Surya Namaskar : Salutations to the Sun
Surya Namaskar is a sequence of yoga poses carefully placed one after the other done in a series and affecting the whole body. It has been extremely popular amongst yoga practitioners of all ages and cultural backgrounds. Recently, it was trending as it was being circulated as having been performed at the opening event of 2021 Tokyo Olympics, while the viral video was actually from a 2015 Mongolian event of Indian PM Visit. Whether trending in the news or not, Surya Namaskar is always trending in the spiritual as well as fitness world because of the host of benefits it provides to people of all ages and all body types.
Surya Namaskar or the Sun Salutations is a popular yoga exercise. Besides being a great exercise, it also has health benefits. But what is lesser known is that Surya Namaskar helps you connect with the cosmic energies via spiritual mantras that are mentally said at each change of posture. Those mantras have special powers and connect the mind with the universal energies.
Surya Namaskar is done at both sunrise and sunset, but it is best performed in the morning on an empty stomach, as it will leave you full of energy and enthusiasm to do things during the rest of the day. You will require a slightly cushioned mat or a Dari for practicing Surya Namaskar. Before beginning the practice of Surya Namaskar, you should stand still for some minutes and prepare the body and the mind. Stand with the feet slightly apart and close the eyes. The body weight should be equally shared by both the feet. Relax the whole body. Gradually deepen the breath and become aware of the body movements. Meanwhile, relax your whole body with each inhalation and exhalation. Slowly remove your attention from the body and only focus it on the hands while adapting pranam mudra in the Pranamasana.
This pose is the first amongst all. It creates a mental calmness and prepares you for starting the Surya Namaskar. Slowly, join the palms in Namaste in front of the heart, mentally offering your prayers to the Sun. Keep the whole body relaxed.
Mantra: ॐ मित्राय नमः (We offer salutations to the friends of everyone).
2. Hasta Uttanasana
This asana opens the chest and shoulder blades, and allows maximum inhalation. Release the Namaste and raise both the hands and stretch the arms backwards. The upper back and shoulders should also tilt backwards as much as possible.
Mantra: ॐ रवये नमः (We offer salutations to the one that shines bright).
This pose brings the blood circulation into the head and the face and opens the back muscles. Slowly, bring the arms to the front. Bend forwards and place the palms on the ground. Touch the knees with the forehead with an exhalation. From this position the palms shall remain fixed at their places unless specified. Do not strain any part of the body.
Mantra: ॐ सूर्याय नमः (We offer salutations to the one that makes us active).
4. Ashva Sanchalanasana
This pose works on the calves and the thigh muscles. Glide the right foot backwards until the leg is completely stretched. The left leg remains perpendicular to the ground but bent at the knee. The spine is stretched back. The body weight should be equally distributed on all the limbs. If you have any problem in the knees do not stretch completely.
Mantra: ॐ भानवे नमः (We offer salutations to the one that illumines the universe).
It strengthens all the ligaments of the legs and the back. Stretch the left leg backwards and place the feet together. The torso and the legs should make an acute angle with each other, with the buttocks as the vertex. Do so with exhalation. Again, do not strain while doing so.
Mantra: ॐ खगाय नमः (We offer salutations to the one that moves in the sky).
6. Ashtanga Namaskar
This pose strengthens the arms and the legs and also the spine. Bring the chest and the head down to the ground with the buttocks still up. In the final position, the body touches the ground at eight points: the palms, the forehead, the chest, the knees and the feet. Thus it is called Ashtanga Namaskar. It is the middle of the whole Surya Namaskar.
Mantra: ॐ पूष्णे नमः (We offer salutations to the one who gives us all strength).
This pose strengthens the arms and the chest. Bring the buttocks down and place the abdomen on the ground. With a deep inhalation, stretch the spine backwards with the head bent at its maximum. The elbows will remain slightly bent.
Mantra: ॐ हिरण्यगर्भाय नमः (We offer salutations to the cosmic golden being).
This pose again brings more blood circulation in the head and the chest. Raise the midsection up again forming a triangle like shape with the upper body, the lower body and the ground as three sides.
Mantra: ॐ मारीचाय नमः (We offer salutations to the lord of the morning).
9. Ashva Sanchalanasana
Maintaining the balance between all the limbs, bring the right leg forwards and put the foot in line with the palms.
Mantra: ॐ आदित्याय नमः (We offer salutations to the son of the cosmic mother Aditi).
Slowly, bringing the left foot forward, put both feet together with the face touching the knees.
Mantra: ॐ सावित्रे नमः (We offer salutations to the lord of all creation).
As the first round of Surya Namaskar is about to end, bring up the torso and stretch backwards with a deep inhalation, the arms reaching back.
Mantra: ॐ अर्काय नमः (We offer salutations to the one who deserves prayer and praise).
With an exhalation join both the palms in a Namaste. Surya Namaskar is complete.
Mantra: ॐ भास्कराय नमः (We offer salutations to the one who leads us towards enlightenment).
Therapeutic Benefits of Surya Namaskar Practice
- Strengthens the Musculoskeletal System - Surya Namaskar involves the bending and stretching of all major joints, muscles, ligaments and bones. It develops symmetry in the limbs. It prevents all joint diseases.
- Improves Sleep - Surya Namaskar relieves tension built up in the body and also calms the mind. Doing just one set of surya Namaskar a day can help you grab a fast sleep at night. It helps manage insomnia.
- Helps with Weight Loss - The transition between the poses of surya Namaskar can be adjusted to one’s requirements. When done at a faster pace, it instantly increases the heart rate and makes the cardiovascular system speed up. It is as good as any cardio workout. It thus prevents storage of excess body weight and obesity.
- It Helps Digestion - A few poses of surya Namaskar have special focus on the digestive system. Regular practice helps the smooth functioning of the bowels, because of increased blood circulation in the intestines. It therefore prevents constipation.
- Helps Achieve Clear Skin - Regular practice of surya Namaskar increases the blood flow in the head and the face which brings a glow in the face and also improves skin elasticity and appearance. It helps prevent acne and facial dullness.
- Regulates the Menstrual Cycle - Performing the surya Namaskar regularly can bring young girls and women a host of benefits relating to their menstrual cycle. Regular practice not only regulates the cycle but also eases the cramps and pains associated with it.
- Relieves Stress and Anxiety - Surya Namaskar eases the nerves of the whole body and in turn balances the activity of the brain. It almost instantly removes stress and worries from your mind and with regular practice you learn to manage stressful thoughts by yourself.
- Maintains Overall Health - The regular practice of surya Namaskar slowly restores health and corrects all the disorders or imbalances of the body. It is indeed the best full body exercise as it effectively removes all pains and helps maintain the overall health.
Surya Namaskar is the favorite practice of all yoga lovers. It doesn’t include any difficult postures and can be done by every person at their own pace as they feel like doing it. It includes all the body parts and tones all important muscles. It also regulates all hormonal secretions. Besides these therapeutic benefits, special mantras are mentally recited when a posture is changed into the next. These mantras help the person convey their prayers to the Sun god. In this way a connection between mind and body is established. Surya Namaskar is indeed the best part of yoga and carries the essence of yoga.