This year, the summer solstice 21 June was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 2014. The push for this came from prime minister Modi of India, but in New York, the event has been celebrated for 13 years with thousands taking part in a mass participation event, which also raises money for charity.

If you saw the news, or check out the official website you’ll see some amazing yoga practices. Salute to the Sun (surya namaskar) is a recurring sequence in these celebrations, which we practised in class last week.

 But don’t feel you need to include some of its more extreme elements, such as the ‘press up’ or chatturanga to the floor. One of the great things about the salute to the sun is that it can be done from standing, kneeling, or sitting in a chair – and there are countless variations.  The important things to remember are to use your breath – focusing on the inhale/exhale - and work safely within your limits  

 You may read accounts that the sun salute has origins in ancient times, and was performed by mystics thousands of years ago. There is no evidence for this. Certainly, the philosophy and practice of yoga has a long history. But modern day physical yoga now rapidly gaining popularity around the world can probably trace its origins back no further than the early 20th century, with the school of Sri. T. Krishnamacharya in the 1930s. His teachings are largely responsible for the modern versions of Sūrya Namaskāra found in modern day Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow as well as a host of other popular forms of yoga, developed by his pupils who included Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar.

Below is a reminder of the version of the sun salutation we practised. If you do it at home, I suggest you always prepare with some stretching, cat/cow, child and downward dog.