Half Sun Salutations and Variations

Half Sun Salutations and Variations
We practice Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations, for many reasons, from warming up the body at the beginning of asana to moving meditation. Half Sun Salutations can be used as both variation and modification of the full form. Those with shoulder and chest limitations will find the Half Sequence accessible on days when Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Down Dog, is painful or out of reach; those without physical limitations might consider them as a warm-up for a full salute. In every case, however, this sequence provides benefits to the body, mind, and spirit.

To begin a Half Sun Salutation, stand in Mountain Pose, or Tadasana. Take a moment to ground your feet into the mat, feeling your connection to the planet. From there, allow your head to rise towards the sky while rooting your shoulders into their sockets. Note the duality of being connected to the earth while at the same time reaching into the heavens; this idea could be a meditation in and of itself.

From here, bring your arms overhead on an inhale. Perhaps this doesn’t feel right with today’s experience of the shoulders and chest; you can modify this by straightening your back while keeping the arms at the side, on the hips, or in prayer position at your chest. The important motion is the elongation of the back and spine from Mountain into movement.

Exhale as you bend forward, moving into Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Bend. Make sure that your belly touches your thighs, which will probably mean that your legs will be bent. This connection allows you to keep the back straight, an important part of the sequence.

From Uttanasana, move into Ardha Uttanasana, or Half Standing Forward Bend. To do this, you will create a triangle with your body; straighten your legs, your back, and your arms. Look forward. In this position, your belly leaves the thighs; it will return to them as you move back into a full Uttanasana.

From here, you might add various poses to the sequence. Perhaps you need to straighten one leg while bending the other, moving from side to side, to begin to lengthen the leg muscles. You might hold the position at an easy stretch for a breath or two before asking your body if it is ready for deeper movement. If your legs are straight and your belly is on your thighs, you might try holding the big toe with your first few fingers or slipping your hands under your feet to get a greater stretch. Or you might work with a static pose, focusing on keeping your mind with what arises in your body. In any of these cases, see if you can connect your movements to your breathing, your body to your mind. Note what arises emotionally as you do so.

From here, rise up on an inhale, bringing your arms out to the side or in front of you – or keeping the hands at your heart or on your hips if you are experiencing restrictions on movement. How does changing the arm position change your experience? Even if you can practice the full Half Sun Salutation, consider trying it without the arms on occasion to make it new and worthy of your mind’s notice. There is no one “perfect” way to practice a Half Sun Salutation – instead, consider all the variations as different practices, available to you as needed.

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