The Sun has always been the shining light that gives life to every living creature no wonder our ancestors, some way or another, have managed to pay tribute to it. One reason why in the religious practice of Yoga, there is Surya Namaskar, or also known as the Sun Salutation.
Just like other kinesthetic exercises, Yoga Asanas are best done in conjunction with each other. There are 84 recognized asanas and combining them would definitely amplify the benefits it can bring compared to only doing a single asana as it is.
- Get Enlightenend by learning Surya Namaskar: The Sun Salutation
- Rich History of Surya Namaskar
- Practicing the Sun Salutation
- Mastering the Sun Salutation
- Tips on Sun Salutation Exercise
- Practice Sun Salutation
Get Enlightenend by learning Surya Namaskar: The Sun Salutation
The Sun Salutation is a series of asanas that are done as a form of worship to the Hindu God Surya, the Sun, hence in Sanskrit, it is called Surya Namaskar. To further understand and master the Sun Salutation, it would be great to know its origins.
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Rich History of Surya Namaskar
The oldest tale about this exercise can be traced back to the Indian tradition of the 17th century related to a Hindu saint Samarth Ramdas although, exact asanas were not fully described in the said tradition.
Only on the 1920s that a detailed instruction and illustration of Surya Namaskar became widely popularized and practiced by B.S. Pant Pratinidhi where he described it on his book The Ten-Point Way to Health: Surya Namaskars written on 1928.
However, since Surya Namaskar was not included in acknowledged asanas on the Hatha Yoga writings before the 19th century, the said exercise was not then yet considered to be a Yoga Asana.
The modern yoga today that we practice is an evolution of what traditional yoga has been teaching since then on how we can connect with nature. This can be found in the Vedic texts that tell us how to revere the sun, the moon, the stars, and the nature that is around us.
Practicing the Sun Salutation
Comprised of series of 12 yoga asanas, the Sun Salutation is a great exercise that has cardiovascular benefits. Since it is a salutation to the sun, this exercise is best done in the morning with an empty stomach so as to warm up and stretch the body internally and externally.
The sequence of the yoga asanas for the Modern Sun Salutation can be done in this orderly fashion:
- 1. Pranamasana
- 2. Hasta Uttanasana
- 3. Hasta Padasana
- 4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana
- 5. Dandasana
- 6. Ashtanga Namaskara
- 7. Bhujangasana
- 8. Parvatasana
- 9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana
- 10. Hasta Padasana
- 11. Hasta Uttanasana
- 12. Tadasana
Mastering the Sun Salutation
Constant practice makes us adept at doing something and so thus in doing yoga. Aside from mastering yoga itself, the body will reap the results of doing a routine workout. So, how do we master the Sun Salutation then?
Step 1: Pranamasana
Start the exercise with Pranamasana or the Prayer Pose. Stand Still with both feet together and placing the weight on both, maintaining the balance. As the starting position, it is important to keep the chest and shoulders relaxed. Place both hands together at chest level with palms facing each other.
Alternative to Prayer pose is the Mountain Pose where the arms are instead stretched up to the sky with the hand still together, palms facing each other. While in the position, inhale slowly and maintain a tranquil state of mind.
Step 2: Hasta Uttanasana
From Pranamasana pose, stretch both arms upward to the sky. If you came from Mountain Pose already, you may do another variant of Hasta Uttanasana by bending the back slowly to the bend that you can bear.
The stretching of the arms helps in tearing up the bicep and triceps evenly and the bending of the back also stimulates the thoracic muscles.
Step 3: Hasta Padasana
The next step is to bend forward and reach for the feet. You may also choose to go for the flat back posture if you can’t still for the feet.
This posture would surely grind the abs and will be quite challenging to those who have a bigger belly. Nonetheless, this asana will help break abdominal fats. Hasta Padasana also stretches the leg tissues and muscles, as well as the back balancing the stretches from the previous position.
Step 4: Ashwa Sanchalanasana
The equestrian pose is the next asana to be done. Slowly stretch the right leg back while folding the on the left knee like preparing for a running race. Place both hands on the floor on a full stretch where the palms are facing the floor. The head should be gazing above the horizon.
The leg position can be done interchangeably depending on the orientation you get a better balance. It is highly encouraged to practice on both legs to improve overall stability.
Step 5: Dandasana
This posture can be considered a kind of planking. Stretch the folded leg to align with the stretched leg. Gazing should be facing down the floor.
Alternatively, you may also do Adho Mukha Svanasana or the Downward Facing Dog posture. This posture is done by lifting the hip and buttock with both arms and legs fully stretched.
Step 6: Ashtanga Namaskara
Also known as the Caterpillar pose, this asana is done by slowly dropping the knees to the floor and then the chest while maintaining the hip part lifted from the ground from the previous position. This asana stimulates blood circulation.
Step 7: Bhujangasana
To further stretch the spine, shoulder, arms, and back, Bhujangasana is the next pose and this is done by dropping the hip, leveled to the ground, and lifting the chest with the gaze on above the horizon, thus lifting the neck.
The final sequence of Surya Namaskar begins with the 8th step which is the Parvatasana. This could also be done as Adho Mukha Svanasana. After Parvatasana, step 4, step 3, step 2, and step 1 shall follow in this order.
Tips on Sun Salutation Exercise
You can maximize the benefits of this yoga asana series by stretching to the best that you can bear. It is also important to note to maintain proper breathing sequence to maintain consistent blood circulation and enhance the cardiovascular response while doing the exercise.
Give each pose 15 – 45 seconds to at least feel the stretch and tearing of the muscles. The transition from one asana to another should be done smoothly like flowing with soft music or as if you are floating in the water. Repeat the sequence thrice with a 2-minute rest interval per set.
See to it that you are doing this exercise in an obstruction-free space to avoid injuries. Wearing proper yoga attire also adds to the overall experience of doing yoga.
Practice Sun Salutation
Now that you’ve learned the history of the Sun Salutation, it will be easier for you to remember the sequence of this series of asanas. This could also help you on your yogin journey, to channel the energy within your body and as well as to connect to nature itself.
Whilst modern yoga is practiced without the religious traditions from where it originates, it will always be a pleasant and refreshing practice to connect to nature from time to time as it relieves the mind and body of the stresses day-to-day living gives.
Keep practicing your yoga and master the Sun Salutation. The physical and mental benefits will always be worth the pain of stretches and the sweat that will come out from the body.