Description: Surya Namaskar is a holistic practice with a series of 12 yoga poses that benefit the whole body. Learn more about the Surya Namaskar benefits and the postures here.
Surya Namaskars Introduction
Various cultures from around the world have a deep-rooted history of offering prayers to the sun. This can be attributed to the fact that it is the most abundant source of energy. Apart from governing seasonal changes, our days start and end with the sun’s rising and setting. The Sun or Surya is a revered source of energy and positive vibrations. Regular practice of Surya Namaskar is not only beneficial for the whole body, but it also elevates and energizes the prana.
The Surya Namaskar is an exercise that entails a sequential practice of twelve poses to complete one cycle. All these asanas are arranged in a progression and each asana is complementary to the next one. The vast range of movements makes it one of the most wholesome yoga exercises. It revitalizes the whole body and stimulates, contracts, and stretches various muscles. The sequence, coupled with rhythmic breathing works on almost all the muscles and joints, making it a complete exercise in itself.
Some obvious benefits of Surya Namaskar are the improvement of posture, strengthening of muscles, and increase in flexibility and mobility. Practicing Surya Namaskar also encourages blood flow to all parts of the body, stimulates various internal organs, improves cardiovascular health, and improves balance. Starting the day off by Surya Namaskars lifts energy levels and gives a positive start to the day. Moreover, the discipline of the poses leads to stabilizing the mind and bringing harmony to one’s thoughts.
Keep reading this in-depth guide to learn the sequence in Surya namaskars and the Surya namaskars benefits. Before we dive deep into some of the Surya Namaskar Benefits, let us understand its origin and the sequence.
History of Surya Namaskars
The name Surya Namaskar translates to Sun Salutation. It originates from the Sanskrit word Sūrya meaning "Sun" and Namaskāra meaning "Salute". Surya Namaskar or, in simple words Sun Salutation, is a salutation or a way to express gratitude to the Sun. Surya Namaskars is believed to be ancient practice and was used by sages in the Vedic Age. The Sages offered Sun gratitudes by performing Sun Salutation at the wee hours of the dawn. There are several doubts about the time of origin of Surya Namaskar, though by and large it is believed that Surya Namaskar got its current form in the early 20th Century.
The Surya stands for spiritual consciousness or Surya Nadi, sun energy, or Pingala Nadi in yoga. In Yoga, the Surya or Pingala Nadi is a pranic channel that carries Prana or life force. Yogis, when you practice Surya Namaskars regularly, it will regulate your Pingala Nadi and balance your physical and mental energy.
This dynamic practice might not be regarded as a part of early traditional hatha yoga. However, now surya namaskar is part of most of the yoga styles and is usually done at the beginning of a yoga class. Yoga practitioners that follow different yoga lineages practice different versions of Surya Namaskar. In most cases, they consist of 12 Yoga Asanas, ranging from standing poses, forward bends, and backward bends. Let us have a look at how to perform these 12 asanas in the coming section.
How to do the 12 Surya Namaskar Poses
Surya Namaskar is performed with rhythmic breathing as you move from one asana to the next one. You can also check our video on how to do sun salutation on youtube. Following are the twelve asanas of Surya Namaskar:
Surya Namaskar Pose 1 - Pranamasana or Prayer Pose: Stand with your feet slightly apart in tadasana, join your palms in a namaste or Anjali Mudra, close your eyes and bring awareness to your whole body.
Surya Namaskar Pose 2 - Hasta Uttanasana or raised arms pose: Upon inhalation, take your palms together, cross your thumb and stretch your arms all the way up. If your back allows you then start to bend back from your lower back. This pose is also known as Urdhva Hastasana.
Surya Namaskar Pose 3 - Pada Hastasana: As you exhale, bend forward from your hips, relax your spine and your neck. Take your chest to your thighs and chin to your chest. Keep your knees soft.
Surya Namaskar Pose 4 - Ashwa Sanchalanasana or equestrian pose: Inhale, Bend your knees and take your right leg back in a low lunge. Check that your right knee is in line with your right ankle.
Surya Namaskar Pose 5 - Santolanasana or plank pose: Place both your palms flat on the mat and take your left leg back so you are in plank. In Plank, check that your fingers are spread and your legs are active as you push your heels back.
Surya Namaskar Pose 6 - Ashtanga Namaskara: Now drop your knees down and your chest in-between your palms and also touch your chin down on the mat. Alternatively, you can also do chaturanga dandasana.
Surya Namaskar Pose 7 - Bhujangasana: Now come either to a lower Cobra pose or you can go into a higher cobra with your hips on the floor, raise your chest up, keep your shoulders away from your ears.
Surya Namaskar Pose 8 - Parvatasana or downward facing dog: Press both your palms into the mat and start pushing your hips back, push your heels down, and stretch your legs in Mountain pose.
Surya Namaskar Pose 9 - Ashwa Sanchalanasana: Bend your knees and take your right leg back in a low lunge. Check that your right knee is in line with your right ankle.
Surya Namaskar Pose 10 - Pada Hastasana: Now again bend forward from your hips, relax your spine and your neck. Take your chest to your thighs and chin to your chest.
Surya Namaskar Pose 11 - Hasta Uttanasana: Now get your palms together, cross your thumb and stretch your arms all the way up. If your back allows you then start to bend from your lower back.
Surya Namaskar Pose 12 - Pranamasana: Lastly, back to the first pose in Anjali mudra.
The Top Benefits of Practicing Surya Namaskars
Surya Namaskar is highly relevant in this present time when most of the population have a sedentary lifestyle. As we have seen before, a regular practice of Sun Salutation benefits your overall physical and mental health. The benefits of this practice are not confined to one part of the body, it nourishes and benefits the entire body. We have put together 7 top Surya Namaskar benefits in detail below:
Surya Namaskar Benefits #1: Cardiovascular Fitness and Circulation
A dynamic practice of sun salutation raises the heartbeat and activates the whole circulatory system. Plus, a fast-paced sun salutation is a great way to promote cardiovascular fitness and is a great form of workout. The areas with sluggish circulation are pumped with purified and oxygenated blood, which in turn nourishes the cells.
Slow-paced Surya Namaskar puts cardiovascular parameters at ease, which relaxes the heart and lungs. The constant rhythmic flow of breathing enhances the consumption of oxygen. Hence the quality of the blood improves, and lungs get more supply of oxygen which promotes a balanced cardiovascular system.
Surya Namaskar Benefits #2: It boosts your immunity
One of the Surya Namaskar benefits is that it improves and boosts our immunity. As you move through sun salutations, the lymphatic system is activated. This system plays a big role in immunity and protecting the body against infection. Surya Namaskars help the lymphatic system do its job efficiently i.e fight the illness and remove the bacteria from the body.
Surya Namaskar Benefits #3: Weight Loss and Fitness:
Surya Namaskar can be a good wholesome solution for your weight loss and fitness goals. Practicing 12 poses of Sun Salutation for 15 minutes can get you almost the same results and burns the same amount of calories as running for 60 minutes. Begin performing Surya Asana 2-4 times at a slow-pace, then gradually increase the number of repetitions to about 20-30 and fast-pace as your body gets comfortable. Fast-paced Surya Namaskar burns calories and helps to build endurance.
Although Surya Namaskar takes time to show visible results, it is proven to be effective for weight loss. The dynamic movement done at a fast pace helps reduce weight in the long run with steady practice. It promotes the formation of lean muscles in the body and helps to burn fat.
Surya Namaskar Benefits #4 Strong Muscle and Endurance:
One of the Surya Namaskar benefits is having stronger muscles. In research conducted, both male and female participants who practiced sun salutations for a few weeks showed a significant increase in muscle strength and endurance.
The 12 yoga poses of Sun Salutation strengthen the muscles of the body and improve its elasticity. All the backward and downward postures of Surya Namaskar stretch the muscles, limbs and improves the flexibility of your body. But, Surya Namaskar is more effective in enhancing the upper body strength as most of its movements require work of the hands and abdominal muscles than of legs.
Surya Namaskar Benefit #4 Helps Manage Stress and Anxiety:
Relieving stress and helping with anxiety is one of the incredible benefits of Surya Namaskars. The modern-day lifestyle brings an immense amount of stressors with it and we are constantly under stress. Stress does not only exhausts us mentally but also acts upon our bodies. Being stressed for a long period can lead to muscle tension in the whole body and restriction of range of motion.
Research on Surya Namaskars indicates that these benefited college students in a high-pressure environment. Regular practice helped the students to be at ease and feel refreshed at the same time. Regular practice of Surya Namaskar relaxes both your mind and your muscles.
Surya Namaskar Benefit #5 Good Digestion:
You might have noticed that as you move in Surya Namaskar, the abdominal muscles and organs are alternately stretched and compressed. As you might have guessed, this massages the internal organs and activates sluggish organs in the abdomen. A lot of diseases originate from dysfunctional digestive systems, these can be prevented with the regular practice of sun salutations.
Surya Namaskar is beneficial to people who often suffer from indigestion and constipation. It improves blood flow to the intestine which breaks down critical proteins and fats. These yoga poses direct more blood to your digestive tract. Plus, it fosters peristalsis, the movement in the intestine that helps with efficient digestion. Hence, increased blood flow to these organs enhances digestion.
Surya Namaskar Benefit #6 Sun salutations help with Regular Menstrual Cycle
Surya Namaskar benefits women who have amenorrhea and Metrorrhagia and irregular menstrual cycle. The ovary is controlled by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland releases FSH or Follicle-stimulating hormone that elevates the formation of the ovum from the follicles in the ovary. Also, the adrenal gland, hormones produced in the hypothalamus controls the menstruation cycle. The 12 stances of the Surya Namaskar regulate these two glands and along with the hypothalamus and can help with regular menstruation.
Surya Namaskar Benefit #7 Healthy and Glowing Skin
The last one on this list and another benefit of Surya Namaskar is healthy skin. Surya Namaskar improves blood circulation in your body, which helps to get healthy, glowing skin. Elevated heartbeats help to push the blood through the arteries to flow throughout the whole body. This delivers more oxygenated blood to the tissues and cells of the body and eliminates impure blood from the body. Naturally, for good blood circulation, one can see a significant difference in their skin. Surya Namaskar also improves the elasticity of the skin, giving your skin an overall good appearance.
What precautions should I take while Doing Surya Namaskar?
Slow and Steady wins the Race! Especially for beginners, start with the basic and slow practice of sun salutations. I suggest that you begin with 4-5 rounds of Surya Namaskar and then gradually add a few more rounds to your practice.
If you have cramps and heavy flow during periods, refrain from doing fast-paced Surya namaskar. If you have serious injuries or if you have recovered from illness, take your time and do slow-paced Surya Namaskars. If you have slipped disc, coronary ailments, and sciatica, Avoid doing these without expert guidance. Furthermore, if you have coronary artery disease, tuberculosis, and hernia, seek a doctor’s advice before you start practicing sun salutations.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this in-depth guide on sun salutation poses and their benefits. If you have never practiced before, try doing surya namaskar step by step at a slow pace. Let us know in the comments if you would like to learn a basic variation of Surya Namaskar for beginners.