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5 Sun Salutation Variations

Just about every yoga practitioner out there will have heard what a Sun Salutation is, right?

Maybe you’re here, because you’ve heard of them in your classes, but you can’t remember all of the postures and breaths. 

Or maybe you’re here, because you want to learn more than just the most standard form of Sun Salutation so that you can spice up your practice a bit. 

Either way, welcome! You’re in the right place. 

As a yoga teacher of over 10 years now, I can still confidently say that Sun Salutes are some of my favorite sequencing to practice and to incorporate into my classes.

The reason you can’t go wrong with Sun Salutation is that they truly warm up the entire body.

And, they’re pretty dang accessible to all levels of yogis. Plus, there’s a ton of options when it comes to spicing them up, or toning them down, which make them even more accessible to you or your students. 

While Sun Salutes have grown to be central to many styles of yoga, even though they originally only came from Ashtanga Yoga. With the evolution of Vinyasa Yoga, Power Yoga, and even Hatha Yoga, you’re likely to see these sequences in your yoga classes. 

Although Sun Salutations are common, that doesn’t mean they’re always easy for everyone. Which is why having variations, modifications, and options make them that much sweeter so students can grow their practice and their confidence. 

Today’s post will share 5 of my favorite Sun Salutation variations based on my personal practice and my teaching that you can tone down or ramp up. Have fun incorporating these sequences into your yoga practice today.

Check out this post on difficult yoga poses for beginners.

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Sun Salutation Variations

When you hear a yoga teacher say that there are variations of a pose, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be harder or easier. It just means there’s a whole spectrum from which you can practice. 

And variations will offer you the opportunity to explore where you’re landing on the spectrum of that pose in that exact moment. 

Remember, just because you went all out in the pose the day before, doesn’t mean your energy will necessarily be there the following day. 

A huge purpose of yoga is working to practice being present, which means checking in with your body and your breath now, rather than forcing it to be something you want it to be, or something that it was previously. 

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Sun Salutation A

Sun Salutation A is what you might think of when you think of a Sun Salute. It’s the most standard form of saluting the sun, and typically repeated one to five times in a Vinyasa style class. 

Start in Downward Facing Dog and connect to your breath. 

Inhale, lift your heels and look forward. Exhale, Forward Fold at the top of your mat. 

Inhale, Halfway lift extending the spine. Exhale, Forward Fold, rounding in. 

Inhale, Mountain Pose rising to stand with arms high. Exhale, hands to heart taking a moment to ground in. 

Inhale, Mountain Pose lifting the arms high. Exhale, Forward Fold swan diving your upper body over your thighs. 

Inhale, Halfway Lift extending your spine long. Exhale, Chatarunga hopping back to a yoga push up position with bent elbows. 

Inhale, Upward Facing Dog opening the chest and squeezing the glutes. Exhale, Downward Facing dog, rolling over the toes to lift your hips high. 

Keep breathing in Downward Facing Dog for one to three cycles of breath, and then repeat as many times as you’d like. 

Sun Salutation A

Sun Salutation With Backbends

Sun Salutations with backbends are a great way to warm up the body even more so than a standard Sun A sequence. I find this sequence especially useful for my students, as most people sit, commute, and type a lot. 

Start in Downward Facing Dog and connect to your breath.

Inhale, lift your heels and look forward. Exhale, Forward Fold at the top of your mat, traveling there however you’d like. 

Inhale, Halfway Lift, pulling your heart forward as you tug your tail backwards. Exhale, Forward Fold, rounding in to open the back door of the heart between the shoulder blades. 

Inhale, Mountain Pose with arms high. Exhale, hands or fists to your low back, hugging your elbows towards center and squeezing your glutes. 

Inhale, lift your chest as high as you can while pressing into your feet. Exhale, backbend by pressing your hips forward with your hands or fists, keeping your chest elongated skyward. 

*Feel Free to take a cactus arm backbend, or arms overhead backbend for more sensation.

Inhale, Mountain Pose with arms high. Exhale, Forward Fold with arms out to the side as you descend over your thighs. 

Inhale, Halfway Lift, allowing your collarbone to broaden. Exhale, Chatarunga, hopping back to low plank position with elbow hugging your ribs. 

Inhale, Upward Facing Dog, express the heart. Exhale, Downward Facing Dog, elevating your hips up and back. 

Continue to breathe, and repeat as many times as you’d like, deeping the backbend each time. 

Lunging Sun Salute

Traditionally this sequence is closely tied to Sun Salutation B. However, I’m not big into teaching Warrior One, so I’ve made my own version of the traditional sequence, instead. 

Start in Downward Facing Dog and connect to your breath.

Inhale, Three Legged Dog lifting your right leg high and keeping your hips square. Exhale, Runner’s Lunge, Stepping your right foot between your hands. 

Inhale, lift your chin away from your chest and press through your left heel. Exhale, Forward Fold, step your left foot to meet your right at the top of your mat.

Inhale, Halfway Lift. Exhale, Forward Fold.

Inhale, Mountain Pose, arms overhead while you stand. Exhale, hands to heart, grounding in. 

Inhale, Mountain Pose, or add a little backbend at the top. Exhale, Forward Fold, keeping your spine long as you fold in. 

Inhale, Halfway lift, reset your spine. Exhale, Runner’s Lunge on the left, stepping your right foot back. 

Inhale, lift your chin away from your chest and press back through your right heel. Exhale, Chatarunga, option to keep your left leg hovering for more sensation. 

Inhale, Upward Facing Dog. Exhale, Downward Facing Dog. 

Take a full round of breath in Downdog, and then repeat on the other side.

Modified Sun Salutation A

Modified Sun Salutation A

Modified Sun A can show up in a lot of different ways. Perhaps you’re in a gentle yoga class, or you’re on your period. Or maybe you’re just needing a little more support. Either way, this sequence is nourishing and kind, to say the least. 

Start in Child’s Pose, connecting to your breath. 

Inhale, Table Top, rocking onto all fours and tucking your toes. Exhale, Downward Facing Dog, keeping the knees super bent to lengthen your spine. 

Inhale, lift your heels high and look forward. Exhale, slowly walk to the top of your mat, and fold. 

Inhale, Halfway Lift with hands on the thighs for plenty of space to extend the spine. Exhale, Forward Fold, rounding the back. 

Inhale, Mountain Pose with super bent knees and rounded spine so that you unwind super slowly. Exhale, hands to heart, centering your mind and breath. 

Inhale, Mountain Pose with arms high. Exhale, Forward Fold, slowly riding the breath. 

Inhale, Halfway Lift with hands on thighs. Exhale, Ashtangasana, stepping your feet back to high plank, then lowering your chest and chin onto the mat. 

Inhale, Low Cobra, lift your chest from the mat while pressing a lot into your feet, and barely at all into your hands. Exhale, Child’s Pose, press into your hands to shift your hips towards your heels. 

Stay in Child’s Pose as long as you’d like, and repeat one to three more times. 

 one of the Sun Salutation Variations

Advanced Sun Salutation A

On the flip side of those gentle days, there are also days where you’re feeling like you want to bring a little fire to your practice, am I right? This advanced variation is the one of you. 

Start in Downward Facing Dog and connect to your breath.

Inhale, lift your heels and look forward. Exhale, Handstand Hop or Float to the top of your mat, keeping your thighs hugging towards your belly for a long spine and compression work. Fold at the top of the mat at the bottom on your breath. 

Inhale, Halfway Lift, using a little Cow tilt of the pelvis to lengthen the hamstrings. Exhale, Forward Fold, maintaining all that length in the spine. 

Inhale, Mountain Pose, arms high and gaze high. Exhale, hands to heart, connect inward. 

Inhale, Mountain Pose with arms high and gaze high. Exhale, Standing Backbend, keeping arms overhead and gaze high while you squeeze the glutes to press the hips forward. 

Inhale, Mountain Pose with arms high. Exhale, Forward Fold, diving over the thighs with a flat spine. 

Inhale, Halfway Lift with hands on the mat to prepare for Handstand. Exhale, Handstand lifting with a flat spine (press, hop, or float). 

Inhale, straight line in Handstand by Cat tilting the pelvis in to turn on the low belly and lengthen the low back. Exhale, Chatarunga floating into low plank with control. 

Inhale, Upward Facing Dog elevating the heart and charging the legs. Exhale, Downward Facing Dog, working your heels towards the mat with a long spine once you land. 

Breathe here, and repeat three more times with the options to add toe taps on the wrists as you float forward and back.

Let me know which Sun Salutation variation is your favorite in the comments below!

As always, practice more with me online totally FREE on my app for a 7 day trial. Follow me on Instagram!

xx, 

K

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