Jump-start your day by saluting the sun!

We’ve all heard the benefits of having a morning routine. In a perfect world, you will wake up at the crack of dawn and have four hours to work out, make coffee, bullet journal, read the news, meditate, shower, clean the car, scrub the toilet, bleach the grout, vacuum the ceiling, read a book, write poetry…

But if you’re anything like me, your morning routine consists of hitting “snooze” as many times as possible before showing up to work like, “dress code? what dress code?”

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Actual footage of the author. (Credit to Universal Pictures.)

If you’re looking for a happy medium between Morning Superhero and E.T. in drag, try adding a Sun Salutation to your morning routine!

The Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) is one of the most well-known yoga sequences, and is a fantastic way to stretch sleepy muscles, open up your chest, work your core, and get healing blood flowing throughout your entire body. Moving with intention in the early morning will help you set a great foundation for the rest of the day, whether you start your day with CrossFit or intravenous coffee (or both, we don’t judge).

The best part? The sequence is fully scaleable to your ability level, and a single Sun Salutation can take as little as one minute (if you are more ambitious, you can practice a yoga mala of 108 Sun Salutations!).

Beyond the ability to scale, there are myriad similarities between CrossFit and yoga. Both are a practice, a journey, built on community engagement. Both require balance, strength, and mobility. Both are moving meditations (if you don’t think CrossFit requires meditation, try doing a marathon row!) and require both focus AND a clear mind. Yoga and CrossFit are perfect complements, and the Sun Salutation is a perfect beginning sequence.

For added benefit, match breath to movement for each of these poses, and practice Ujjayi Pranayama: the Breath of Victory. To do this, pretend that you are fogging up a mirror in front of your mouth, but then close your mouth. Keep that same breath pattern, breathing slowly in and out through your nose, with a constricted throat.

STEPS:

(1) Start in Extended Child’s Pose (Utthita Balasana). Touch your big toes together, extend your arms in front of you, touch your forehead to the ground, and sink your butt toward your heels. Sit here for several deep breaths.

(2) On an inhale, come forward into tabletop pose. Your shoulders should be directly over your wrists, and your hips over your knees, with a neutral spine. Stay here for a few breaths.

(3) On an inhale, open up your chest into Cow Pose (Bitilasana). Fill up your stomach, lungs, and throat with breath, while stretching your front line.

(4) Exhale into Cat Pose (Marjaryasana). Arc your back, engage your abs, and force all of the air out of your body. Repeat Cat and Cow as many times as you like.

(5) Inhale to a neutral spine. Exhale into Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). The key here is NOT to force your heels to the ground! Instead, your goal is to have a straight and strong back in a triangle position (not an arc!). Pedal your feet to loosen up your ankles, and don’t worry if you can’t straighten your legs.

(6) Look forward on an inhale, and exhale into Forward Fold (Uttanasana). Keep your legs bent if necessary – the key here is to feel a gentle stretch through your hamstrings and lower back.

(6) Inhale, and slowly rise to Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Keep your feet together or just slightly apart, push all four corners of your feet into the ground, and flex your legs, abs, and chest to make your body straight and strong. Keep your shoulders lowered away from your ears, and raise your arms above your head with your pinkies turned in.

(7) Exhale into Forward Fold (Uttanasana).

(8) Take a deep inhale into Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana).  For this pose, your back should be straight and strong, like you’re at the bottom of a Romanian Deadlift. You can place your hands on your thighs or below your knees for added leverage to keep your back straight.

(9) Exhale with control through Chaturanga Dandasana. Place your hands on the ground and step back into a plank pose. Lean slightly forward so your shoulders are directly over your wrists, pin your externally-rotated elbows to your sides, and lower into a half-pushup. This is considered the most physically challenging part of the Sun Salutation, and if it is too difficult, feel free to drop to your knees or skip the Chaturanga entirely and move directly from plank pose into Downward Facing Dog, skipping the next step.

(10) Inhale into Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). Flip your feet over so the tops of your feet press into the ground, and press upward. Unless you have large legs, the only points of contact with the ground should be the top of your feet and the palms of your hands.

(11) Exhale into Downward Facing Dog.

Congratulations, you’ve just completed a Sun Salutation! When you become familiar with this sequences, feel free to add to it as you want – side stretches, back stretches, and core stretches.

If you’re skeptical of the benefits of a Sun Salutation, I challenge you to try five of them every single morning for the next two weeks. You will notice an immediate difference in how your body feels as you go about your morning, and with regular practice, you will also notice a difference in your mental state.

Happy Salutations!

(Bonus picture: Duck the Dog helping with lighting tests!)

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