A power salutation

by Duncan Peak

This sequence is a combination of the two traditional Sun Salutation sequences practiced at the beginning of a dynamic yoga practice. This modified version contains the best elements of both, creating a complete practice that will develop greater awareness, build upper body strength, increase metabolic fire and reclaim the balance and flexibility we once had as children.

Breathing

With these movements we breathe into the thoracic area of the body, keeping the abdomen engaged, directing the breath into the bottom of the lungs and encouraging the lower rib cage to open laterally, building greater lung capacity and superior respiratory power.

Mental training

It is important to note that when practicing these postures we should aim to keep the mind concentrated on the movement of breath in and out of the body and to link breath and movement together. This focus on the breath helps to decondition us from our addiction to repetitive thinking and creates more equanimity within. over-identifying with our thought patterns and daydreaming of past and future events steals our vitality. being present as we train our bodies greatly reduces the chance of injury and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which encourages a greater degree of flexibility and relaxation.

The power salutation poses

Fierce Pose (photo 1)

 A strong posture that recruits leg power, pelvic stability and spinal extension. Increases heart rate and stimulates the circulatory and metabolic systems. breathe in this posture for 5 breaths (4-second inhale/ 4-second exhale).
breath: Inhale as you lift into the posture.

Action

1. Bring the feet together, press into the centre of heels and bend the knees
2. Engage the thighs and roll them inward (medially)
3. Lift the front of the pelvis towards neutral
4. Raise the arms and squeeze elbows straight, hands remain at shoulder width
5. Shoulders drop and broaden away from the ears and scapulas slide down the back and decompress into ribcage
6. Maintain a neutral neck (cervical spine)
7. Engage core muscles (TVa, pelvic floor, erectus), then try to maintain a neutral spine.

Modifications
•  Straighten the legs if excessive forward bending occurs.
•  Leave arms by sides or towards front if too tight to reach by the ears.

Mental focus: Pressing into the earth gives us a great sense of being grounded. by observing your thoughts you will connect to a powerful energy within.


Standing Intense Forward Bend (photo 2)

As this pose is a partial inversion, the cerebral spinal fluid bathes the brain in endorphins and other nutritional chemicals that create a relaxing, cooling effect for the body. contract the thighs to allow the backs of the legs to release (reciprocal inhibition) into a deep forward bend.

Breath: Exhale as you bow forward.

Action
(following from previous posture)
1. Keeping the knees bent, bow forward moving the hands through the centre seam of the body
2. Engage the thighs and continue to roll them inward
3. Rotate the pelvis to move the sitting bones up to the sky (posterior tilt)
4. Place the hands flat on the floor (keep knees bent to do this if required)
5. Lengthen through the lower spine, pressing the sternum toward the floor
6. Continue to engage the core muscles.

Modifications
•     Bend the knees until there is an acute angle between the sacrum and femur bones.

Mental focus: Surrendering to our practice rather than pushing for depth will work with the body to create more flexibility. aim for effort without tension!

Standing Halfway Lift (photo 3)

This is another strong posture when performed correctly. by engaging the backs of the legs at full range of movement we create powerful, injury-free hamstrings.

Breath: Inhale as you lift halfway.

Action (from previous posture)
1. Engage your legs and lift the sternum forward and erect your spine to neutral
2. Continue to engage the thighs but do not straighten the legs as you move from the previous pose; maintain an acute angle between the sacrum and femur bones
3. Maintain a neutral neck – do not look up!
4. Lift up onto fingertips
5. Continue to engage the core muscles.

Modifications
•     Bend the knees until the back can extend flat.




The Jump Back (or Step Back modified) (photos 4 – 8)

An advanced movement requiring shoulder strength, hamstring flexibility and core power.

Breath: Exhale through the whole movement as you float back and continue to lower to low-push up (do not hold high-push up pose).

Action (from previous posture)
1. Press hands flat and lift heels off the ground, transferring weight into the hands
2. Press into the knuckles of index fingers, taking weight out of the wrist joints
3. Lift the hips, engage the back, shoulders and core, and then float your legs back to high push up.

Modifications
•     Step back, one leg at a time, and lower knees to ground in high push up until strength is built up
•     Bend the knees and jump the legs back to high push up ensuring core is switched on to support the back.




Low Push Up (photos 9 & 10)
A strong posture that requires great body tension and stability. low push up builds strength in the core, arms and shoulders.

Breath: continue to exhale as you transition through high push up to low push up.

Action (from previous posture)

1. Bend the elbows and push off the feet as you lower your shoulders and torso forward in an arc to the height of the elbows
2. Draw the shoulder blades down your back to hug the ribcage
3. Keep core, thighs and arms engaged to work strength
4. Do not lower the torso below the elbows and keep elbows stacked over the wrists.

Modifications
•  Drop the knees and hips to the ground if required.



Upward Facing Dog (photos 11 & 12)
A great posture to awaken the spine, but be gentle; remember that less is more when working with the spine. focus on extending the spine.

Breath: Inhale through the whole range of movement.

Action (from previous posture)
1. Press into your hands, draw shoulder blades down and lift the chest, straighten arms as much as you can without hyper extending the elbows
2. Keep core, thighs and arms engaged to work strength
3. Draw the heads of the shoulders back
4. Do not press your body backwards, lift the spine and take out any compression in the lower back.

Modifications
• Drop the knees and hips to the ground and only lift within a pain-free range.

Mental focus: focus on the lengthening of the spine. feel powerful and open your heart area.


Downward Facing dog (photos 13 & 14)

A whole body posture, stretching the entire backside of the body.

Breath
: Exhale and stay here for 3 to 5 breaths.

Action (from previous posture)

1. Press the hips backward and turn the sitting bones up (neutral spine)
2. Broaden the shoulder blades to hug the ribcage
3. Press the arms straight and anchor into the knuckle of the index fingers to take weight off the wrist joints
4. Bend the knees if required to have a flat lower back or straighten legs if you can
5. Engage thighs, press them back and press into the balls of the feet, not the toes
6. Heels reach towards the floor but do not need to touch.

Modifications

• Bend the knees to dissolve the rounding of the lower back.

Mental focus: Try to focus the mind on the breath and when it drifts off into thought and stories bring it back to the present moment.



Finishing Sequence (photos 15 – 19)

Complete the poses in reverse order to return to the standing position, but don’t stop there. Bow forward again and continue creating a thread that connects one posture to the next, a meditation in motion. A power salutation is a great way to start your day or to prepare your body for exercise. The integration of breath with movement, through training our mind to dwell in the present moment and to not identify with repetitive thought patterns, is as much a part of the practice as the postures performed by the body.



Duncan Peak
Duncan is the founder of Australia’s leading yoga and personal development studio, Power Living Australia, and teaches Power Yoga all over the world. He brings yoga to life, demystifying its benefits and making it accessible to all. For information on teacher training courses and classes check out www.powerliving.com.au

GROUP EXERCISE, MIND BODY & AQUA NETWORK • SPRING/SUMMER 2008 • PP4-8