What in the body needs to strengthen and lengthen for the Sun Salutation?
To follow up on my workshop on sequencing, here are some things to take into consideration when setting up your students or yourself for the sun salutation. I’m not saying you have to warm up all of these every class but you can pick and choose from them, also from what you see that your students need or if they express that they feel pain anywhere. I have walked through the body this time since there are so many poses in the salutation. I haven’t included Surya B.
Component parts for Sun Salutation
Wrists, mobilize and strengthen and palms pressing down evenly (down dog, plank, cobra, updog)
Shoulders, mobilize, strengthen and stabilize (down dog, plank, cobra, updog, press up and lower to belly)
Shoulder flexion, without moving other joints (down dog and urdhva hastasana) this requires strength and access to your back body and core.
Fill up between shoulder blades (protraction) (plank, down dog, chaturanga, lower and lift to belly)
Widening across shoulder heads evenly front and back (all poses and especially cobra and chaturanga) of course you can play with other movements as well like retracting the shoulderblades in salabhasana. Just know why you are doing it.
Upper back, chest, mobilize and strengthen all four sides (urdhva hastasana, cobra, updog, ardha uttanasana)
Core, stabilize and strengthen all four sides (urdhva hastasana, down dog, cobra, plank, ardha uttanasana)
Create length and space in spine (all poses of sun salutation)
Hipflexors open, (updog, lunge (hatha or moon salutation), uttanasana
Hipflexors strengthen (to step forward)
Pelvis placement in the different positions, explore these.
Leg work, lift thru thighs, release thighs back and length between buttock and back ribs (all poses of sun salutation)
Hamstrings and calves, open and activate hamstrings to avoid overstretching. (uttanasana, down dog)
Press calves to shins to avoid hyperextending in knees if you do that (tadasana, uttanasana) and lift through thighs.
Ankles, mobilize (down dog, updog, cobra)
Other things to consider
Consider looking at your students in the salutations to see what component parts they seem to need the most.
Consider lowering (slowly with control landing in one piece) from plank all the way to belly for backbends to build strength in shoulders instead on doing chaturanga to updog) you will be surprised how many people can’t manage this. Also with the knees down.
Consider pressing up in one piece to knees or plank to build strength in shoulders.
On the subject of lowering and pressing up, remember that most people need to strengthen and stabilize their shoulders, this is a very mobile joint and easy to injure. Specially the glenohumerus joint but also consider all the muscles around the shoulder blade. It’s not a coincidence that many physio therapy exercises include strengthening the backside of the body, how many of us have heard that we need to strengthen our triceps, lats etc? People are weak here so use the salutation to help your students strengthen this area. It’s also a great way to prepare for chaturanga.
I made a video on this recently https://www.instagram.com/p/BtVu75iht1N/
Consider different placements for arms, shoulders and wrists in Down dog for different people and different needs. Where can they create space around the neck and stability around the shoulders? It’s probably not by hanging back in the shoulders or pointing the fingers inwards.
Someone who is stiff might benefit from having the fingers point out more and someone who is hyperextending their elbows might NOT benefit from the instruction of firming the arms towards each other, etc… you might want to explain why you are adjusting their arms also so they understand.
Consider to not mess with their arms at all if you don’t know what you are doing!
Consider breaking down updog and giving modifications and only teaching it to regular students who can really work their entire body in cobra pose first. Or consider simply not doing updog at all and choose from all the other wonderful backbends from the belly like cobra, salabhasana variations or an active dhanurasana without grabbing the feet.
Consider adding salabhasana (reaching the arms back or clasping) also for the simple reason that most people don’t move their arms behind the body all day! their shoulders are constantly in flexion.
I can go on and on but also consider breaking down all of poses for a sun salutation seperately, specially for beginners.
Remember that the salutation only moves in the sagittal plane so it will be nice for them to move in the other planes in the rest of the class or add stuff in the salutation like a sidebend or twist, hip opener etc…