What Are the Benefits of the Sun Salutation in Yoga?

Forward Bend stretches the spine and stimulates circulation.

Forward Bend stretches the spine and stimulates circulation.

Many times, a yoga asana session begins by performing a Sun Salutation. The Sun Salutation is a series of four poses worked consecutively then back again to the first pose. There are a number of combinations of poses that can make up a Sun Salutation, but many of the poses are similar, providing both mental and physical benefits.

Nervous System

The book "Yoga: Your Home Practice Companion" outlines a recommended structure for asana practice that begins each session with a Sun Salutation. It decreases sympathetic nerve impulses that are involved in stress response. When the poses are performed correctly, balance is restored to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Alignment

An example of a few yoga poses that are used interchangeably to structure a Sun Salutation are Mountain pose, Forward Bend -- standing or seated -- Chair pose and Downward Dog. Each of these will help align muscles and skeletal structure correctly by drawing attention to form and increasing awareness of comfort as it relates to correct alignment. Some of the poses, such as Forward Bend and Tall Mountain, are good for the spine as they encourage spinal extension.

Lung Expansion

Any reaching pose, such as Mountain or Tall Mountain, lengthens and opens the torso. This allows your lungs to expand, more fully drawing in fresh air and purging the stale air more efficiently. This increases gas exchange not only in your lungs, but in all the cells throughout your body.

Stability and Strength

Chair pose, Downward Dog, Mountain pose -- performing each of these requires concentration on balance. As you improve in your yoga practice, you'll be promoting balance, stability and strength.

Emotional

As you move fluidly from one Sun Salutation pose to the next, you'll notice alternating tension and relaxation as the poses work together to complement each other. For example, Tall Mountain pose followed by Forward Bend will move you from standing straight up, reaching upward with your hands and opening your chest and lungs, to bending forward all the way to place your hands on either side of your feet. The give-and-take in moving through the poses will work to relax your muscles, reducing physical stress and bringing a sense of balance. As you progress with your yoga practice, you'll benefit from emotional balance, as well, that stems from focusing on form, breathing and relaxation.

 

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