What is a Sun Salutation?

Join Our Family

If you’ve ever taken a vinyasa yoga class then you’ve likely performed Sun Salutations, or Surya Namaskars in Sanskrit. They are a key component of instructor-led yoga classes and are generally performed at the beginning of class as a way to warm up the body and prepare you for deeper stretches or more challenging postures.

In Sanskrit, “surya” means sun and “namaskara” means an offering of reverence or salutation. Understanding the origin helps remind us that Sun Salutations are a movement sequence to help infuse intention into your practice. Of course they help establish a steady and focused mind and cultivate strength and flexibility, but they can be a gesture of devotion and vehicle to connect more deeply to yourself or a higher power. 

Surya Namaskar A: Sun A

In ancient tradition, Sun Salutations were used by Hindus during morning prayer and they have since evolved to help yogis disconnect from the distractions of daily life, calm the mind, and condition the body for the rest of class. Sun Salutation A is a wonderful sequence to begin to build heat in your body, connect breath to movement, and to set your intention for class.

Both Sun A and Sun B are designed to engage, stretch, and invigorate the entire body while maintaining a focus on meditative breathing, but Sun A contains fewer postures and is a great place for beginners to start.

To perform a basic Sun A, begin in Samasthiti, or standing at attention, at the top of your mat, and then perform the following postures in sequence for one full round of Surya Namaskar A:

Inhale – Tadasana, mountain pose, reach your arms over head

Exhale – Uttanasana, forward fold

Inhale – Half-way lift

Exhale – Chaturanga, lower down to low plank

Inhale – Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, upward facing dog

Exhale – Adho Mukha Svanasana, downward facing dog

Inhale – Jump or step feet to hands

Exhale – Uttanasana, forward fold

Inhale – Tadasana, mountain pose, reach your arms over head

Exhale – Return to Samasthiti, standing at attention. 

Sun Salutation A is a simple but powerful sequence to help you become more mindful. With regular practice, Sun A increases awareness forming a deeper connection between the body, breath, and consciousness. As a beginner, start with 3-5 cycles a day and slowly increase from there.

Surya Namaskar B: Sun B

Sun Salutation B builds on the concentration, focus, and physical heat built in Sun A while offering more challenging postures and an opportunity to increase endurance. 

To perform Sun B, you’ll want to start at the top of your mat, as in Sun A, in Samasthiti and perform the following sequence: 

Inhale – Utkatasana, chair pose

Exhale – Uttanasana, forward fold

Inhale – Half-way lift

Exhale – Chaturanga, lower down to low plank

Inhale – Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, upward facing dog

Exhale – Adho Mukha Svanasana, downward facing dog

Inhale – Virabhadrasana 1, warrior 1 (right foot forward)

Exhale –  Chaturanga, lower down to low plank

Inhale – Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, upward facing dog

Exhale – Adho Mukha Svanasana, downward facing dog

Inhale – Virabhadrasana 1, warrior 1 (left foot forward)

Exhale – Chaturanga, lower down to low plank

Inhale – Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, upward facing dog

Exhale – Adho Mukha Svanasana, downward facing dog

Inhale – Jump or step feet to hands

Exhale – Uttanasana, forward fold

Inhale – Utkatasana, chair pose

Exhale – Samasthiti, or standing at attention

As you can see, Sun Salutation B is a more rigorous flow and includes challenging postures like chair pose and Warrior 1 that build both heat and strength. Try flowing through your Sun B at least three times, syncing your movement with your breath, to increase endurance. 

Sun Salutation B offers an opportunity to get creative within your practice and include additional warrior poses or other challenging postures. Regardless of whether you are practicing at home or in the studio, Sun Salutations are an amazing tool for cultivating a strong body, mind, and spirit. 

Want to learn more about the history + practice of yoga + all that it entails?

Sign up for our FREE 8-day intro to Yoga Teacher Training. You’ll get a daily video breaking down all the different wisdoms of yoga–because it’s more than just body movement!

Erin Entlich is a certified yoga instructor, personal trainer, holistic health coach, and writer. She believes doing good starts with feeling good, which is why she loves helping people weave movement, mindfulness, and healthy eating into their daily lives. Find out more at www.erinentlich.com.