A Beginner’s Guide to Surya Namaskar
The Sun has been a source of both spirituality and vitality on earth since time immemorial. It is said that each of the five elements (earth, water, air, fire, and space) that make up our body are nourished by the sun’s vital energy. We all are solar-powered — life on earth would not be possible without the sun. Surya Namaskar or “sun salutation” is referred to as the worship of the sun. But more than that, it is the integration of the sun’s energy within us. Solar energy nourishes us and helps remove energy blockages from within our bodies.
It is a series of 12 different physical movements linked together to form a sequence. Surya Namaskar is often called the “ultimate asana” due to its holistic effect on the entire body and packs an excellent cardio workout. Coordinated breathing helps activate the circulatory and respiratory systems, and balance other systems in the body.
Also read: The 12 Steps of Surya Namaskar
Most importantly, from the point of view of Kundalini awakening, consistent practice of Surya Namaskar enhances the size of the Solar plexus or Manipura Chakra (located behind the navel). This chakra is responsible for increasing overall creativity, intuitive abilities, decision making, power, and confidence in an individual.
It is important to carefully look at contraindications for every posture. Know your limitations, and rest whenever required. Beginners should take rest after every round. Check in with your breath and continue.
That said, people with high blood pressure, cardiac problems, vertigo, sciatica, slipped disc, or abdominal inflation should refrain from the practice. Pregnant or menstruating women should not practice Surya Namaskar.
For physical benefits, practice three to 12 rounds at a medium or quicker pace. For spiritual benefits, you may choose to practice them at a slow and more relaxed pace. Advanced practitioners may aim for a higher count given that they are synchronized with their breath in order to avoid fatigue. For beginners, begin with three rounds and keep on adding one round to your practice every day.
The best time to practice Surya Namaskar is at sunrise. But you may choose to practice at sunset or any other time of the day on an empty stomach. It is suggested to face the Sun while practicing the sequence.
A Surya Namaskar is made up of these five components:
Sun Salutations are a set of 12 foundational postures performed in a continuous manner. All these postures are practiced in a sequence, one after the other. One round of Surya Namaskar runs you twice through these 12 basic poses. The postures are a combination of alternate forward and backward bending asanas providing a complete body activity. Each of these poses can also be practiced individually.
Physical movements are asanas only when they are coordinated with a breathing pattern. Each position is associated with either inhalation or exhalation, retention or suspension of breath. Try to engage in three-part breathing, inhaling and exhaling fully using your belly, lungs and chest in each posture.
This is not mandatory, but traditionally Surya Namaskar is a way of offering gratitude to a deity. Hence, each posture is accompanied by a mantra in praise of the sun god. There are 12 mantras and you may choose to chant them loudly, silently, or even play a pre-recorded version in the background as you practice.
As an alternative to the twelve names of the sun, there is a series of Bija mantras or syllables. Bija mantras are not much about meaning as they are about creating powerful vibrations of energy within the mind and body. There are six Bija mantras and you can repeat them consecutively while practicing Surya Namaskar.
Awareness is yoga. It is the most important part. Even if you can complete one single cycle of Surya Namaskar, bring awareness to every pose. Bring awareness within your physical and mental space, bringing about complete relaxation. Practicing in this manner will have effects at a cellular level in your body.
Benefits of Surya Namaskar
- It is excellent at burning excess fat accumulated in the body by moving the body in all directions.
- The compression and elongation of the abdominal muscles help in alleviating all digestive disorders by massaging internal organs.
- The sweat or heat generated in the body by performing Surya Namaskar helps in eliminating toxins from your body.
- The body builds strength and gentle toning of muscles is observed by holding the postures while performing the entire cycle.
- Respiration is improved and the vital capacity of the lungs increases by practicing focused inhalation, exhalation, retention, and suspension of the breath.
- The spine becomes more mobile and flexible due to rhythmic extension and flexion of the muscles of the back, thus improving spinal health.
- Last but not the least, the regular practice of Surya Namaskar along with mantras targets the nervous system, thus increasing concentration and balance. It creates emotional strength and paves way for spiritual growth in an individual.
Also read: Useful Tips for Yoga Beginners
Surya Namaskar is an excellent technique for anyone looking for holistic health benefits. It is suitable for all irrespective of your needs.
1. Yogendra HJ. Yoga for All. New Delhi: Rupa Publication, 2018
2. Saraswati SS. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust, 1969.