Summer Salutations: Poses to Honor the Sun and Stay Cool

woman doing yoga

Warmer days make for lazy yogis. Whether you’re vacationing or working through the season, sometimes a regular yoga practice falls by the wayside in the summer months.

As you move into the final months of the summer season, you should honor the light and life-giving force of the sun. Egyptians, Indians, Romans, Greeks, Aztecs, and cultures on every continent have worshiped the sun for thousands of years. Yogis around the world practice Sun Salutations to stretch, strengthen, and promote flexibility in the body. The tradition of saluting the sun also invites practitioners to cultivate a sense of gratitude for the sun, life, their own breath and body, and all that is. Whether you practice Vinyasa flow regularly or are in need of a mid-summer pickup, this series of poses offers something for everyone.

Below you’ll find three sequences, all variations of traditional Surya Namaskars, dedicated to finding fluidity and peace in your body and mind. Sun Salutations are designed to warm the body, especially as the movements are coordinated with vigorous breath. The following sequences, however, offer variations that keep you closer to the earth and feature longer forward folds intended to keep the body cooler and the mind at ease.

1. Modified Surya Namaskar (A)

Enjoy this sequence to ease back into your practice, move the spine slowly, and honor the earth as well as the sun.

  • Begin standing with feet hips width apart (Tadasana). Enjoy a few breaths to center, ground, and cultivate an intention.
  • Inhale and reach your arms up overhead (Urdva Hastasana).
  • Exhale and fold forward over your legs. Allow your arms and head to hang heavy (Uttanasana).
  • Inhale and lift up halfway to a long, strong spine. Bring your hands to your shins, the earth, or blocks for support (Ardha Uttanasana).
  • Exhale, fold forward, and step back to Plank Pose (Phalankasana).
  • Inhale and bring your knees to the earth (modified Plank Pose).
  • Exhale, bend your elbows, and lower your chest and chin to the ground (Ashtanga Namaskara).
  • Inhale and slide through onto your belly to a low chest opener (Bhujangasana).
  • Exhale, then push back to hands and knees and all the way back to Child’s Pose (Balasana).
  • Rest in Child’s Pose for three deep breaths.
  • Push up to your hands and knees, tuck your toes under, and lift your hips high for Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
  • Take several steps forward to bring your feet to your hands (Uttanasana).
  • Inhale and lift up halfway to a long, strong spine. Bring your hands to your shins, the earth, or blocks for support (Ardha Uttanasana).
  • Exhale and fold forward over your legs. Allow your arms and head to hang heavy (Uttanasana).
  • Inhale and roll yourself up to standing. Allow your head and neck to be the last things to come up. Reach your arms up over head (Urdva Hastasana).
  • Exhale and bring your hands together at heart center (Tadanasa).
  • Pause for a few moments to connect with your breath and reaffirm your intention.
  • Repeat this sequence three to 10 times, pausing between each salutation to assess how you’re feeling and notice any subtle shifts in your energy.

2. Sun Salutation Variation

Enjoy this practice to open and stretch your hips, and refresh your energy.

  • Begin standing with feet hips width apart (Tadasana). Enjoy a few breaths to center, ground, and cultivate an intention.
  • Inhale and reach your arms up and overhead (Urdva Hastasana).
  • Exhale, bend your elbows into “Cactus Arms,” and open your chest. Lean back any amount while keeping your gaze forward.
  • Inhale, stand tall and re-extend your arms (Urdva Hastasana).
  • Exhale and fold forward over your legs. Allow your arms and head to hang heavy (Uttanasana).
  • Inhale and lift up halfway to a long, strong spine. Bring your hands to your shins, the earth, or blocks for support (Ardha Uttanasana).
  • Exhale, fold forward, and bend your knees. Plant your palms on the ground next to your feet and step your right foot back to the back of your mat. Lower down to your back knee and keep your back toes curled under. Bring padding under that knee with a blanket if you like.
  • Inhale and reach your arms up alongside your ears (Anjaneyasana).
  • Exhale, bend your elbows into “Cactus Arms,” and open your chest. Lean back any amount while keeping your gaze forward and legs steady.
  • Inhale and re-extend your arms (Anjaneyasana).
  • Exhale, place your palms down to frame your front foot, and step back to Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
  • Inhale and stretch your right leg up and back behind you (Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana).
  • Exhale, step your right foot forward between your hands. Lower down to your back knee and keep your back toes curled under. Bring padding under that knee with a blanket if you like.
  • Inhale and reach your arms up alongside your ears (Anjaneyasana).
  • Exhale, bend your elbows into “Cactus Arms,” and open your chest. Lean back any amount while keeping your gaze forward and legs steady.
  • Inhale and re-extend your arms (Anjaneyasana).
  • Exhale, place your palms down to frame your front foot, and step forward to bring your feet to the front of your mat.
  • Inhale and lift up halfway to a long, strong spine. Bring your hands to your shins, the earth, or blocks for support (Ardha Uttanasana).
  • Exhale and fold forward over your legs. Allow your arms and head to hang heavy (Uttanasana).
  • Inhale, reach your arms out to the sides, and stand up with a long back through “Reverse Swan Dive.” Reach your arms up over head (Urdva Hastasana).
  • Exhale, bend your elbows into “Cactus Arms,” and open your chest. Lean back any amount while keeping your gaze forward.
  • Inhale, stand tall, and re-extend your arms (Urdva Hastasana).
  • Exhale and bring your hands together at heart center (Tadanasa).
  • Pause for a few moments to connect with your breath and reaffirm your intention.
  • Repeat the sequence from the beginning, this time begin by stepping the left foot back and finish by stepping the left foot forward from Downward-Facing Dog. This ensures you’ve practiced a low lunge on both sides twice.

woman meditating

3. Modified Surya Namaskar (B)

Enjoy this sequence to stretch your legs and shoulders and invigorate your mind.

  • Begin standing with your feet together. Enjoy a few breaths to center, ground, and cultivate an intention. 
  • Bend your knees, send your hips back, and lift your chest. Inhale and reach your arms up alongside your ears (Utkatasana).
  • Exhale, straighten your legs, and fold forward over your legs. Allow your arms and head to hang heavy (Uttanasana).
  • Inhale and lift up halfway to a long, strong spine. Bring your hands to your shins, the earth, or blocks for support (Ardha Uttanasana).
  • Exhale, fold forward, plant your palms to the earth, and step back to Plank Pose. Bend your elbows and lower down to your belly (Chaturanga).
  • Inhale, press into your palms, extend your arms, press into the tops of your feet, and straighten your legs. Open your chest into Upward-Facing Dog (Urdva Mukha Svanasana).
  • Exhale, tuck your toes under, and use your abdominal muscles to lift you up and back to Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
  • Inhale and reach your right leg up and back behind you (Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana).
  • Exhale and step your right foot through between your hands. Bend your front knee and lower your back foot flat to the ground at about a 45-degree angle.
  • Inhale, stand up, and reach your arms up overhead into Warrior I (Virabadrasana 1).
  • Exhale, reach your hands behind your back, and interlace your fingers. Hold onto the ends of a strap if your shoulders feel tight.
  • Inhale, roll your chest open, and extend your arms behind you.
  • Exhale and bow forward with your hands still connected. Rest your right shoulder on your right knee or allow it to come just inside of your knee. Reach your head to the inner arch of your right foot. Keep both feet grounded and your breath steady. Stay for three deep breaths in Humble Warrior.
  • Inhale and press into your feet to rise back up to Warrior I. Reach your arms up and overhead (Virabadrasana 1).
  • Exhale, fold forward, place your palms to the earth to frame your foot, and step back to Plank Pose. Lower to your belly (Chaturanga).
  • Inhale, press into your palms, extend your arms, press into the tops of your feet, and straighten your legs. Open your chest into Upward-Facing Dog (Urdva Mukha Svanasana).
  • Exhale, tuck your toes under, and use your abdominal muscles to lift you up and back to Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
  • Stay in Downward-Facing dog for three deep breaths.
  • Repeat, beginning with your left leg this time.
  • From Downward-Facing Dog, hop your feet forward to the front of your mat.
  • Inhale and lift up halfway to a long, strong spine. Bring your hands to your shins, the earth, or blocks for support (Ardha Uttanasana).
  • Exhale, refold (Uttanasana).
  • Bend your knees, send your hips back, and lift your chest. Inhale and reach your arms up alongside your ears (Utkatasana).
  • Exhale, stand tall, and bring your hands together at heart center (Tadasana).
  • Repeat this sequence three to 10 times, pausing between each salutation to assess how you’re feeling and notice any subtle shifts in your energy.

Try these sequences back-to-back to create a longer yoga practice, or sneak a quick practice into your day with a few rounds of just one sequence. May they invoke inspiration in your life, both on and off the mat!


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About the Author
woman smiling in yoga pose

Lena Schmidt

Certified Yoga Instructor
Whether it’s exploring the local trails, playing pretzel on the yoga mat, or diving into a book on inner peace, Lena loves an adventure. You can find her teaching yoga in San Diego, leading retreats near and far, and empowering others to be the change they wish to see in the world. Learn more about Lena at www.yoginilena.com The spiritual aspects of yoga have aided Lena in the never-ending search for peace, calm, and positivity within, and she’s passionate about sharing these tools with others. She is intentional about taking yoga off the mat and loves finding the bridges between the heart and mind, the individual and community, and mindfulness and expression...Read more