Sun Salutations seem to be ubiquitous in yoga. You may think that they must be thousands of years old but the truth is they're actually a fairly recent development in our asana practice. So what's the value in this seemingly repetitive and simplistic series of postures?
If you check out this video we've made for you you'll see me doing the half sun salutation twice. There is one key difference between how I do it the first time and the second time. Can you see it? I'll wait.
That's right! The difference is in the "half way lift" or ardha uttanasana. In the first repetition I lift my spine up in line with my hips. In the second I just kind of lift to my finger tips.
So why is this so important? It's all about Back Body Strengthening.
In our modern world of driving, hunching over computers, tablets and cell phones or simply crashing on the couch at the end of the day because we're worn out, two very specific things tend to happen to our bodies.
1. The back body becomes weak from being over stretched and under strengthened. If you slouch sitting wherever you are for a moment you'll feel the stretching. While the stretch may feel good at this moment, imagine that you were doing this all day every day without much movement in the opposite direction. It will only feel good for so long and then it will start to feel taxing.
On the flip side...
2. The front body becomes tight and weak. Slouch wherever you are sitting again and feel the front body. Maybe even try to take a deep breath. You'll find it's pretty difficult to do in this position. And I'm sure you can then imagine how that effects not only your lungs, but the rest of your organs.
When you come to yoga class your movements should help bring balance to the body. While everyone thinks of yoga as a way to stretch it can, if done well, also help strengthen.
So our half sun salutation (and really any time we move through this first part of the sun salutation) can be an opportunity to start to bring in that balance. When we lift the spine like I did in the first repetition above, in conjunction with good activation of the legs and the core muscles along the front and back of the spine, we have an opportunity to start bringing that balance of length and strength in. The back body muscles will fire more deeply to create that lift and the front body will benefit from the length that creates.
It's a winning combination in a flow that may seem repetitive and inconsequential.
The next time you come to class, see if you can bring more attention to this area of your practice and notice the benefits. Your body will thank you!
Continued reading: Learn more about ardha uttanasana here.