The Summer Solstice is on June 21. As the longest day of the year, the solstice is the perfect time to get in that workout you’ve been putting off. Conveniently, June 21 also marks National Yoga Day. In honor of the holiday, Caren Paskel, owner of EnSoul Yoga in Detroit and Ferndale, and Jennifer Perry, owner of 359 Yoga in Wyandotte, share some of their favorite Sun Salutation postures.
Sun Salutations, also known by the Sanskrit name Surya Namaskar, are a series of asana yoga poses meant to awaken the body and send gratitude to the sunshine. Namaskar stems from the word “names,” which means “to bow to” or “to adore.” Perform each pose below on its own or work them into your own yoga flow — and don’t forget to inhale and exhale as you move between each position. For more on each studio, visit ensoulyoga.com and 359yoga.com.
Standing Mountain and Upward Salute
These poses are done standing up with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands in front of your heart in a prayer position. Then, circle your arms overhead, gently bending backward. Shown by Paskel, this sun salutation pose is all about showing gratitude to the Earth. “For Michiganders such as myself, summer is a short and sacred time of warmth and sunshine. We come out of hibernation and expose ourselves,” Paskel says. “The sun represents the soul or source of light within us all.”
Forward fold is an integral part of the sun salutation yoga flow. This pose warms up the arms, shoulders, upper back, core, hamstrings, and knees. Also known as Uttanasana, this pose encourages the loosening of tension in any of these body parts. Flow through this pose into another sun salutation position or take a few breaths and allow yourself to relax. According to Paskel, doing yoga in the summer heat allows yogis to truly challenge themselves.
Upward Facing Dog
Demonstrated by an instructor at Perry’s 359 Yoga studio, Upward Facing Dog is meant to strengthen the spine, arms, and wrists. To get into the pose, simply lower yourself whole body to the ground so your face is flat on the mat. Then position your hands near your ribs and push up through your hands, straightening your arms. Be sure to align your shoulders over your wrists to protect your joints. Besides it’s strengthening properties, this pose is a heart-opener.
Downward dog, performed here by another instructor at 359 Yoga , is a staple in any yoga practice. There are several ways to get into the position, but one simple way is to start on your hands and knees in Table pose then to push your arms and legs up and back. It’s OK if your knees aren’t completely straight. For correct form, keep fingers spread wide and push your heart back toward your legs while keeping your arms stretched out in front of you. Relax your head and look between your legs. At 359 Yoga, Perry says Sun Salutations are all about keeping the body energized. This pose strengthens the arms and shoulders while toning the core and waist and providing a great stretch for your legs.
High Lunge, demonstrated by Paskel, is simple to perform. Just point your feet forward and lunge through your front leg. Make sure that your front knee does not pass your ankle. Press your back heel into the ground for a deeper stretch. The pose is a variation of Crescent pose, and it engages muscles all throughout the body, from the legs to the core.
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