How to Do Sun Salutation B Sequence in Yoga (Surya Namaskara B)

A Sun Salutation sequence is a set of yoga poses that flow almost seamlessly one into the next, each movement synchronized with the breath.

Sun Salutations are a great way to warm up the entire body through movement and rhythmical breathing, which is why it takes place at the start of the practice.

Did You Know…
The Sanskrit name of the sequence, Surya Namaskara, can be translated as greeting or saluting the Sun, which alludes to the traditional Ashtanga practice performed first thing in the morning facing the East.

In Ashtanga primary series, there are two “versions” of Sun Salutations, performed one after the other: Surya Namaskara A and Surya Namaskara B.

Surya Namaskara B is the more complex sequence consisting of 19 poses from start to finish, with some repetition. The sequence starts and ends with the same pose, almost like an homage to the Solar cycle. The breath complements the movement, with inhales coinciding with lifting and opening, and exhales happen during downwards moving and “closed” poses.

Step By Step Instructions for Sun Salutation A

1. Samasthiti or Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Steady breaths while finding the groove

Before you start the sequence, it’s important to get established on your mat. Surya Namaskara A begins in Mountain Pose, with the practitioner’s feet firmly grounded near the front of the yoga mat. Although Samasthiti looks simple, a lot of work is happening below the surface. One must “activate” the body by engaging the muscles in the arches of the feet, thighs, hips, glutes, back, core, and shoulders.

Beginners Tip: To ground your feet, try lifting the toes off the ground to experience the muscle engagement in the foot arches. Hold on to that feeling as you lower the toes back down.

2. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Inhale

Engage the core and tuck the tailbone slightly as you lower the hips back. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground as if you were sitting in an invisible chair. Allow the weight to shift into the heels. Extend your torso diagonally forward, and raise your arms overhead. Lift the gaze to the space between the palms.

Beginners Tip: Avoid arching your lower back. To maintain balance and enjoy the benefits of Chair Pose, you want to keep the spine fairly straight.

3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Exhale

Soften the knees as you fold in half. Bring your belly in contact with your thighs. Allow the upper back to soften and round. Relax your neck. Hands may come in contact with the ground, or you can wrap the arms around the back of the legs.

Beginners Tip: Many people think that the main focus in Uttanasana is to stretch the back of the legs. As a result, other aspects of this asana are often neglected, and the hamstrings are overstretched. Instead, try focusing on bringing the belly close to your thighs and bowing your head forward. The knees can be bent as generously as is required. The fold should originate from the hip.

4. Half Lift (Ardha Uttanasana)

Inhale

Plant your fingertips on the mat slightly ahead of you. Keeping the fold at the hip, raise your head and chest, elongating the entire spine forward. The body should resemble the number seven in shape.

Beginners Tip: If it is already difficult enough to reach the floor, shift the position of your hands. Plant the palms on your shins, with the base of the palm just under the knee. This will also allow you to push your weight up and forward through straight arms. If you feel pain in your hamstrings, keep a slight bend in the knees.

5. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)

Exhale

From the previous pose, plant the palms firmly on the floor. Step back or hop your feet towards the back of the mat. This transition is tricky, so some practitioners insert Plank Pose between Half Lift and Chaturanga. Keeping the body stiff and engaged, bend the elbows at 90 degrees, bringing the torso parallel to the ground. Press the elbows towards your ribs, aligning the elbow joint above the wrist.

Beginners Tip: Chaturanga Dandasana can take a long time to master, especially if your goal is to practice safely. One way to modify this pose is to add an extra point of contact by lowering the knees to the ground. Alternatively, you can either perform a substitute pose (such as Plank or Knees-Chest-Chin) or come into the prone position after hopping back.

6. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Inhale

From Chaturanga Dandasana, untuck the toes, pressing the tops of the feet into the ground. Pushing the weight through the palms, straighten the arms, and open the heart forward. Pull the shoulders away from the ears. This should create a curve in the spine, so keep the core and glutes engaged to protect your lower back. With the body floating, the only parts of your body touching the floor should be your hands and feet.

Beginners Tip: Not engaging the right muscles can lead to injury. It’s best to take it slow. The alternative to Upward-Facing Dog is Cobra Pose. The latter is performed with the thighs, hips, and in some cases, stomach on the floor. Cobra Pose can also be modified if too harsh on the spine. Try keeping the elbows bent and tucked into the ribcage, focusing instead on opening the chest and lifting the crown of the head.

7. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Exhale

Flip your toes once again to get established on the balls of your feet. Push the hips back and find the iconic “inverted V” shape. Relax your neck, letting the head hang freely, and bring the gaze towards the back of your mat and beyond.

Beginners Tip: In a classic Downward Dog shape, the legs are perfectly straight, and the heels touch the ground. However, not everyone’s body is capable of this shape (at the very least, not right away). Feel free to soften the knees and/or lift the heels off the floor. Focus on pushing through the palms and lengthening through the spine.

8. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) – Right Side

Inhale

Step your right foot forward, landing it next to your right hand. Bend your right knee and spin the left foot to land the back heel. Lift your torso, turning the hips, chest, and shoulders towards the front of the mat. Raise your arms overhead and direct your gaze just over the horizon line.

Beginners Tip: If balance is an issue, position your feet closer to their respective mat edges. Keep your core active and avoid the anterior tilt in the pelvis.

9. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)

Exhale

From the previous pose, plant the palms firmly on the floor, framing your right foot. Step back or hop your feet towards the back of the mat. Keeping the body stiff and engaged, bend the elbows at 90 degrees, bringing the torso parallel to the ground. Press the elbows towards your ribs, aligning the elbow joint above the wrist.

Beginners Tip: To help make the transition smoother, you can add Plank Pose before lowering into Four-Limbed Staff Pose. You can also modify or substitute Chaturanga Dandasana with Ashtangasana or prone position. 

10. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Inhale

From Chaturanga Dandasana, untuck the toes, pressing the tops of the feet into the ground. Pushing the weight through the palms, straighten the arms, and open the heart forward. Pull the shoulders away from the ears. This should create a curve in the spine, so keep the core and glutes engaged to protect your lower back. With the body floating, the only parts of your body touching the floor should be your hands and feet.

Beginners Tip: Feel free to perform a variation of Cobra Pose instead.

11. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Exhale

Flip your toes and raise your hips to the sky. Bring your Drishti towards the back of your mat and beyond.

Beginners Tip: Keep prioritizing the elongation of the spine. You may straighten the legs a touch further in the second Down Dog but don’t feel like you have to.

12. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) – Left Side

Inhale

Step your left foot forward, landing it next to your left hand. Bend your left knee and spin the right foot to land the back heel. Lift your torso, turning the hips, chest, and shoulders towards the front of the mat. Raise your arms overhead and direct your gaze just over the horizon line.

Beginners Tip: If balance is an issue, position your feet closer to their respective mat edges. Keep your core active and avoid the anterior tilt in the pelvis.

13. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)

Exhale

Once again, plant the palms firmly on the floor, framing your left foot. Step back or hop your feet towards the back of the mat. Keeping the body stiff and engaged, bend the elbows at 90 degrees, bringing the torso parallel to the ground. Press the elbows towards your ribs, aligning the elbow joint above the wrist.

Beginners Tip: To help make the transition smoother, you can add Plank Pose before lowering into Four-Limbed Staff Pose. You can also modify or substitute Chaturanga Dandasana with Ashtangasana or prone position. 

14. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Inhale

From Chaturanga Dandasana, untuck the toes, pressing the tops of the feet into the ground. Pushing the weight through the palms, straighten the arms, and open the heart forward. Pull the shoulders away from the ears. This should create a curve in the spine, so keep the core and glutes engaged to protect your lower back. With the body floating, the only parts of your body touching the floor should be your hands and feet.

Beginners Tip: Feel free to perform a variation of Cobra Pose instead. If you have your elbows bent, you may push your arms in a straight position, as long as you can take care not to sink into the shoulders.

15. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Exhale

Flip your toes and raise your hips to the sky. Bring your Drishti towards the back of your mat and beyond.

Beginners Tip: If your wrists are tired at this point, you may perform Tabletop instead.

16. Half Lift (Ardha Uttanasana)

Inhale

From Downward Facing Dog, soften the knees and turn the gaze forward. Hop or step towards the front of the mat, taking a breath in and lengthening the spine parallel to the floor.

Beginners Tip: You can move forward a bit slower, gradually stepping the feet towards the front. As you lift the torso, you may press your palms into the shins.

17. Standing Foward Bend (Uttanasana)

Exhale

Release the tension in your torso and allow the upper body to spill across the front of your legs. Soften the neck and shoulders, and choose an appropriate hand position (on the floor or wrapped around the legs).

Beginners Tip: Don’t forget that you’re allowed to bend your knees!

18. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Inhale

From the Standing Forward Bend, bend the knees a little further and shift the weight into the heels. Stiffen your back muscles and lift the torso diagonally forward. Reach your arms in the same direction as the spine. Keep your thighs parallel to the ground.

Beginners Tip: If lifting the arms is challenging, especially after the effort you’ve already expended with your upper body, you may bring your palms to Prayer Mudra at the heart center instead.

19. Samasthiti or Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Exhale

Return your arms to be positioned on either side of your hips. Re-establish the connection with the ground and realign your spine.

Beginners Tip: Usually, the sequence is repeated immediately, with the finishing Samasthiti merging into the start of the Sun Salutation sequence. However, you may take a short break before repeating Surya Namaskara A.

In a traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa practice, Sun Salutation B follows immediately after Sun Salutation A. The practitioner is expected to perform five repetitions of Surya Namaskara B.

Related: What Is the Difference Between Sun Salutation A and B?

However, other types of practice may shorten or increase the number of repetitions depending on the goal that they are trying to achieve.

Common Mistakes

Sun Salutation B is fast-paced and quite complex. It’s important to remember to breathe because the breaths are cued strategically to enhance each pose and transition.

Safety Precautions

  • The repetitive nature of Surya Namaskara B (as well as other Sun Salutations) can cause an injury, especially if a certain body part is already vulnerable.
  • If you have an injury or condition that affects you physically, speak to your yoga teacher to help you modify your Surya Namaskara B practice.
  • If you are pregnant, make sure your physician clears you for the practice and be ready to significantly modify the sequence to suit your changing body.

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