Keep Fit: Begin Your Day with Sun Salutations!

Last month, I celebrated Earth Day at Groundworks @ Hrens in East Hampton by partaking in a Half Mala.

The event, which was put on by Lululemon East Hampton, advertised: “54 Sun Salutations will be led by local yoga instructors—that’s 54 sun salutations to celebrate the amazing world we live in, with flowers, fresh air and flowing water as your studio.”

I had no clue what a “Sun Salutation” was, but there are few things I like better than simply being outside and soaking up the sun. So when that Sunday brought clear blue skies, I made the trek to almost-Amagansett at the newly opened Groundworks to enjoy the complimentary class.

The thick carpet of grass and quaint stone waterfall were the perfect backdrop for giving thanks to the earth. Groundworks owner Linda Silch lead an amazing “Core, Strength and Stretch” class every Thursday during the winter at Lululemon’s Main Street, East Hampton location. Though she’s no longer teaching a weekly class there, her TRX classes are on the schedule at Studio 89 in Sag Harbor.

Complimentary in-store classes taught by local fitness gurus are a part of the fabric of Lululemon, and their entire calendar of community events is posted online. The Earth Day class was well done, with four local yogis enthusiastically leading us. I quickly learned that “54 Sun Salutations” literally meant “doing the same sequence of poses and stretches 54 times.” Despite how monotonous that may seem, especially if you didn’t count them and had no idea when it would end, I found myself staying positive. It was incredibly helpful to have the instructors, as they motivated us to continue with the salutations. Even more helpful was having the sun warm my back. It made saluting nature and nice weather much easier.

And, I didn’t realize this until the day after, but it was a good workout. Here’s what I remember doing, in decidedly non-yogi terms:

Stand at the front of your mat. Reach both hands up to the sky, stretching as if to say “What’s up?” to the sun. Bend down, letting yourself just hang and sink into the stretch. I call this position “rag doll.” Lift your torso until your back is completely flat and perpendicular to the ground, like an ironing board. Then sink, back down into rag doll, put both hands on the ground, and walk or jump your feet toward the back of your mat so you’re in push-up position. Slowly sink down, bending your arms so your torso is about an inch above the ground. Hold for a few seconds. Let your quads touch the ground, straightening your arms to arch your back. (This is upward dog.) Then, curl your toes under and get into downward dog. Hold for a long, long time, and then walk or jump your feet to meet your hands, slowly standing up and reaching toward the sky. Repeat 53 times.

Like all yoga, taking long inhales and exhales are an important aspect of doing each pose correctly—and slowly.

I like to consider myself a decently in-shape person, someone who wouldn’t be taken down by body-weight exercises. But the next day humbled me, as I was sore in muscles I didn’t even know existed.

This needs to be added to my daily routine.

Fifty-four downward dog combos is far too intense for me to motivate myself to do on my own. But daily, shorter sun salutations aren’t a bad idea, especially given the physical and mental benefits. So I’m creating a short playlist of songs to do my salutations to:

“Sunchyme” by Dario G—3:55

“Long Hot Summer” by Keith Urban—4:27

“Streetcorner Symphony” by Rob Thomas—4:09

“Human” by The Killers—4:04

“Island in the Sun” by Weezer—3:30

Twenty minutes and five seconds. I think I can handle that.

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