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Yoga is not just physical exercises. It's emotional integration, spiritual elevation, with a touch of a mystic element, which gives you a glimpse of something which is beyond all imagination.”- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Yoga originated around 5000 years ago and is being used since the time of Vedas and Upanishads. When you sit back and enlist the contributions of India towards the world, yoga will definitely be at the top.

Yoga means Union in Sanskrit and it is believed that practising yoga leads to the union of a person with his or her true nature or with God.

Surya Namaskar is one of the most famous yoga asanas. It was originally meant to worship the sun, but it also has a lot of advantages for physical, mental and the spiritual well being of a person.  

Surya is a Sanskrit word used to denote the most important star of the solar system, the ‘sun’, and the term namaskar is the sandhi of two different Sanskrit words which are ‘namah’ which means to greet or to pray and ‘kara’ which means hands.

So Surya Namaskar means to greet or to pray to the sun with joint hands.

Though the name Surya Namaskar seems to be very easy to understand, the asana itself is quite complex and comprises several variations of poses merging into each other. 

Besides being a significant cardiovascular workout, Surya Namaskar is also known to have a positive impact on the body and mind. In fact, Surya Namaskar or sun salutation is considered as an epitome of all the yogas. It is equally beneficial for people belonging to all age group and body types and helps in making your body disease free and healthy. 

Interesting facts about Surya Namaskar

  • Surya Namaskar is mentioned in the oldest Indian Veda - Rigveda. It dates back to 1500 B.C.
  • According to the Puranas, Aditya Hridayam is another practice which involves Surya Namaskar.
  • Even in western literature, Surya Namaskar was mentioned way back in 1860 by Rev. William Cooke Taylor, in his writing named “A Catalogue raisonnée of oriental manuscripts”

Let us find out the steps for practising surya namaskar and its various benefits.

  1. Who should avoid Surya Namaskar
  2. Surya Namaska side effects
  3. Surya Namaskar mantra
  4. Surya Namaskar steps
  5. Step wise benefits of Surya Namaskar
  6. Benefits of Surya Namaskar
  7. Tips for Surya Namaskar
  8. Asanas to be done before doing Surya Namaskar
  9. Asanas to be practiced after Surya Namaskar
  • Women should not practice during their menses or pregnancy.
  • Restrain yourself from practising Surya Namaskar if you have any illness like fever or joint pain.
  • People who underwent recent surgeries should not practice Surya Namaskar.

Proper practice of Surya Namaskar does not have any side effects. It is important to follow your breath and inhale and exhale on exact times to avoid muscle pulls and provide your body with the right amount of energy and oxygen right when it is needed. Missing a step or improper postures may cause one these side effects:

  • Body ache
  • Ankle sprain
  • Muscle pull
  • Pain in neck    

So practice carefully or join a yoga class to know more about proper breath control and merging asanas with ease.

To begin surya namaskar the following sanskrit shloka is recited:

Om,

Dheyayah sada savitrimandala madhyavarti

Narayanah sarsijasan-sannivishtah

Keyurvan makar-kundalwan kariti

Hari hiranmya vapudhrit shankha-chakrah

(Om, I pray to the Sun who is the centre of the solar system, who is one with the creator ‘narayana’ and adorned with pieces of jewellery)

Each of the 12 steps has different mantras associated with them, which salutes Surya by different names:

  • Pranamasana- Om Mitraya Namah, pray to the one who is the friend of all.
  • Hasta Uttanasana-Om Ravayre Namah, to the one who is praised by all.
  • Hastapadasana- Om Suryaya Namah, the one who is the guide of all.
  • Ashwa sanchalanasana- Om Bhanave Namah, I pray to the one who is the bestower of beauty.
  • Dandasana- Om Khagaya Namah, the one who stimulates all the senses.
  • Ashtanga namaskara- Om Pushne Namah, I greet the one who provides nourishment to all.
  • Bhujangasana- Om Hiranyagarbhaya Namah, Pray to the one who gives masculinity.
  • Adho mukha svanasana- Om Marichaye Namah, praying to the one who helps in keeping our body disease free.
  • Ashwa sanchalanasana- Om Adityaya Namah, I greet the one who inspires love.
  • Hastapadasana- Om Savitre Namah, pray to the one who is the begetter of life.
  • Hasta Uttanasana- Om Arkaya Namah, praise to the one who creates wonder.
  • Tadasana- Om Bhaskaraya Namah, the one who is the brightest of all, I pray to him.

All of these chants basically mean the same ‘salute the sun’.

The mantra chanted at the end of Surya Namaskar is :

Aadityasya namaskaran ye kurvanti dinne dinne

Aayu, pragya, balam, viryam, tejsteshan cha jaayate.

This means: People who greet the sun every day, live longer, gain more intellect, power, sexual vigour and energy.

  1. Pranamasana-  Also known as the prayer pose. To begin this, stand at the edge of the mat, keeping your feet closed. Relax your shoulder, raise both hands while you inhale and on exhaling join your palms together in front of the chest in praying position. Remember to keep your spine erect and straight.
  2. Hasta Uttanasana (The raised arm pose)- Keeping your palms joined together, breathe in and lift your arm above your head until it slightly curves towards your back. This helps to stretch all your body muscles from the tip of fingers to the heels. Make sure your biceps are close to your ears.
  3. Hastapadasana (Hand to toe pose)- While exhaling, start bending from the waist until both your palms are flat on the floor on sides of your feet and you have breathed out completely. Do not bend your knees. Your spine should be parallel to your body.
  4. Ashwa sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)- Push your right leg back (as far as possible) and look up. Your right knee should be touching the floor and it should be at an angle of 90 degrees to your thigh so that the toes of your right foot are touching the floor. Your left knee should be bent and your palms should be placed on either side of your left foot. Keep your right thigh at an angle of 180 degrees with the floor and your weight equally balanced between your feet.
  5. Dandasana (The stick pose)- Push your left leg back and bring your body in a straight line, parallel to the floor. Breathe in while doing this. Your arms should be on either side of your face with your palms flat on the floor.
  6. Ashtanga namaskara (Salute with eight parts or joints)- Gently bring down your knees on the floor and breathe out. Slightly move your hips back and slide forward. Bring your chest and chin on the floor. Your palms should be flat on the ground in line with your shoulders. Your elbows should be bend on either side of your chest. Now elevate your posterior a bit. (2 hands + 2 feet + 2 knees + chest and chin = 8 parts should touch the ground).
  7. Bhujangasana (The cobra pose)- Slide forward so that the entire lower half of your body rests on the floor. Gently, raise the upper half of your body. Push your chest forward while inhaling and tighten the naval muscles when you exhale. Your face should be facing the ceiling. You may bend your shoulders towards the back but keep them away from your ears. 
  8. Adho mukha svanasana (Downward facing dog)- As you breathe out, lift your hips and push your chest downwards to form an inverted-V like position. Try to keep your heels on the ground much as possible. As this pose completes, your hips should be facing the rood and your palms should be on the floor. This step depicts that you are completely surrendering to the sun god.
  9. Ashwa sanchalanasana- Repeat the 4th step but now with the left leg pushed backwards.
  10. Hastapadasana- Bring the left leg forward and come back in the 3rd pose. Keep your palms resting on the ground beside your feet.
  11. Hasta Uttanasana- Breathe in and pull your body upwards. Raise your hands straight over your head. Keep your palms joined as you do so. Slightly push your body backwards and come back into the 2nd pose.
  12. Tadasana (The mountain pose)- Get back to a normal standing position while exhaling out. Keep your palms joined in front of your chest for a moment, then, gently bring your hands down on the sides.

After completing all the given 12 steps, one round of Surya Namaskar is complete and you are now ready to begin with the second cycle.

Start doing 2 sets in a day and then you can gradually increase. You can do as many as 108 repeats of Surya Namaskar in a day.

  • Pranamasana- It helps maintain the balance of the body and aids in relaxation of nervous system. It also strengthens the heart chakra.
  • Hasta Uttanasana-This asana helps expand the total oxygen intake and lung capacity. As it involves in the respiratory process, this asana activates the throat chakra and helps relieve ear and throat problems.
  • Hastapadasan- It makes the lower back and the spine flexible.
  • Ashwa sanchalanasana-  This asana improves your posture and calms the mind. This leads to increased memory and cognition.
  • Dandasana- Makes the spine and neck flexible, also supports digestion.
  • Ashtanga namaskara- This step strengthens the back muscles along with reducing tension and anxiety. It also increases will power.
  • Bhujangasana- Stretches the shoulder and helps in elevating mood.
  • Adho mukha svanasana- This increases blood flow to the spinal region, which is good for the peripheral nervous system.
  • Ashwa sanchalanasana- It tones the abdominal muscle and adds flexibility to leg muscles. 
  • Hastapadasana- The 10th step of Surya Namaskar, opens up the hip, shoulders, and arms. 
  • Hasta Uttanasana- It is same as the 2nd step and therefore has the same benefit, which is a full intake of oxygen and improving throat and ear problems.
  • Tadasana- This helps in improving the overall stature of the body and help strengthens your heart.

Being a perfect amalgamation of different yoga asanas, Surya Namaskar is a complete workout for the body. A comprehensive exercise without the need for any equipment.

There are 8 different points in the human body which regulates the functioning of the entire system, namely:

  • Muladhara (root chakra)
  • Svadhisthana (pelvic or sacral chakra)
  • Manipura (navel chakra)
  • Anahata (heart chakra)
  • Vishuddha (throat chakra)
  • Ajna (third eye chakra)
  • Sahasrara (crown chakra)

Surya namaskar works on most of these chakras and hence has many astonishing benefits on the human body. Some of the benefits are listed below:

  • Surya namaskar strengthens your back and muscles. Muscle endurance, especially of the limb muscles, improves much faster in regular Surya Namaskar training than running on the treadmill.
  • By alternately contracting and relaxing your abdominal muscles, it tones your abdomen and improves your digestive system.
  • It helps in preventing constipation and dyspepsia.
  • Provides proper oxygen to the body. And also helps in detoxification.
  • Surya namaskar combats insomnia and reduces anxiety. This is because it helps in reducing the effect of the stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline on the body.
  • Improves memory by developing the central nervous system.
  • Makes your body flexible and toned.
  • Normalizes the activities of the endocrine glands. This means your hormones are functioning better.
  • It helps in reducing body fat, thus assisting in weight loss.
  • Rejuvenates your skin.
  • It improves your circulatory system.
  • In women, Surya Namaskar helps to maintain the regularity of the menstrual cycle. It also assists in easy childbirth and keeps your breasts from sagging with age.
  • Creates a balance between body and mind.
  • It slows down the process of ageing.
  • It helps in controlling blood sugar levels.
  • As Surya Namaskar is better practised outside, preferably facing the sun and under direct sunlight, it helps maintain the balance of D vitamin in our body.
  • East or west- Chose the direction according to the time of practice. Stand to face towards the east in the morning and in evening stand facing west.
  • Perfect time to practice Surya Namaskar is at dawn, during sunrise. (around 5:00 - 5:30 A.M.)
  • Try to think positive thoughts while doing Surya Namaskar.
  • These asanas are best done along with mantra chanting.
  • Shavasana is practised just after Surya Namaskar to relax your body.
  • Be aware of the poses and its effects on your body. If you feel stiffness or unease at any pose you may need to work more on that body part or muscle.
  • Must be performed on an empty stomach or at least 3-4 hours after having a meal.
  • Avoid drinking water or any other fluids just before and after performing Surya Namaskar.
  • Try not to have a bath immediately after the asanas. Give your body some time to relax.

You need not practice any yoga asanas before doing surya namaskar, this should be the beginning for any yoga.

You can do any of the yoga exercises after practising Surya Namaskar. Some of these are:

  • Utkatasana (chair pose)
  • Parivrtta utkatasana (revolved chair pose)
  • Anjaneyasana (low lunges)
  • Trikonasana (triangle pose)
  • Virabhadrasana III (warrior 3)
  • Natarajasana (dancer pose)
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References

  1. The University of Minnesota. Yoga. University of Minnesota's Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing
  2. Jakhotia KA, Shimpi AP, Rairikar SA, Mhendale P, Hatekar R, Shyam A, Sancheti PK. Suryanamaskar: An equivalent approach towards management of physical fitness in obese females. 2015 Jan-Jun;8(1):27-36. PMID: 25558131
  3. Cruz Bay Publishing. A Beginner's Guide to the Chakras. Yoga Journal Podcasts Yoga
  4. Isha Foundation. Benefits of Surya Namaskar: How It Transforms Your System. Isha Yoga Center, Velliangiri Foothills, India
  5. Art of living. Surya Namaskar – A complete detailed guide for a perfect yoga workout. Sri Sri Ravishankar Vidya Mandir Trust, Art of Living Yoga & Meditation Centre
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