Yoga is one of the most popular body practices in the world, which has a rich ancient history and traditions. Yoga’s main principles include a connection with nature and the body-mind balance, which can be found by means of regular yoga practices. Since people remain an essential part of the environment, becoming closer to nature is a real advantage for every person. Traditionally, the most widely recognized and effective form of Yoga is Surya Namaskar.
Surya Namaskar, Salute to the Sun or Sun Salutation, is a practice in yoga as exercise incorporating a sequence of some twelve gracefully linked asanas. The asana sequence originated in the Hatha Yoga tradition around the 9th century in India. In Sanskrit, Surya refers to the Sun while Namaskar means to bow or to greet. Thus in English, Surya Namaskar is also referred to as Sun Salutation.
It has been said by the ancient rishis of India that the different parts of the body are governed by different devas (divine impulses or divine light). The solar plexus (located behind the navel, which is the central point of the human body), also known as the second brain, is said to be connected to the sun. This is the main reason why the ancient muni-rishis recommended the practice of Surya Namaskar, because the regular practice of this technique enhances the solar plexus, which increases one’s creativity and intuitive abilities.
As per the traditional forms of the asana, each of the 12 postures of Surya Namaskar is accompanied by a mantra or a chant. The mantras represent the 12 zodiac signs and supply energy to the body. The basic sequence involves moving from a standing position into downward and upward Dog poses and then back to the standing position, but many variations are possible.
Surya Namaskar is best done early morning on an empty stomach. Each round of Sun Salutation consists of two sets, and each set is composed of 12 yoga poses. Besides good health, Surya Namaskar also provides an opportunity to express gratitude to the sun for sustaining life on this planet. If you manage to complete the 12 asanas or yoga poses of this yoga sequence, it is equivalent to you having done 288 powerful yoga postures. Surya Namaskar should be done facing the early morning mild sunlight from the east. The 12 steps are as follows:
Step 1 Pranam asana (Prayer Pose)
Stand at the edge of your mat, keep your feet together and balance your weight equally on both the feet. Expand your chest and relax your shoulders. As you breathe in, lift both arms up from the sides and as you exhale, bring your palms together in front of the chest in prayer position.
Step 2 Hasta Uttanasana (Raised Arms pose)
Breathing in, lift the arms up and back, keeping the biceps close to the ears. In this pose, the objective is to stretch the whole body up from the heels to the tips of the fingers. To get maximum benefits, you may pull the pelvis forward and ensure reaching up with your fingers rather than going backwards.
Step 3 Padahastasana (Hand to Foot pose)
Breathing out, bend forward from the waist, keeping the spine erect. As you exhale completely, bring the hands down to the floor, beside the feet.
Step 4 Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)
Breathing in, push your right leg back, as far back as possible. Bring the right knee to the floor and look up.
Step 5 Chaturanga Dandasana (Stick pose)
As you breathe in, take the left leg back and bring the whole body in a straight line and keep your arms perpendicular to the floor.
Step 6 Ashtanga Namaskara (Saluting with eight points or parts)
Gently bring your knees down to the floor and exhale. Take the hips back slightly, slide forward, rest your chest and chin on the floor. Raise your posterior a little bit .The two hands, two feet, two knees, chest and chin (eight parts of the body) should touch the floor.
Step 7 Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)
Slide forward and raise the chest up into the cobra posture. You may keep your elbows bent in this pose, the shoulders away from the ears. Look up. As you inhale, make a gentle effort to push the chest forward; as you exhale, make a gentle effort to push the navel down. Tuck the toes under. Ensure you’re stretching just as much as you can; do not force.
Step 8 Adho Mukha Svanasana (Mountain pose)
Breathing out, lift the hips and the tail bone up, chest downwards in an ‘inverted V’ (/\) posture. If possible, try and keep the heels on the ground and make a gentle effort to lift the tailbone up, going deeper into the stretch.
Step 9 Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)
Breathing in, bring the right foot forward in between the two hands, left knee down to the floor, press the hips down and look up and place the right foot exactly between the two hands and the right calf perpendicular to the floor. In this position, make a gentle effort to push the hips down towards the floor, to deepen the stretch.
Step 10 Padahastasana (Hand to foot pose)
Breathing out, bring the left foot forward. Keep the palms on the floor. You may bend the knees, if necessary. Gently straighten the knees and if you can, try and touch your nose to the knees. Keep breathing.
Step 11 Uttana hastasana (Raised Arms pose)
Breathing in, roll the spine up, hands go up and bend backwards a little bit, pushing the hips slightly outward. Ensure that your biceps are beside your ears. The idea is to stretch up more rather than stretching backwards.
Step 12 Pranamasana
As you exhale, first straighten the body, and then bring the arms down. Relax in this position; observe the sensations in your body.
Surya Namaskar provides benefits of a holistic nature by working on the physical body, praana (breathing), mind, intellect and the bliss components (or kosas) of the entire human personality. In that sense, Surya Namaskar can be considered to be a personality development tool and must be included as part of one’s wellness program. It’s benefits are as follows:
1. Surya Namaskar yoga is believed to activate each and every part of the body which means that this powerful yoga pose has a great impact on the heart, intestine, stomach, liver, throat, chest, legs, and the muscles of our body.
2. It improves the blood circulation of all the important organs of the body.
3. Improves the functioning of the heart and lungs.
4. Strengthens the muscles of the arms and waist.
5. Tones the spine, neck, shoulder, arms, hands, wrist, back and leg muscles, thereby promoting overall flexibility.
6. Helps in reducing the fat around the abdomen and thus reduces weight.
7. Improves digestion.
8. Psychologically, it regulates the interconnectedness of body, breath, and mind, thus making you calmer and boosting the energy levels with sharpened awareness
9. Health benefits for men
For men, Surya Namaskar helps to reduce stress, tones their muscles and reduce weight. It also helps to improve stamina and concentration power within few months. For getting faster improvements in muscle and growth hormone production, men should practice Surya namaskar fast.
10. Benefits for women
Strengthening overall physical health is one of the major health benefits of Surya namaskar for women. Although this is idea is underestimated but women also require toned body to stay healthy and disease-free for the long time. This yoga exercise is especially beneficial after 6 months of delivery because this helps in regain strength and gradual loss of excess weight.
11. Another major health benefit is on skin. The practice improves the blood circulation across the body which results in removal of all impurities from the body through sweat. This will also cure many skin diseases and make the skin soft and glowing. If you do it for at least 6 months, your face will also glow and it will also regulate the amount of oily and too spicy food intake.
Precautions to be taken before doing the Surya Namaskar
– It is a good idea to do some Sukshma Vyayama or gentle warm-up stretches before you start with the Surya Namaskar rounds. This helps remove restlessness in the body and prepares it for Surya Namaskar yoga postures.
– Do it facing the East direction if you are doing Sun Salutation in the morning and the West direction if you are doing it in the evening. Direction is an important factor while practising this.
– People suffering from high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stroke, hernia, intestinal tuberculosis and during the onset of menstruation, Surya Namaskara should not be practiced.
– Practising Surya Namaskar in the morning before having breakfast js considered the most ideal because, in the morning the glucose levels in the blood arr be very low. So to supply energy to the cells during the exercises, fat has to be burnt quickly. If you do the same Surya Namaskar in the evening, the results will not be that great. However if it is not possible to do the work-out in the morning, then doing it in the evening is the second ideal option.
– Pregnant women should not practice this after third month of pregnancy.
– Patients of Hernia and high blood pressure are warned against this practice.
– People suffering from back conditions should seek proper advice before commencing Surya Namaskar.
If done properly, this can provide miraculous benefits to your overall health. But there are certain tips that we should keep in mind before practicing Surya Namaskar otherwise it may lead to certain disadvantages.
– While doing the postures you need to take care of that the neck should not float back your arms, because it can cause serious injury to the neck.
– We should not be bend down randomly or directly without stretching. This will get us problems in back muscles.
– The abdomen should not be attached to the ground and you should not lift your hips too high.
– We should not be exposed too much to the sun because the skin will get the rashes or any other skin problems will arise.
– Do not sacrifice your breathing to get the postures right. Synchronise each step with the movement, beginning with breathing in as you arch your back, and then out with the next movement and so on. Surya Namaskar is never done at a fast pace, else the essence of the whole practice is lost.
Regular practice of Surya Namaskar provides your body with some exceptionally healthy benefits. It is a workout for your full body starting from the toe to your head. Our body is made up of three things kapha, pitta, and vata and regular practice of Surya Namaskar balances all three of them.