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

Sun Salutation is one of the most widely known pose sequences in yoga.

Historically, it was a part of Ashtanga Vinyasa practice, performed at the start of the practice to warm up the body. Ashtanga is designed as a morning practice, hence the name of the sequence: these poses are performed facing East, saluting the Sun as it rises.

Traditional Ashtanga practice recognizes two forms of Sun SalutationsSurya Namaskara A and Surya Namaskara B.

However, as the Sun Salutation sequence grew more popular within other styles of yoga, it evolved to have more variations. Surya Namaskara C incorporates some of the elements of Sun Salutations A and B while bringing new poses into the mix.

Sun Salutation C consists of 14 poses from start to finish. What sets it apart is that this sequence is asymmetrical, which means it has to be performed in multiples of two to incorporate both sides evenly. A breath is assigned to each transition to enhance or deepen the poses.

Step By Step Instructions for Sun Salutation A

1. Samasthiti or Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Steady breaths while finding the groove

The first thing to do before starting any Sun Salutation sequence is to get grounded on your mat. Stand at the front of your mat with your feet firmly planted. Perform a “body scan”, engaging the muscles in the arches of the feet, thighs, hips, glutes, back, core, and shoulders. Keep the spine neutral and long.

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. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

Inhale

Raise your arms to the sky and bring the palms together. Open your heart forward and lift the gaze to the base of your thumbs. If you wish, add a gentle backbend in the thoracic spine.

Beginners Tip: If you have limited shoulder mobility, avoid overcompensating with your spine. Keep the core and glutes engaged to protect your lower back. Keep your gaze neutral.

3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Exhale

Soften the knees and fold at the hip. Soften the upper body until your torso comes in contact with your legs. Relax your neck. Bring your hands to the floor or hug the back of your legs.

Beginners Tip: Avoid overstretching your hamstrings. The goal in Uttanasana is to bring the torso close to the legs, NOT to stretch the back of the legs. 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, as you send the hips back to remain in balance.

4. Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)

Inhale

Bring your fingertips to the mat slightly in front of you. Lift the torso halfway up, maintaining the fold at the hip. Elongate your spine, reaching forward through the crown of your head. The body should resemble the number seven with the torso parallel to the ground.

Beginners Tip: Instead of reaching down to the floor, place your palms on your shins and straighten your arms to assist the lift. If you feel pain in your hamstrings, keep a slight bend in the knees.

5. Low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)

Exhale

Step your right foot back, lower the knee and untuck the toes. With the front knee positioned above the ankle, sink the hips forward. Raise your arms overhead and bring the palms together. Open your heart forward, gently arching your back. Lift your chin, along with shifting the gaze upwards.

Beginners Tip: How deep you make the lunge is up to you. If it’s too intense, shift the back knee a little closer to the front and don’t sink the hips as far. You also have the option to keep your gaze directed forward.

6. Plank Pose (Phalakasana)

Inhale

Plant your palms on the ground, framing the front foot. Lift the back knee and step the front foot back. Engage your core, back, and glutes to make your whole body rigid and strong. Float your torso parallel to the floor.

Beginners Tip: If Plank Pose is too harsh on your wrists or shoulders, bring your knees to the ground to create an extra point of contact.

7. Eight-Limb Pose (Ashtangasana)

Exhale

This pose is sometimes cued as “knees-chest-chin”. The name of the pose refers to the eight points of contact between the body and the floor: two feet, two knees, two hands, chest, and chin. From Plank Pose, soften the knees to the floor. Tuck your elbows towards your ribcage, and lower your chest to the floor. Carefully rest your chin on the ground.

Beginners Tip: Although some teachers use this pose as the alternative to Chaturanga, it is no less tricky. If it’s difficult to coordinate or simply too intense, come down to the prone position instead.

8. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Inhale

From Ashtangasana, pull on your fingertips, bringing your chest up and forward. Lower the hips to the ground, straighten the legs and engage your glutes and back muscles. Press your way upwards, creating an even curve in your spine.

Beginners Tip: The simplest way to adapt this asana is to keep your elbows bent and tucked in, opting instead for “baby” Cobra.

9. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Exhale

Tuck your toes under, and start pushing your weight up. Lift the hips back and extend your spine to find the iconic “inverted V” shape. Relax your neck, letting your head hang. Gaze towards the back of your mat.

Beginners Tip: In a classic Downward Facing Dog shape, the legs are perfectly straight, and the heels touch the ground. However, not everyone’s body is capable of this shape (at least not at first). 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.

10. Low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)

Inhale

From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward, lower the left knee and untuck the toes. Bend the front knee to 90 degrees and sink your hips forward. Raise your arms and gently arch your back. Direct your gaze upwards.

Beginners Tip: It is up to you how deep you make the lunge. If it’s too intense, shift the back knee a little closer to the front and don’t sink the hips as far. You also have the option to keep your gaze directed forward.

11. Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)

Inhale

From Low Lunge, lift your back knee and step your foot to the front as you breathe out. Taking a breath in, lengthen the spine forward. Keep your fingers in contact with 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.

12. Standing Foward Bend (Uttanasana)

Exhale

Release the tension in your torso and soften the upper body down into a fold. Relax the neck and shoulders, and choose an appropriate hand position (on the floor or wrapped around the legs).

Beginners Tip: Don’t forget to fold at the hip!

13. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

Inhale

Stiffen the muscles in your back and lift yourself into an upright standing position. Raise your arms to the sky and bring the palms together. Open our chest and lift the gaze up. If you wish, add a gentle backbend in the thoracic spine.

Beginners Tip: Keep the core and glutes engaged to protect your lower back. Keep your gaze neutral.

14. Samasthiti or Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Exhale

Bring your arms back down, either side of your hips. Perform another body scan and re-establish the connection between your body and mind.

Beginners Tip: You may take a few breaths before continuing with Surya Namaskara C.

Once you’ve performed one round of Sun Salutation C, it must be performed again. This time around, step your left foot back in the first Low Lunge Pose and step your left foot forward the second time you perform Low Lunge. Depending on the intention, the sequence can be performed just once on each side or in multiples of two.

Common Mistakes

To some people, Surya Namaskara C can come across as “easier” than Sun Salutations A and B. However, just because it doesn’t include poses such as Dandasana or Chair Pose doesn’t mean this sequence is not challenging. Each yoga pose has a purpose, and it is important to remember that the quality of your practice is not tied to the complexity of postures. Instead, the focus is on activating the entire body and connecting with your breath.

Safety Precautions

  • If your yoga practice includes many repetitions of Sun Salutations, watch out for any symptoms of injury. If you feel pain or discomfort in a particular body part every time you perform part of the Surya Namaskara, it’s best to modify the sequence.
  • If you are pregnant or suffer from acute or chronic conditions that could impact your practice, make sure your physician clears you and be ready to significantly modify the sequence to suit your body.
  • Finally, protect your spine. Surya Namaskara C features more backbends than variations A and B, so perform them safely.

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