The Sun Salutation: Your Portable Gym
(Continued from Roots and Inspiration)
Bearing in mind the breathing exercises from the past two weeks, here is a simple flow called Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation), which touches all the basic muscle groups and nerve centers:
- READY: Stand at the front of a yoga mat or non-slip surface, feet hip width apart.
- PRAYER: Inhale. Bring your palms together in front of your chest. Breathe. Become aware of your breath and bodily sensations. Imagine your body is a tube of breath. You breathe in life-force from the crown of your head, through your spine, right down to your toes. Root into the ground and allow the crown of your head to gently float and broaden. Your spine feels open and long, not stretched. Do not rush this process.
- FORWARD BEND: Inhale. Raise your arms above your head, palms together. Exhale. Roll forward, vertebra by vertebra, so you end up folded over, hands by your feet. Keep your knees slightly bent to protect your lower back. Take a few breaths. Feel your head respond to gravity, and your legs and spine lengthen.
- LUNGE: Bend your knees to place both hands on the floor by your feet. Inhale. Step your right leg back, placing the knee on the floor. Your left knee is over the left ankle, spine arched. Your pelvis releases and crown floats. Breathe.
- PLANK: Inhale. Left leg moves back to join the right. Legs, arms, spine and neck are straight. Engage your abdominals by bringing your navel back to your spine and curling your tailbone in slightly. Imagine you are breathing through your tube-like spine from the crown to your toes. Breathe.
- PUSHUP: Exhale. Bend your elbows, bringing your chest to the floor, keeping your elbows close to your body, shoulders relaxed. Your buttocks stay in the air, toes curled under. Breathe.
- COBRA: Inhale. Slide your torso along the floor, through your hands so you are flat on the floor, soles of the feet open to the ceiling. Gently push up to open your chest, shoulders relaxed. Overdoing it will hurt your lower back. Breathe.
- DOWNWARD DOG: Exhale. Press into your hands, tuck your toes under, move your hips up. Legs are straight, feet parallel, hip width apart, ears by your elbows. Palms are flat on the floor. Relax your neck and jaw. Breathe.
- LUNGE: Inhale, right leg forward, knee over the ankle, left knee on the floor. Breathe.
- FORWARD BEND: Exhale, left foot joins the right, head by your knees. Your knees are slightly bent to protect your lower back. Allow your head and spine to easily respond to gravity. Breathe.
- ROLL UP: Inhale. Feel your feet release into the ground as you gently roll up, vertebra by vertebrae. Your arms follow. Still inhaling, arch back gently.
- STANDING: Exhale, bringing your arms to your side. Breathe in through the crown of your head, into your whole body. Exhale. Feel alive.
For one complete Sun Salutation, repeat these steps for the left leg. With practice, each step will be just one inhale or exhale. Never rush or you may cause injury. The goal is not speed, but ease and focus. Maintain awareness of your breath and sensations in your body. Notice the movement of energy through your body/being. This is what makes the practice of yoga unique and powerful and a perfect asset to any musician’s tool kit, on the road, and in the studio.
There is nothing like working with a qualified instructor, whether you are learning guitar or yoga. But this is not always possible. Here are some books and recordings that may inspire:
The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice (T. K. V. Desikachar)
Yoga and You: Energizing and Relaxing Yoga for New and Experienced Students (Esther Myers)
YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine – A Guided Practice for All Levels (CD) (74 min, Parvati Devi)
YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine (DVD) (4hrs, Parvati Devi)