Start each morning with this simple sun salutation to energize your body and mind.
Sun salutations, or surya namaskar in Sanskrit, are traditionally performed to express gratitude to the sun. Today, they continue to be used for health, energy, and longevity. The sun salutation consists of different yoga poses performed in consecutive order. Each pose compliments the next as a way to warm up and strengthen the entire body.
Sun salutations can be done anywhere, take very little time, and have extensive benefits for the body and mind. Performing this simple routine can improve blood circulation, increase muscle strength, boost cardiovascular health, and decrease stress. Studies show that doing sun sals can also help improve the endocrine, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems. (1, 2, 3, 4)
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For this simple sequence, perform each of these poses consecutively and then repeat the sequence 3-5 times. Remember to breathe slowly in and out through your nose the entire time.
Tip: Once you become familiar with this routine, you can also do one breath per pose, moving quickly through your sun salutations.
How to Do a Morning Sun Salutation
Mountain Pose | 5 breaths
This pose prepares the body for movement and teaches you to stand tall with your muscles engaged.
- Stand up at the top of your yoga mat with your feet hip-width distance apart. Extend your arms down alongside your body with your palms facing forward. Engage your abs by drawing your navel and ribs up and inward.
- Spread your toes wide and lift up through the arches of your feet.
- Roll your shoulders back and down, lengthening your entire spine. Hold for five deep breaths in and out of your nose. Try to create an oceanic sound with your exhales to warm up your lungs.
Upward Salute | 5 breaths
The upward salute teaches proper shoulder and pelvis posture.
- From mountain pose, reach your arms up above your head. Turn your pinkies inward and relax your shoulders down and away from your ears.
- Draw your navel in and tilt your tailbone downwards.
- Gaze up toward the sky while keeping your neck straight. Hold for five audible breaths.
Standing Forward Fold | 5 breaths
This pose relieves morning stiffness by getting your circulation flowing while releasing tension through the hips, hamstrings, spine, and lower back.
- From the upward salute, bring your hands to heart center.
- Fold forward with a flat back, releasing your hands to the ground. Bend your knees as much as you need.
- Shift your weight towards the balls of your feet and let your head and shoulders relax. Hold for five breaths.
Halfway Lift | 3 breaths
The halfway lift engages your abs and lengthens the hamstrings and glutes.
- From your forward fold, engage your abs and inhale to lift your chest up halfway, letting your fingers rest on your shins.
- Lengthen your spine by reaching your heart forward and your tailbone back. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and hold for three breaths.
- On an exhale, release back to a forward fold.
Plank | 5 breaths
Plank pose gets the heart pumping as it strengthens the core, shoulders, arms, and legs.
- From your forward fold, place your hands down on the mat and step both feet back to come into a push-up position.
- Line up your wrists underneath your shoulders and spread your fingers wide. You can bring your knees to the mat if this is too intense.
- Stay here for five breaths.
Chaturanga (Modified) | 3 breaths
This pose strengthens the core, shoulders, and triceps.
- From plank pose, shift your shoulders forward so that they are slightly in front of your wrists.
- Bring your knees to the ground if they aren’t there already. Then, exhale to lower yourself halfway down. Keep your elbows bent, hugging into the sides of your body.
- Hold for three breaths.
Cobra | 5 breaths
This pose strengthens the muscles along the spine and warms up the core.
- From chaturanga, lower yourself all the way down so you’re lying on your belly.
- Press firmly into your palms to lift your chest up. You should feel a nice stretch through your belly, chest, and hip flexors.
- Relax your shoulders away from your ears and hold for five breaths.
Down Dog | 5 breaths
Shifting into downward facing dog pose gets your circulation flowing, opens up your lats, hamstrings, hips, and calves, and strengthens your shoulders and arms.
- From your cobra position, tuck your toes under and lift your hips up towards the sky, coming into an upside-down V-shape. Spread your fingers wide and press down evenly through your hands.
- Engage your abs and lift your tailbone up. If you feel your back is rounding, bend your knees enough to straighten your spine.
- Hold for five slow breaths, then look forward and step your feet to the top of your mat.
- Stand up with a flat back and return to mountain pose.
(Your Next Workout: 10 Morning Stretches You Can Do in Bed)