My Tuesday got away from me as often happens to various days in my weeks. I feel as if a migraine is coming on any day now as I’ve been suffering from a lot of pain in the back of my head and neck area. I have even had weird moments where my arms fell asleep while laying on the couch. So, yesterday I was going to talk to you (on the real Tone It Up Tuesday) about ways to realign your posture, but I’m just not feeling that topic this week, so I’m going with my original plan on this rare Tone It Up Wednesday. That just doesn’t have the same ring, so expect it to be back on Tuesday next week.
Remember back in July when I learned about the Spartan Races and started doing lots of burpees despite the fact that my husband walked in on me doing some and began laughing? Well, I decided to start with something I knew a little better than burpees and work my way up. If you’re not into the jumping part of burpees, but would still love a lot of the same strengthening benefits, then I have the workout for you: SUN SALUTATIONS!
Sun Salutations are essentially the burpees of the yoga world, but in a slower controlled manner of practice. They involve a series of movements linked to an inhale or exhale that have some aerobic benefit. You can definitely get your heart rate up while doing sun salutations! You will also gain a lot of strength and flexibility in the process. What could be a better anytime workout?
Here’s what you need to get started:
- A space to move around in at least as long as you are tall
- Bare feet so that you have some grip
- A surface that is easy for your feet to grip to – usually a yoga mat would be recommended, but if you don’t have one, a towel might work as long as it won’t slide around on the floor you’re on
I recommend that most people begin with what is commonly referred to as the Half Series or Modified Sun Salutation Series:
Begin at the top in child’s pose, then slowly inhale into a modified plank position. Here you’re looking for some of the same alignment principles as you would in the standard plank. Align your ear with your shoulder with your hip and your knee. Keep your elbows soft and the tops of your feet in contact with the floor. As you finish your inhale and begin to exhale, slowly lower your body down into a hover over the floor or all the way down to a prone (face down) position. My pic here isn’t that great because the rear end is high in the air and not maintaining the strong torso alignment of the plank position. At the end of your exhale and as you begin to inhale, lift through the upper back (without using your arms to push the body) while opening the chest upward into cobra pose. At the end of your inhale and as you begin to exhale, push back through the heels of your hands to return to child’s pose and then repeat the cycle.
This will build strength through the upper body, upper back, abdominal muscles, and improve breathing while also providing some mental release. I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t want to try this series unless you have one of the following contraindicated conditions:
- Chronic knee pain or problems
- Diagnosed disc disease, spondylolysis, spondylolistheses, or lumbar lordosis
- Wrist or shoulder issues
- Women who are in later stages of pregnancy (the weight of the uterus can put pressure on the abdominal muscles during some poses while other poses will put pressure on the growing fetus)
If you’re in a good routine and consider yourself fairly strong through the upper body, core, and legs, you may want to try out the full sun salutation presented here:
Here you want to begin in a standing position known as mountain pose. It’s basically a pose where you stand with your feet hip width apart, arms relaxed at your sides, and the proper alignment of ears/shoulders/hips/knees/heels from a side view. To begin, inhale and raise the arms up overhead with a slight back bend through the bra line, then exhale as you fold forward keeping the knees soft as you reach for the toes. As you inhale again choose one leg to step back into a low lunging position as the hands touch the ground if they aren’t already there. Exhale as you step back the other leg and raise the hips behind you into downward facing dog pose. Inhale as you roll the body forward into a full plank position and then exhale as you lower down into down plank or all the way to the floor. Inhale again into either cobra as described above or a more challenging variation, upward facing dog. In up dog your flat hand and tops of your feet are the only parts of the body in contact with the floor while the rest of the body floats strongly off of the floor with a slight back bend. Exhale as you roll the feet over and return to down dog. On your next inhale, step your foot forward into a lunge on the opposite side, then, exhale back into that standing forward fold. Inhale as you roll yourself up one vertebrae at a time with your knees soft and exhale into chair pose (a standard squat). As you inhale coming out of the squat, return to the raised arm mountain pose and repeat the cycle. At the end of your cycles, exhale to lower the arms back to the starting mountain position and breathe slowly to ground the body into a good standing posture.
This series builds strength in EVERY area of your body, but is not right for everyone. You can even sub in elements of the half series through the bottom part of the cycle. Here are a list of the conditions for which the sun salutation may not be right:
- Low blood pressure (for standing postures like mountain and chair due to the possibility of blood pooling in the legs)
- Glaucoma, retinal problems, hiatal hernia, sinus infection, head colds and sciatica (for the forward fold and down dog due to the pressure created by placing the head below the heart and forward fold for the stress on the hamstrings)
- Knee problems (for lunges and chair)
- Wrist and shoulder issues (for down dog, plank, down plank, and up dog, for weight placed in those areas on purpose or with incorrect positioning in down dog and for upward mountain and chair by raising the hands up)
- Women late in pregnancy due to the weight of the uterus pulling on the abdominal muscles (for down dog, plank, down plank, and up dog)
- Back injury and diagnosed disc disease (for forward fold, up dog, and the back bend of the upward mountain because of the stress placed on those areas)
- Persons with headaches or insomnia (eliminate chair from the series)
Don’t let the long list drive you off. It’s very easy to modify this series to move with how your body moves and you move at your own breathing pace. You can even stop and rest for a few breaths in a pose which feels really great to you. This is a really great way to wake up in the morning, get your body going again when you need a mental break, and also to slow yourself down and stretch out before bed.