Feeling a little groggy of a morning? Ditch the tall skinny latte for the sun salutation: it's free, burns calories and will energise you in a healthy sustained way your body will thank you for.
Moving from one pose to the other - rather than holding them - increases the heart rate and circulation which in turn pumps more oxygen to your brain and around your body. The result? You become more alert and alive.
The sun salutation sequence of poses
There are many different versions of sun salutation or sun salute. This is a basic one, suitable for all fitness levels, with guidance from Magda Polikarska who teaches yoga at the prestigious Reebok Sports Club in London.
1. Upward salute
• Start in mountain pose, inhale and bring your arms up to an upward salute (urdhava hastasana)
• Exhale to standing forward bend.
• Inhale, and lift your torso half way up, look forward, keeping your hands on the floor.
• Exhale, then step back into the plank position.
As you exhale, lower down into a tricep dip (chaturanga dandasana).
Expert tip: bend your elbows slightly and tuck them in; don't let your back collapse towards the floor.
3. Tricep dip
Inhale, and go into the cobra pose (bhujangasna).
Expert tip: make sure your back is not collapsing. If necessary, drop your knees down to the floor, keeping the shoulder blades close together, shoulders down, elbows in.
Exhale and go into downward-facing dog (adho mukha svanasana)
Expert tip: keep the tops of the feet flat on the floor; elbows, thighs and hips on the floor; extend lower back and lift the chest up. Elbows can be bent or straight.
5. Downward-facing dog
• Inhale and step in between your hands.
• Exhale and bring your head closer to your shins in a standing forward bend.
• Inhale and come back up. Keep your back straight, arms up.
• Exhale and bring your arms down.
Expert tip: Drive your tailbone towards the ceiling, feet hip width apart, toes slightly turned in, heels targeting the floor (feel free to walk on the spot). The shoulders should be away from ears, the neck relaxed, and fingers spread wide with the surface of the palms pressing down.
Repeat the sequence four to six times, without pushing yourself too much. "Go with your own pace, guided by your breath - it comes before the movement. There's no right or wrong" says Magda.
"I can really see the change in my students after a series of sun salutations first thing in the morning. Faces look sharper, and everyone's more focused for the rest of the class" she adds.