Yogis of ancient times knew the significance of sun exposure and practiced Surya Namaskar to show gratitude towards Sun. The Sanskrit word ‘Surya’ stands for ‘Sun’ and ‘Namaskar’ means ‘Salutation’. It is a series of 12 yoga postures that includes forward and backward bending poses. All the muscles and joints in the body exercises when you practice Surya Namaskar. All the organs retain their health and continue to function properly preserving youthfulness and vitality.
Surya Namaskar Sequence
Starting Position: Move to the edge of your yoga mat. Stand erect keeping the arms by the side of the body. Feet together or slightly apart, straight neck, back and head. Chest slightly lifted, shoulders slightly back and relaxed. Be aware of the whole body. Make adjustments if you don’t feel comfortable. Keep the breaths slow and relaxed.
Asana 1: Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)
Bring your hands closer to join both of your palms. Place the hands on the center of your chest. This position is known as Namaskar Mudra. Breath normally and relax the whole body. Concentrate on Anahata Chakra.
Asana 2: Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)
With an inhalation raise your arms and head upwards. Slowly and gently bend your torso backward, moving your arms and head backward too. Bend only as far as you feel comfortable. Feel the chest expanding and your abdomen stretching while staying in the pose. Concentrate on Vishuddhi Chakra.
Who should avoid: Stretch only upwards not backward if you suffer from bad back pain.
Asana 3: Padahastasana (Hand to foot pose)
Inhale as you bend forward using your hip muscles. Keep the arms by the side of your ears. Bend until your palms or fingers touch the floor. Keep the knees straight. Try to touch your knees with your forehead. Feel the stretch of the spine as you bend forward. Concentrate on Swadhisthana Chakra.
Who should avoid: If you have severe back problems such as slipped disc or sciatica, cervical issues, glaucoma, arteriosclerosis, ear infection or brain disease, consider avoiding this pose. People with general back pain must not bend completely. Only bend as far as you feel comfortable.
Slightly bend your knees to place the palms on the floor, parallel to your feet. As you inhale, take the right foot back as far as you can, resting its big toes on the floor. Gently keep the right knee on the ground, avoid pressing it against the floor. The left knee remains bent. Expand the chest and look upwards. Keep the palms or fingers on the floor. Concentrate on Ajna Chakra.
Caution: Don’t hold the pose for too long if you have any knee or ankle problems.
With an exhalation move the front leg back to place it beside the right leg. Move your hips upwards, sucking in your belly. Move the head towards the floor and look at your navel. Try to keep the heels on the floor. The arms and legs must be straight. Distribute the body weight equally on arms and legs. Be aware of the stretching of shoulders and back of the legs. Concentrate on Vishuddhi Chakra.
Who should avoid: Applies to the same condition as asana 3 except for general back pain.
Asana 6: Ashtanga Namanasana (Salute with eight parts)
From Adho Mukha Savasana, gently put your knees on the floor. Place your chest right between both of your hands. Rest the chin on the floor. The buttocks and abdomen remain lifted. In this asana, eight parts of the body touch the ground, saluting the sun. Chin, chest, both hands, knees and big toes. That’s why it is known as ‘salute with eight parts’. Concentrate on Manipura chakra.
Who should avoid: People suffering from severe back conditions, heart problems and high blood pressure must not attempt this pose.
Asana 7: Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
As you inhale move the body forward to come into Bhujangasana. Arch the back backward as much as you can. The arms must be straight or slightly bent in the final position. Move the head backward and gaze upwards. Concentrate on Swadhisthana Chakra.
Who should avoid: Patients with hyperthyroidism, peptic ulcer, abdominal tuberculosis or a hernia.
Asana 8: Adho Mukha Savasana or Parvatasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Use the strength of your arms to lift the buttocks upwards to move into Parvatasana. Concentrate on Vishuddhi Chakra.
Asana 9: Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose)
The hands and feet remain in the same position. Move the left leg and place it right between the hands. Concentrate on Ajna Chakra.
Asana 10: Padahastasana (Hand to foot pose)
Keep the front leg in the same position. With an exhalation, lift the right leg placing the right foot beside the left foot. Straighten the legs, keep the hands by the side of the feet. Try to bring the forehead close to the knees. Concentrate on Swadhisthana Chakra.
Asana 11: Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)
As you inhale, raise the body while keeping the arms straight and close to the ears. Stretch upwards and then backward. Keep the knees straight. Concentrate on Vishuddhi Chakra.
Asana 12: Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)
Straighten the trunk, arms and head. Exhale and simply lower the arms in Namaskar mudra. Relax the whole body concentrating on Anahata Chakra.
All the 12 poses are repeated again with a slight change of leg position in Asana 4 and 9. That’s what makes one round of Surya Namaskar. When you practice again, the left foot goes back in 4th asana instead of right foot this time. In the 9th asana, the right foot comes in front instead of left. So it takes 24 poses in total to complete one round of Surya Namaskar. Though a lot of people consider 12 poses to be one round of Surya Namaskar.
Surya Namaskar Practice Note
- Practicing Surya Namaskar facing the sun at the time of sunrise or sunset is the most beneficial.
- For beginners, 2 slow rounds are enough. There is no limit to the number of rounds. One must increase the rounds gradually and should not practice to the extent of exhaustion.
- People with stiff body struggle a lot in these poses. Go slow and practice regularly, it will allow your body to gain flexibility.
- Never strain the body. It is good to put more efforts in each practice but don’t overdo it. Work within your own capability and your body will gain strength gradually.
- Before commencing to the next round, relax the body in starting position. Let the breath come back to normal.
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