A lot of students ask me, "What's the best way to warm up before a workout?" I would never downplay the trusty one-mile run, and on cardio days, it is my preferred method. For me, strength days do incorporate some lifting, but they are just as likely to be purely yoga. So whether I'm lifting or just sticking to my mat, I use classical sun salutations as my go-to warm up.

 

In many yoga classes today, Sun Salute A (Surya Namaskar A) has become the default starting place to warm up. However, this version allows for only limited movement of the hip joint. I prefer to stick with the Classical Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) to warm up the body as they offer a fuller range of motion in the major joints.

 

Here are simple instructions for Classical Sun Salutes:

 

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1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana) - Start standing at the top of your mat.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

2. Upward Hand Pose (Urdhva Hastasana) - Inhale, lift the arms over the head, turning the palms toward one another.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) - Exhale, fold over your legs, bending the knees as much as you need to lay your chest toward your thighs.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

4. Lunge (Anjaneyasana variation) - Keeping your hands grounded, inhale, step the right foot back into a lunge. Look down at your left knee and make sure it is aligned over the ankle, shin vertical. Reach your heart and gaze forward while keeping the hands on the ground.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

5. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) - Exhale, step your left foot back to meet the right, ending up in downward facing dog.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskaar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

6. Crocodile (Makarasana variation) - Holding the breath out, lower your knees to the ground. In the same motion, lower your chest and chin to the ground, keeping the hips high, like you are diving underneath a wave. Allow the elbows to bend straight back, triceps hugging into your ribs. Slide all the way onto the belly. This picture shows the angle of the elbows, but unlike this picture, let your knees bend and your hips pike.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

7. Cobra (Bujangasana) - Inhale, turn the tops of your feet flat on the mat, reach the heart forward, opening the collarbones and squeezing the bottom tips of the shoulder blades together. Always keep the elbows bent.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

8. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) - Exhale, press back to downward facing dog.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskaar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

9. Lunge (Anjaneyasana variation) - Keeping your hands grounded, inhale, step the right foot forward into a lunge. Look down at your right knee and make sure it is aligned over the ankle, shin vertical. Reach your heart and gaze forward while keeping the hands on the ground.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

10. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) - Exhale, step your left foot forward to meet your right in forward fold.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

11. Upward Hand Pose (Urdhva Hastasana) - Inhale, lift the arms over the head, turning the palms toward one another.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

12. Mountain Pose (Tadasana) - Exhale, release the hands to prayer at the heart.

 

sun salutations, surya namaskar, classical sun salutation, yoga for athletes

 

That is one-half of one round. For the second half listed below, I will consolidate the instructions. Still use all the alignment listed above.

 

13. Mountain Pose (Tadasana) - Start standing with the hands in prayer where you left off.

14. Upward Hand Pose (Urdhva Hastasana) - Inhale, lift the arms over the head.

15. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) - Exhale, fold over your legs.

16. Lunge (Anjaneyasana variation) - Inhale, step the left foot back into a lunge. Reach your heart and gaze forward.

17. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) - Exhale, step to downward facing dog.

18. Crocodile (Makarasana variation) - Holding the breath out, lower knees, chest and chin to the ground, then slide all the way onto the belly.

19. Cobra (Bujangasana) - Inhale, turn the tops of your feet flat on the mat, reach the heart forward.

20. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)- Exhale, press back to downward facing dog.

21. Lunge (Anjaneyasana variation)- Inhale, step the left foot forward, reach your heart and gaze forward.

22. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) - Exhale, step to forward fold.

23. Upward Hand Pose (Urdhva Hastasana) - Inhale, lift the arms over the head.

24. Mountain Pose (Tadasana) - Exhale, release the hands to prayer at the heart.

 

That is one full round. You may complete up to 108 rounds, however that would take about 2.5 hours (this is called a "mala" in yoga). For warm up, I suggest five to ten full rounds.

 

As you move through the rounds, you will likely feel the joints moving more fluidly than when you began. Your body will start to heat, and your heart rate may pick up gently. The breath should remain steady. This exercise was designed to wake up the body from a night's rest by warming up the major muscle groups and joints, which makes it an excellent tool to warm up for lifting or yoga. 

 

Photos courtesy of Brandon Hofer and property of Breaking Muscle.

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