Sometimes I like to switch up standard yoga practices -- like Sun Salutations -- to add a little spice to my practice, change things up for my body, and/or focus on opening a certain part of my body. Lately I've been focusing on my hips and have incorporated a lot of squats into my practice. There's just something about going from a squat to a standing position and back down again a number of times that juices my body up and makes me feel both strong and loose.
Adding squats into a Sun Salutation can be fun...and can add a bit of a challenge. Here's my current Squatting Sun Salutation practice:
- Start standing. Bring arms up from the sides to overhead position on inhale and exhale arms back down to the side. Repeat 3-6 times (depends upon how I'm feeling the morning I practice). Repeat the same movement while bringing the arms up from the front. This is actually a backbend, so I focus on lengthening the arms and expanding the chest while bending back. I typically do this arm movement 6-9 rounds because I like the chest opening/back stretch.
- Inhale the arms up (from either the side or the front) and come down into standing forward bend.
- With hands on the ground, gently widen the legs by stepping each foot out a step or two and come into a squat, bringing the hands together in prayer. Return hands to ground and straighten legs into standing forward bend. Inhale arms up, coming to stand and exhale arms down to sides. Repeat the last two steps 3-6 times.
- From standing, inhale the arms up from the sides, coming to prayer position at top of inhale and exhale palms down the body coming into a squat. Stay in squat 3-6 breaths and then inhale up to standing. Repeat 3-6 times. After 3-6 times of this, you can add in a challenge by coming into Crow Pose from the squat. Basically, you do the same sequence but add in Crow pose. This is dependent upon how I'm feeling on the day and whether or not I want to work strength and balance a bit more or am desiring an extra challenge.
- From standing, repeat the above step but from squat, put the palms down on the floor and come into plank (sometimes I like to step each foot back slowly and gently and come into Sphinx Pose instead of plank). After holding plank a breath or two, come into Downward Dog.
- From Downward Dog, step one foot up to the front of your mat knee bent while resting the other leg on the floor -- Runner's Stretch or Lizard Pose (this is a bit of a deeper stretch). Hold for 3-6 breaths, go back into Downward Dog and repeat with other leg. Come back into Downward Dog after both sides have been stretched.
- From Downward Dog, slowly walk the feet up to the hands and come back down into a squat with hands in prayer position. Hold for 3-6 breaths.
- On an inhale bring prayer hands up to the sky while coming to standing position. Exhale hands to heart. Pause for 3-6 breaths.
- Go through the sequence as many times as feels good. For extra hip opening, Pigeon Pose can be done instead of Runner's Stretch/Lizard Pose.
If you'd like something simpler, check out this video:
If you sit a lot (most folks) or if you have low back pain or tight hips, give this a try. If you find your knees are getting strained, try placing a rolled up yoga mat or thick folded towel beneath your heels. I've found this practice to be a nice variation that keeps me feeling both challenged and open. I hope it does the same for you.