March 20 marks the spring equinox. This signifies the first official day of spring and the moment the sun crosses the equator. It is common to celebrate this date as a time for cleansing and rebirth. Many use this as an opportunity to deep clean the home and purge clutter! It is also the perfect time to reflect on your life to notice what is no longer serving you, rid yourself of negativity and make room for opportunity, new experiences, and enriching relationships.
In the yoga community, we use this time of the year to set intentions for personal growth and empowerment. This is often done through a practice of 108 Sun Salutations. A Sun Salutation (or “Surya Namaskar” in Sanskrit) is a series of poses done as a moving meditation, connecting movement with breath allowing you to take in “prana” (breath/life force) and exhale “apana” (that which is no longer needed). The detoxifying practice is completed after 108 repetitions of the Sun Salutation series. We use the number 108 as it has many symbolic and important meanings in mathematics, science, religion and the arts. It is also the number of beads in the traditional mala string used for meditation and/or prayer.
The classic Sun Salutation sequence is as follows:
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana) — Stand tall and strong with hands at heart center, feet grounded, shoulders back and core engaged.
2. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana) — Inhale, reaching arms upward and keeping shoulders relaxed.
3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) — Exhale to fold forward, hinging from the hips and keeping knees soft. Relax upper body.
4. Halfway Lift (Ardha Uttanasana) — Inhale and come up halfway, lengthening the spine, keeping the back straight and relaxing the arms (or bring hands to shins).
5. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana) — Step or jump back to plank, shift forward on the toes and while exhaling, descend into a low pushup, keeping elbows in and stacked over wrists. Option here to lower belly to the floor.
6. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) — Inhale and extend arms long, engage leg and abdominal muscles, and relax shoulders away from ears. Tops of feet and bottoms of hands press down while the chest opens up.
7. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) — Exhale to lift hips, tuck toes and press back to an inverted “V” shape with your body. Feet should be hip-width apart, thighs pressing back and eye gaze toward your navel or thighs.
8. Feet to Hands (transition to front) — Look forward, soften knees and walk or jump feet up to meet hands.
9. Halfway Lift (Ardha Uttanasana) — Inhale and come up halfway, lengthening the spine, keeping the back straight and relaxing the arms (or bring hands to shins).
10. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) — Exhale to fold forward, hinging from the hips and keeping knees soft. Relax upper body.
11. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana) — Inhale, reaching arms upward and keeping shoulders relaxed.
12. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
If you don’t have time to complete the full practice of 108 repetitions, even just 20 minutes of flowing through Sun Salutations can have tremendous effects on physical and mental well-being. A recent study in the International Journal of Yoga found that college students who practiced Sun Salutations every day for two weeks reported a quiet mind, feelings of rest and joy, and less worry than a control group who did not participate in any practice.
Use this sequence to energize the body, refresh the mind and see the sun reflected inside yourself. Feel empowered to be yourself and feel gratitude for the blessings in your life!
Reference: “Surya Namaskar Is All You Need, Study Shows.” Yelena Moroz Alpert. http://bit.ly/1J29Mcn.