Modified Sun Salutation

Upward Salute – Urdhva Hastasana - Person perf...

“If this is how my body feels at twenty-one,

it worries me to think about

how it will feel in ten to twenty years.”

– Travis Nelson

Travis is a swimming coach and lifeguard at the pool where I swim. One day last year (September 2011) he asked me if I could recommend some exercises for his back. He told me that his lower back was sore and he thought that he should do some exercises to strengthen it.

I offered that it might be more complex than that and that focusing on strengthening the back could very possibly make things worse. There could be a whole host of possibilities as to why he feels pain and discomfort in his lower back. Oftentimes, this type of pain stems from imbalance. Meaning that some muscles may be over developed while others are underdeveloped and therefore being overworked. When our muscles are balanced, “not too tight and not too loose” then our joints are better supported and will work better on demand. Anyone can use brute force to blast through a set of an exercise or sprint to the finish line while in pain or not. But as far as exercise and physical movement is concerned, in my mind, exercise is about establishing a bio-mechanical functioning body. Sport on the other hand is about times and points. But as you will see, most professional athletes spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting the accuracy with each micro-phase of each movement.  It is this concept of precision, which is what I hope to relay in this site.

My conversation with Travis lasted no more than 4 minutes. I suggested he start with the 3-Hip Stretches and I showed him very quickly (pool side) how to stretch his psoas. He is the ideal student. He actually followed-up and did these exercises.

For quite some time afterward, in my mind I could not stop hearing him say: “If this is how my body feels at twenty-one…” and I wanted to share these words with you. So, I caught up with Travis and asked him if I could film him saying what he said to me in that first conversation. It was funny, because I wanted to assure him that I could edit the filming in the case he was uncomfortable, to which he assured me that it wasn’t a problem because he is an actor. Fantastic! He surprised me by walking me through what I had taught him in those few minutes from a few months earlier. You will see, I think he did very well.

Below is the long overdue video that I promised Travis that I would put together so that he would be able to see what the sequence looks like in its entirety. This is the modified Sun Salutation that I do each morning.

My Morning Routine (20 minutes):

  1. Bed Stretches (2 – 5 minutes)
  2. Wall and floor stretches with Travel Roller ball & roller (3 – 5 minutes)
  3. Modified Sun Salutation (3 – 4 minutes)
  4. 4 Minute Morning (week 3 – DAY 7) (4 – 5 minutes)
  5. Walk in a figure-8 (30 seconds)

Down the road I will put together a video to break down the finer points of the modified Sun Salutation. The first step for anyone is to learn the sequence by memory; once that is achieved then we can begin to fine tune and deepen our understanding.

Note: These stretches/ exercises are appropriate for my body but may not be for yours. Use caution when trying anything new. I find it works best to err on the side of caution. Begin with one exercise and repeat that one exercise for a week or so, until it is committed to memory, only then consider adding on.

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  1. Thank you. My only intentiion was to spread the impartial message as far as possible to the benefit of all irrespectively. Please feel free to make use of it in any way you wish to the usefulness of people at large. God bless

  2. Liked the post and it reminded me of a TED talk I saw recently about “power poses.”

    What was interesting was how body position/posture actually had an impact on testosterone and cortisol levels. I don’t think the research is new but it seems to support health benefits of yoga-type movements besides strength and flexibility. You probably know this already but thought I’d send it along 🙂

  3. Hi dear,
    I have been doing the 3 Hip-Streches since you taught them here. If I dont have much time, I do at least these three streches after my workout. And Sometimes I get my husband doing them ( he complains a lot, but he told me that he fells the difference, so I believe that he was trying to say that they are good… funny!)
    It is the same with the video about burpees. My burpees were not the same since it. I am always paying attention to the knees and the distance between them.
    So I have two questions about the Sun salutation:
    (1) The time of the breaths. Is it just enough to exhale and inhale?
    (2) The forward bend. Do I have do stretch my knees completely? Looking at the video, I believe not, but I am not sure.

    As always, thank you for the material…

    1. Hi Nissia,

      1) Timing the breaths. I think about timing the breath with each movement, which might take 5 counts to inhale and 5 counts to exhale. But as you can see there is a lot to think about. As you become more familiar with how your body moves and simultaneously thinking about and feeling the breath you will start to see the details more clearly for yourself. Time should slow down while you practice and you will become more present in the details the more you look for them.

      2) I keep my knees bent because I am slightly bow legged and I am trying to repair this faulty alignment. If I (like many others) straighten completely, then I risk reinforcing poor alignment patterns which I am trying to correct. Keeping our joints straight is not the goal, proper alignment is; so this is an important consideration with every move we make.

      I will make another video to explain in more detail about this and some other important points.

      Thanks for your question, it’s an important one.

      1. Oh dear, thanks again for the answer. I was waiting for a confirmation by email, and as I didn´t get it, I forgot to look into the blog. I am really sorry for my late appreciation. I will start practicing it. I will get back to you.

  4. Very well done and made a difficult posture simple by your finely attuned sequence. I also add and emphasis your last words of caution which is so much important to bear it in mind. It is these little things that matter and are ignored by the novice or haughty fellows who land up in problems and then com out with scores of blames on Yoga as a faulty system. I watched both the videos keenly and fully recommend to everyone. Yes a word of caution must be added for older practitioners or people with some existing disability to start it under supervision of an expert before doing them independently. Practice and enjoy.

    1. Thank you for your stamp of approval. 🙂
      Yes, I agree fully that it is a shame that some have put blame on Yoga as a faulty system. It is inevitable to experience some kind of injury in some way or another when we learn anything new; even when we are cautious, which as you know is how true learning happens. If we explore deeply within ourselves we will discover that it is our own ambition which is to blame.

      1. It is a big word to use as a compliment “your stamp of approval” for me who is a very small fry in this vast field of Yoga techniques. Yes I did write a series of articles on the “Ashtanga Yoga’ or the Eightfold Path of Yoga under the caption “Is Yoga Science or Religion”. It was initially published through the following link:

        My own blogis: where I had serialised them finishing with its Part XC.

        I have been regularly watching your blogpost and things I understand I relish. Thanks once again if you agreed with my appreciation. With my kindest regards to you all.

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