For many people, the flowing movements of the Sun Salutation are virtually synonymous with yoga. This version of a Half Sun Salutation is an excellent way to warm up the body at the beginning of a yoga session; and if you have only five minutes, it can be a complete practice in itself. It bends the spine both forward and backward, opens the hips and hamstrings, stimulates circulation, and establishes a deep and rhythmic breath.

Just as important, Half Sun Salutation can set a meditative tone for the rest of your practice--or your day. Sun Salutations have their origin in the ancient devotional practice of prostrations--a bowing down in homage to the mystery and power of the divine spirit that manifests in every being, every moment. As you flow through Ardha Suryanamaskar,

you can tune your whole body to that attitude of reverence and surrender.

Begin by standing in a relaxed position, with your back straight, feet together, and your hands in a gesture of prayer at your heart [Figure 1]. Begin breathing, using long, steady breaths. Ideally, you should take at least five seconds for each inhalation and five seconds for each exhalation.

Keep your attention focused on your breath, and with each inhalation allow your arms to sweep out to the side and over your head [Figure 2].

Let the breath initiate and guide the movement so that your hands come together overhead just as you reach the top of your inhalation [Figure 3].

Then release your hands from their raised position and ride the wave of the exhalation downward, folding forward from the hips and swan-diving the torso toward the floor [Figure 4]. At the bottom of the exhalation, let your arms glide down

as you arrive in a full forward bend, with your legs straight, your belly and chest lengthening against your thighs, and the crown of your head released toward the floor [Figure 5].

On an inhalation, lengthen the spine and lift the heart away from the floor, keeping

your fingertips touching the floor [Figure 6]. If your hamstrings (the long muscles at the back of your thighs) are tight for this movement, you can rest your hands on your shins or knees instead. The important thing is

to keep the spine long and the heart open. Then, as you exhale, fold back into a forward bend again [Figure 7].

Maintaining the same even, five-second breath, let the inhalation swoop you up to a standing position again, arms sweeping out to the side, and palms coming together overhead

[Figures 8 and 9]. Then let your arms float down on the exhalation, drawing the palms together in a prayer position at your heart [Figure 10].

Flow through this sequence at least five or six times. As you become familiar with the movements, let your attention rest in the rhythmic, hypnotic flow of the breath, keeping the inhalations and exhalations as steady as a metronome. Sense your body riding on the wave of the breath, like seaweed floating on the ocean. Let Half Sun Salutation be a ritual that draws you into deeper awareness. With every inhalation, your heart opens and your body expands to receive the magic and joy of the present moment. With every exhalation, you bow and surrender to the mystery and power of all of life.

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