Surya Namaskar, also known as sun salutation, is a compilation of 12 distinct yoga poses that have distinct health benefits. Each of these poses of Surya Namaskar is performed in a specific sequence to complete one round of Surya namaskar. Performing Surya Namaskar offers a good physical workout to almost every muscle. It is an exhilarating experience and rejuvenates the mind as well as the body. Surya Namaskar is immensely beneficial for treating as well as preventing several mental and physical ailments. People often perform sun salutation as a part of their morning ritual while reciting the various names of the Sun God or Surya Namaskar mantras. This is considered to be a way of paying respect to The Sun.
Health Benefits Of Surya Namaskar
“Health Is Wealth” is a popular idiom that sums up perfectly the importance of good health. Nurture your body with a good diet, a balanced lifestyle, regular holistic workout and you will always remain healthy. And what could be a better holistic workout than regularly practising Surya namaskar? Performing Surya namaskar step by step provides a complete physical workout and has several health benefits over the mind and body. Some of the Surya namaskar benefits have been described below.
1. Improved Blood Circulation
Some of the Surya Namaskar poses enable easier and better circulation of blood. This is possible due to the positive effects of Surya namaskar on cardiac muscles. Improved heart function helps to pump blood more effectively, thereby enhancing the supply of oxygen-rich blood to all body parts.
2. Healthy Digestion
A few poses of the Surya Namaskar act on the intestinal muscles, by creating a massage life effect on them. This helps to improve bowel movements, absorption of essential nutrients, and to increase the digestive capacity of the intestines. Relief from chronic constipation is one of the many Surya Namaskar benefits.
3. Enhanced Function Of Respiratory System
Performing Surya Namaskar regularly helps with adequate stretching and expansion of the muscles of the lungs as well as the chest wall. This helps increase lung capacity and keeps respiratory disorders at bay. Additionally, controlled breathing which is encouraged while performing all the Surya Namaskar steps also helps to improve lung functions.
4. Controlled Blood Pressure
By having a therapeutic action on blood circulation and cardiac health, Surya Namaskar proves its efficacy in managing blood pressure as well. Some of the Surya Namaskar steps help relaxation of the muscles inside the blood vessels. This helps to maintain optimum blood pressure.
5. Weight Maintenance
One of the most important Surya Namaskar benefits for weight loss is that performing this exercise regularly helps to regulate fat metabolism. This has a direct impact on a person’s physical health by encouraging weight loss. People struggling with weight gain or obesity are often advised to perform Surya Namaskar for weight loss.
6. Mental Rejuvenation
A healthy mind is a reflection of a healthy body. Due to the benefits of Surya Namaskar improving physical health, the mind also gets refreshed and rejuvenated. This ancient exercise also has a direct impact on attaining mental relaxation by deterring anxiety, stress, anger and other negative emotions.
7. Improved Concentration
The positive effects of Surya Namaskar on blood circulation, respiratory functions, and mental health help enhance mental focus and the power of concentration. Surya Namaskar helps in the overall improvement of a person at physical and mental levels. Enhanced concentration helps to lead a better quality of life.
Each of the Surya Namaskar poses has a positive effect on the human mind and body. It is one of the easiest forms of physical workout requiring no equipment or a professional set up. After learning the technique properly, one can even perform Surya Namaskar without any guidance. There are instructional videos of Surya Namaskar for beginners which may be referred to by those who do not know how to perform sun salutation.
Step-By-Step Guide To Performing Surya Namaskar
There are 12 yoga poses which when performed in a specific sequence constitute one complete Surya namaskar. These Surya Namaskar steps are designed to follow one another so that the body muscles get adequately stretched while shifting from one step to another. Each of the 12 poses of Surya Namaskar has been described below in detail.
1. Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)
- Stand straight with the feet kept close to each other and look ahead.
- Balance the body weight equally on each foot.
- Do not allow your shoulders, chest and neck to be flail or lose.
- Breathe in while gradually raising both the arms and bringing them in front of the chest.
- As you exhale press both palms against each other as if in prayer.
2. Hastauttasana (Raised Arms Pose)
- Breathe in again and elevate your arms to take them backwards.
- Both palms should remain touching one another.
- Stretch the arms back as much as possible, while keeping the arms close to the ears.
- Feel all the muscles of your spine and arms stretching.
3. Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend)
- Exhale as you gradually bend your waist forward.
- Bring both arms forward and try to touch the floor with both palms.
- Each palm must be resting next to the respective foot.
- You may bend your knees slightly to enable touching the floor with both palms. However, later try to straighten the knees to enhance the effect of this asana.
4. Ashwa Sanchalasana (Equestrian Pose)
- While taking in a deep breath, bring your right leg behind till its knee and shin touch the floor.
- The right foot should be extended completely while touching the floor.
- The left leg should be bent at the knee with its sole touching the floor.
- Place each palm on either side of the left foot.
- Look straight ahead after completing this pose and gradually exhale.
5. Dandasana (Stick Pose)
- Extend the left foot backwards till it aligns with the right foot.
- Elevate both the thighs, trunk and chest till the body is in a straight line.
- Keep the arms straight without bending the elbows.
- Balance the body weight on both the palms and toes of both the feet.
- Take a deep inhalation while performing this asana.
6. Ashtanga Namaskar (Salutation In 8 Parts)
- Bring your knees down so they touch the floor.
- Elevate your hips and keep the chest and chin touching the floor.
- Now the body weight should be resting on both palms, both knees, toes of both feet, chin and chest.
- Since the body weight rests on 8 points, this pose is known as Asthanga Namaskar.
7. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
- Inhale as you slide forward to bring your hips down to the floor.
- Raise your chest and straighten your elbows.
- Bend the neck backward till you can look at the ceiling.
- Stretch your body as much as possible without straining any muscle.
- Those who are accustomed to performing Bhujangasana may elevate their thighs and knees slightly above the floor.
8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
- Exhale gradually as you elevate the hips off the floor.
- Straighten your arms and balance the body weight on both the palms and soles of both feet.
- The body should assume an inverted V shape.
9. Ashwa Sanchalasana (Equestrian Pose)
- Breath in and take your right foot forward.
- Take the left leg back while lowering your hips to the floor.
- Assume the equestrian pose as described earlier.
10. Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend)
- Take the left leg forward while breathing in gradually and place both feet together.
- Straighten your knees while allowing the palms to remain on the floor.
- Assume the Hastapadasana pose as explained earlier.
11. Hastauttasana (Raised Arms Pose)
- Straighten your spine while breathing in.
- Bend backwards while stretching your arms and back.
- Assume Hastauttasana pose as explained earlier.
12. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
- Exhale while straightening your spine.
- Lower your arms to keep them at the side of your body.
- Relax for a count of 10 breaths.
Performing all these Surya Namaskar poses completes one repetition of the sun salutation.
It is very important to perform Surya Namaskar step by step and keep the sequence intact to gain complete health benefits of each of the steps. Performing Surya Namaskar is an exhilarating and refreshing experience for the body and mind.
Mantra Recitation During Suryanamaskar
Mantras are words or phrases that can be repeated cyclically while meditating, praying or even while performing Yoga asanas. Surya namaskar is one such Yoga asana that is often combined with the recitation of Surya namaskar mantras. The Sun is revered as a superior entity and worshipped by Hindus. The ancient art of Yoga teaches Sun salutations as a way of respecting The Sun. The Surya namaskar mantras are Sanskrit chants signifying the 12 names of The Sun described in ancient scriptures of the Hindu religion.
The Surya Namaskar mantras have been listed below along with their meaning:
- Om Mitraaya Namah: The one who is friendly to all
- Om Ravaye Namah: The radiant one
- Om Suryaya Namah: The dispeller of darkness
- Om Bhaanave Namah: The bright one
- Om Khagaya Namah: The all-pervading
- Om Pooshne Namah: Giver of nourishment
- Om Hiranya Garbhaya Namah: One with golden colored brilliance
- Om Mareechaye Namah: Giver of light with infinite rays
- Om Adityaaya Namah: Son of the cosmic divine mother
- Om Savitre Namah: One who is responsible for life
- Om Arkaaya Namah: One who is worthy of glory and praise
- Om Bhaskaraya Namah: Giver of wisdom and illusion
These mantras correspond to each of the 12 steps of Surya Namaskar. They should be recited in the order in which they have been listed above. Reciting these mantras harnesses the dormant energy of The Sun stored in the solar plexus. Surya Namaskar is a way of activating the solar plexus and releasing this positive energy. Combining the recitation of mantras with each step of Surya Namaskar attracts positivity and harmony towards the human body and mind.
Here are a few tips to recite mantras while performing Surya Namaskar:
- These mantras can be recited in a clear and audible voice or repeated mentally
- Recite each mantra while assuming the yoga pose corresponding to it without letting it affect your breathing rhythm
- Keep your intonation and pronunciation clear while reciting the mantras
- The ancient scriptures on Yoga preach that performing Surya Namaskar with mantras is most effective when done in front of the rising Sun
While it is not mandatory to recite mantras while performing Surya Namaskar, it offers a more fulfilling and rejuvenating experience if mantras are recited.
Variations In Suryanamaskar
Yoga is the most ancient form of exercise described in various Indian scriptures. Yoga has now gained a massive number of followers and enjoys global popularity. Several branches of Yoga have emerged over the years, which follow the basics of Yoga albeit with slight differences. These branches of Yoga have also created their own versions of Surya Namaskar by modifying the existing steps of Surya namaskar. All types of Surya Namaskar are equally effective to develop a healthy mind and body. Some of these variations have been described below.
1. Ashtanga Surya Namaskar
The Asthanga school of Yoga follows two distinct ways of performing Surya Namaskar, i.e. Type A and Type B. While Type B includes slightly difficult poses, Type A is the perfect way to introduce Surya Namaskar for beginners. Urdvha Mukha Svanasana, Veerasana, Uttanasana are some of the additional poses included in the Asthanga Surya namaskar. Asthanga Surya Namaskar focuses on the internal cleansing of body and mind.
2. Hatha Surya Namaskar
Hatha Surya namaskar is the traditional way of performing the Sun salutation that most people follow. This method has been described earlier along with breathing techniques. The pace of performing Hatha Surya namaskar is moderate so as to stretch each muscle adequately. Hatha Surya Namaskar is more inclined towards physical workout and rejuvenates the muscles.
3. Iyengar Surya Namaskar
Iyengar Yoga is a branch of Yoga that originated under the tutelage of renowned Yoga guru B.K. Iyengar. The Iyengar Surya Namaskar is faster in pace and more suited to build good physical stamina. The steps are similar to Asthanga and Hatha Surya Namaskar. Iyengar Surya Namaskar focuses on balancing the energy of the mind and body.
These variations offer some additional Surya Namaskar benefits to the one who practises them regularly. Despite the variations, all forms of Surya Namaskar are based on the same philosophy that is mentioned in ancient Indian literature on Yoga. The human body has the capacity to absorb the energy of the Sun by activating the solar plexus. This energy is capable of aligning all chakras within the human body and in keeping good health.
Know these tips if you want to practise Surya Namaskar and get the most out of it:
- Always perform Surya Namaskar on an empty stomach
- Master the technique of Surya Namaskar under the guidance of a certified Yoga trainer before performing it unsupervised
- People with chronic health issues should consult with their doctor before beginning the practice of Surya Namaskar
- Beginners may perform Surya Namaskar with a lesser number of repetitions and a slower pace initially
- Take a break immediately if you experience sudden pain or discomfort anywhere in the body while performing Surya Namaskar
- Perform Surya Namaskar in the morning hours rather than any other time of the day if possible
Surya Namaskar is one of the few asanas offering a holistic workout to the mind as well as the body. Contrary to common belief, performing Surya Namaskar for weight loss is as effective as going to the gym or performing other rigorous physical activity. Surya Namaskar is not only an excellent form of exercise but also a great way of preventing several illnesses. While it is not a substitute for medicines, Surya Namaskar has a therapeutic effect on several systemic disorders. It helps to harness the dormant energy that you never knew existed within your body and mind. Performing Sun salutation daily opens doors to living a healthy and accomplished life. When practised regularly, performing Surya Namaskar becomes not just a part of the day’s routine but a way of living.