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How to Do Sun Salutation A in Yoga

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Wayyyyy back in 2010, when I got serious about my yoga practice, I was reaching out to many different yoga teachers asking the best way to start a yoga practice… the consensus was to start with Sun Salutation A.

Let’s just say that I was less than impressed and completely let down.

I wanted to be able to do all these bendy poses and flip into a forearm stand and all that jazz! I wanted to be like the cool kids you saw on Instagram doing these amazing poses.

What I didn’t understand is that to get there I needed a lot of strength, flexibility, and control of my body.

For instance, I tried to do a headstand our by the lake I ran around and nearly toppled over INTO the lake…

Now, that might not have been a huge problem overall, except I was in Iraq and there were stories about the lake being filled with bodies at one point ?. I think I’ll just pass on that.

You Have to Start Your Yoga Practice Somewhere

Needless to say, I followed what the teachers said and started with Sun Salutation A every morning after my run.

The first few times I was actually sore after doing 5-10 rounds of this sequence. It used a lot of arm and shoulder strength that I didn’t think it would. Especially because I was lifting weights in the evening and assumed that my upper body strength had been growing.

Boy did I figure out I was wrong there.

We all have to start somewhere right?

Like my teachers told me, I’m going to suggest starting with Sun Salutation A if you’re just starting a yoga practice.

How to Do Sun Salutation A in Yoga

Getting started with this sequence isn’t bad honestly. Here’s a video if you want to see it performed quickly.

This sequence has all the foundational poses that you would do in any yoga class.

It would either be performed as a whole to warm up your body or the poses would be used as transition poses between other poses you’re doing in the class.

1 Mountain Pose

woman in mountain pose

To start, come to the front of your mat with your big toes touching. Lift your toes off the ground and feel all four corners of your feet press into the ground.

Engage your leg muscles as you begin to slow your breathing and center your mind creating an intention for your practice.

Arms should be at your side and shoulders drawing away from your ears. Keeping your gaze soft and forward.

Remain here for 5 breaths.

2 Raised Arms Pose

woman bending backwards

On an inhale in Mountain Pose slowly raise your arms up over your head and arch back as you look towards your fingers.

Note: You do NOT need to arch as far back as the woman in the photo, but sometimes it does feel great to reach back a little farther.

Engage your core as you draw your belly towards your spine and keep your legs engaged.

Only remain for your inhale.

3 Forward Fold

woman doing standing forward fold

Exhale and fold forward into Uttanasana (Forward Fold). Keeping your spine as straight as you can as you fold forward placing your hands on the ground.

If you can only get your fingers to the ground, that’s ok. Keep your core engaged and drawn in and your thigh muscles activated.

Remain only for as long as your exhale.

4 Half Forward Fold

woman doing half forward fold

Inhale and raise your back to be flat with your gaze forward.

Legs should still be active and your belly should still be pulled towards your spine.

Your fingertips should gently be touching the ground as you keep your gaze forward.

Only remain for your inhale.

5 Chaturanga

woman doing chaturanga (or four-limbed staff pose)

On an exhale hop or step your feet back to Plank Pose and lower down into Chaturanga Dandasana.

Hands should be in line with your chest and your elbows should be drawn in at the sides. Shoulders should be drawn away from your ears and your back, core, and legs should be engaged.

Remain only for as long as your exhale.

6 Upward Facing Dog

woman doing upward facing dog
To come out of Chaturanga Dandasana you’ll over your toes (or flip your feet over) and roll forward into Upward Facing Dog.

Make sure your palms are firmly planted on the ground and lift up through your thighs. Also, keep your shoulders pulled down away from your ears to protect your neck.

Keep your legs and your core engaged to build strength in this pose.

Only remain for your inhale.

7 Downward Facing Dog

woman doing downward facing dog

From Chaturanga lift your hips towards the sky as you press back into Downward Dog. Feet should be hip distance apart.

Press up through your hands and reach your hips towards the sky as you press your heels into the ground.

Don’t worry if your heels don’t touch. Just remember to keep your back long, lift your hips and try to keep your legs somewhat straight.

Stay in Downward Dog for 5 breaths before moving on.

8 Half Forward Fold

woman doing half forward fold

Inhale and step forward from Downward Facing Dog into Half Forward Fold. Raise your back to be flat and your gaze forward.

Legs should still be active and your belly should still be pulled towards your spine.

Your fingertips should gently be touching the ground as you keep your gaze forward.

Only remain for your inhale.

9 Forward Fold

woman doing a standing forward fold

Exhale and fold forward into Uttanasana (Forward Fold). Keeping your spine as straight as you can as you fold forward placing your hands on the ground.

If you can only get your fingers to the ground, that’s ok. Keep your core engaged and drawn in and your thigh muscles activated.

Remain only for as long as your exhale.

10 Raised Arms Pose

woman bending backwards

Inhale to come out of your Forward Fold pose and slowly raise your arms up over your head and arch back as you look towards your fingers.

Note: Again, you do NOT need to arch as far back as the woman in the photo, but sometimes it does feel great to reach back a little farther.

Engage your core as you draw your belly toward your spine and keep your legs engaged.

Only remain for your inhale.

11 Mountain Pose

woman standing in mountain pose

Exhale your arms back down to your sides with your shoulders drawing away from your ears. Keeping your gaze soft and forward.

Remain only for as long as your exhale and then repeat Sun Salutation A 4-9 more times. 

What Is Sun Salutation Good For & Why Should I Do It

Ok, ok. We went over the full Sun Salutation A sequence… now what?

Well sister, you get on your mat each and every day and try to do at least 5 rounds of this sucker. You want to build strength in those muscles so that when you move onto Sun Salutation B you won’t be as sore or get worn out as easy.

I would start with 5 rounds of Sun Sal A before moving on. Once that gets to where you’re feeling good what I would do is practice lowering into Chaturanga quite a few times (like a pushup) to build your shoulder and arm strength.

Slowly build up to 10 rounds of Sun Sal A and then move on to adding Sun Salutation B into your sequence.

The goal is to get to 5 Sun Salutation A’s and 5 Sun Salutation B’s. These two sequences together will help build a solid foundation that you can then expand from and build beautiful flows from.

Things You Might Need for A Home Yoga Practice:

  • Yoga Mat – because using just a blanket or the floor proves a bit more difficult in the beginning
  • Yoga block – these are super helpful if you can’t quite reach the ground OR if you want to get a deeper stretch in some poses
  • Blanket – yoga blankets are great for those relaxing poses that I’ll talk about in another post (stay tuned)
  • Yoga Strap – if you can’t quite do a pose (like reach your feet in seated forward fold) a strap comes in mighty handy to help you still do the pose properly without sacrificing your alignment
  • Meditation cushion – meditation has been proven to lower stress levels, so having a meditation cushion makes it a bit comfier and helps to elevate your hips
  • Bolster – same as the blanket, but this allows you to relax back onto the bolster so you can relax deeper into the poses you’re doing that might need or warrant a bolster

 Don’t forget to pin this post for later!

woman sitting on her heels by a pool with a cityscape behind her

Yoga for Women With Curves
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