the left hip to hike up, so you can draw your left hip away from your left shoulder.

If you want more intensity, pull the right side in a little more as the left side falls away. Don't overdo and don't underdo. Let the legs go just an inch to the right. You'll notice it opens a different territory. The ancient yogis counted what they called nadis in the body.

Nadi means little river. Imagine how many little rivers they thought were in the body. Come up with a number. The number is 72,000 that they counted. Put your right foot onto the floor and then roll the pelvis until your left foot meets the floor.

Open your left arm to the side and use your right hand to help keep the left thigh lengthened, broad. The left thigh moving away from the shoulders, and then a few deep breaths into whatever sensation you feel in the body. Bring yourself back to the center. We'll use our two blocks for a suped up baddha konasana. Soles of the feet come together, knees open to the side, and the blocks just create a little bit of support for the thighs.

If you're using a blanket underneath your head, have it underneath your neck and your head. And you have the option of making just a little teeny roll to support the negative space at the back of the neck. Let the weight of your body drop into the support. For the next few minutes, you're welcome to stay right here, or if you prefer to extend your legs for a traditional savasana, you're welcome to do that. We'll begin to emerge from our resting pose like a bear coming out of a long hibernation.

Slowly, lazily deepen your breath. If you have blocks underneath your knees, move them to the side. Roll over to your side. Use your hands to press you up and find your seat. Feel the soft animal of your body and offer some gratitude to yourself for taking the time to nurture your body, connect to yourself.

And if you indeed feel better from doing this practice, see if you can hold onto this feeling a bit as you continue on with your day. We want our yoga practice to spread and create harmony and goodness in this world. Namaste.


Karen K
1 person likes this.
Another great video! You have such a talent for bringing a sense of ease into every posture. I always feel good after one of your classes. Thank you!
Margi Young
1 person likes this.
Yeah! Thanks again!
Tamsen Y
oh, I miss you so Margi. Great to be able to spend a half hour with your wonderful you!!
Margi Young
Hey... unfair. I want to spend 1/2 hour with wonderful you!
Anyway, thanks so much for watching.
I am gunning to spend next August teaching in NYC, and maybe I get to see you before that.
Kathryn A
So great to connect with you Margi through this practice. A great way to start my day!
Margi Young
Thank you Kathryn. Your comment warms my heart!

Kim W
Great help to me this afternoon, and I think I will do some sun salutations tomorrow morning, and read some Mary Oliver!! Thanks Margi!!
Margi Young
Kim... hi! So sweet that you got to do this practice and carry it forward. Sending love, Margi
Kala L
2 people like this.
Truly, I think you may be one of the best yoga teachers I have ever come across.  Your ability to weave in technique and why without taking away from the rhythm or soul of the practice is beautiful.  Thank you. 
Margi Young
1 person likes this.
Kala What a sweet thing to say. I do love, eat, drink and breathe yoga and I bet that is what you are picking up on! Nice to meet you. Margi

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