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Yoga expert explains the kneeling sun salutation

By Zack Kurland


The kneeling sun salutation is a great introduction for the novice morning yogi, but it can be enjoyed by yoga practitioners at any level of experience. I like to use it as a starting point for the sun salutation sequences, since the preparatory asanas allow us to build toward more complex variations of sun salutations that include more challenging arm support and standing asanas. The kneeling prep vinyasas, A to D, are intended to prepare for and gradually move toward the full kneeling vinyasas. When you can practice one with proficiency, move to the complete kneeling surya namascar sequence. Respect your personal needs and avoid strain or struggle by maintaining the link between the breath and the body. Use ujjayi, ocean breathing, through the nose—smooth, long, and steady. The movements of the body should be synchronized with, and enveloped by, the breath length itself.

Let’s start with the first preparatory vinyasa and gradually progress step-by-step toward completing a full kneeling sun salutation. Place a blanket at the center of the mat to protect the knees for the following series of exercises.

Kneeling Prep A
Beginning from a relatively neutral position in a simple asana, we build the kneeling vinyasa by linking the movements of the torso, hips, and shoulders to the breath. By establishing this foundation of understanding, we can then move forward into the slightly more complex steps toward the full sun salutation.

Start on the hands and knees with the palms flat and the arms in line with the shoulders.

  1. Inhale, lift the chest, and look up slightly.
  2. Exhale, round the spine, and bring the hips back to the heels in a child’s pose, while relaxing the head to the floor.
  3. Inhale and come back up to the hands and knees, lifting through the chest and looking up slightly.


Repeat this movement six times, concentrating on the link between the breath and the movement.

Kneeling Prep B
In this prep variation, we add downward-facing dog to build arm strength and increase leg flexibility.

Again start on the hands and knees with the palms flat and the arms in line with the shoulders.

  1. Inhale, lift the chest, and look up slightly.
  2. Curl the toes under and exhale. Extend through the arms and lift the hips to downward-facing dog position. Spread the hands wide, connecting all the fingers and the entire perimeter of the palm to the floor, and extend upward through the arms and upper back. Drop the heels toward the floor, with knees unlocked or slightly bent, while lifting the hips.
  3. Start the inhalation and lower the knees back to the floor, lifting the chest and looking up slightly.
  4. Start the exhalation, round the spine, and lower the hips back to the heels in a child’s pose, while relaxing the head to the floor.


Repeat the vinyasa six to eight times.

Kneeling Prep C
This variation includes the addition of upward-facing dog to open the heart and mobilize the upper chest and shoulders through an assertive backbend. Extension along the front of the body is accentuated while you maintain a strong grounding through the hands, arms, legs, and feet.

Again start on the hands and knees with the palms flat and the arms in line with the shoulders.

  1. Inhale, lift the chest, and look up slightly.
  2. Curl the toes under and exhale while extending through the arms and lifting the hips into downward-facing dog.
  3. Keeping the toes curled under, and with straight but unlocked arms, inhale and pivot forward, lowering the hips and opening the chest into upward-facing dog. Looking up slightly, engage the legs to protect the lower back and resist sinking into the shoulders.
  4. Start the exhalation and extend through the hands to lift back into downward-facing dog, while relaxing the chin toward the chest.
  5. Inhale and lower the knees back to the floor, while lifting through the chest and looking up slightly.
  6. Exhale, uncurl the toes, round the spine, and bring the hips back to the heels in a child’s pose, relaxing the head to the floor.


Repeat this vinyasa six times.

Kneeling Prep D
Here we add a kneeling backbend with simple arm movements to open the shoulders and chest and relieve any tension that may have accumulated through the arm-supported asanas and vinyasas we have just completed.

Start in a child’s pose with the hands on the lower back, the palms facing upward, and the shoulders relaxed.

  1. Inhale and come up to stand on the knees while lifting the arms up the sides and overhead and lifting the chest toward the chin in jalandhara bandha.
  2. Exhale and come back to the child’s pose, lowering the arms down the sides to place the hands on the lower back, with the palms facing up again.


Repeat the vinyasa six times.

Full Kneeling Sun Salutation Vinyasa
Now that we have experienced step-by-step each of the preparatory vinyasas, we can link these asanas together into the full kneeling sun salutation. This kneeling version of a sun salutation is perfect for acquainting people with linking the breath and movements in exercises that are challenging and engaging, without including transitions to and from standing asanas. The sequence is primarily spinally oriented along the torso as you transfer the base of support from the knees to the hands and the feet. This sequence is useful for building heat and mobilizing the spine, hips, and shoulders, while allowing the practitioner to concentrate on the body’s relationship to breath in a simplified manner. Again place a blanket in the center of the mat to support the knees.

Start on the hands and knees, palms in line with the shoulders.

  1. Inhale, lift the chest, and look up slightly.
  2. Curl the toes under and exhale, extending through the arms and lifting the hips up into down-ward-facing dog.
  3. Keeping the toes curled under, inhale and pivot forward to upward-facing dog, lowering the hips, lifting through the chest, and looking up slightly.
  4. Exhale, extend through the arms, and lift the hips to downward-facing dog again.
  5. Inhale and lower the knees to the floor, lifting the chest and looking up slightly.
  6. Uncurl the toes and exhale, bringing the hips back to the heels in a child’s pose and relaxing the head to the floor.
  7. Inhale and lift to stand on the knees while bringing the arms up the front of the body and over-head.
  8. Exhale and take the arms back down the front of the body bringing the hips back to the heels to return to a child’s pose again.


Repeat this full sequence six times.

This is an excerpt from Morning Yoga Workouts.




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