Surya Namaskar: Definition, Step-by-step guide, and Benefits

Young woman doing sun salutation at home

Yoga is a great way to relieve stress and is increasingly being used as the foundation of effective treatment for both physical and mental illnesses. One of the most well-known and effective ways to encourage healthy and active living is Surya Namaskar. For the majority of us, the way we live now intensifies stress and anxiety on many levels. Simultaneously, as technology advances, more work is becoming sedentary. The yogic solution to these issues includes sun salutation, which is simple to incorporate into everyday routines. The practice also expands our consciousness and revitalizes our energy fields.

 

What is Surya Namaskar

The sages of the Vedic era initiated the Surya Namaskara practice. The meaning of “namaskar” is “salutation,” while Surya is “sun.” Since the sun is a powerful symbol of spiritual awareness, worshiping it was a regular practice in the past. Surya Namaskara stretches, massages, tones, and stimulates all the muscles and essential organs by flexing the body back and forth alternately. The twelve postures constitute the framework of the practice. The psychic body is stimulated by the subtle energy known as prana, which is generated by specific poses. 

The exercise was initiated as a means of both physical and spiritual development. In Indian culture, the sun has long been seen as a source of energy and life force. Surya Namaskar was practiced during sunrise to honor and harness the power of the sun. 

 

How to do Surya Namaskar

The following instructions are a step-by-step guide to each of the Surya Namaskar poses. Incorporating the Surya namaskar mantra along with the poses will help one to build a connection to the overall practice.

 

Prayer Pose (Pranamasana)

Mantra: Om Mitraya Namaha (salutation to the friend of all)

Prayer Pose (Pranamasana) - Pose of Surya Namaskar

Inhale, standing tall with the feet together. Place your palms together in front of your chest in a prayer pose.

 

Raised Arms Pose (Hasta Uttanasana)

Mantra: Om Ravaye Namaha (salutation to the shining one)

Raised Arms Pose (Hasta Uttanasana) - Pose of Surya Namaskar

Exhale, extend the arms upward. Gently lean back and stretch the spine while maintaining an upward or forward look.

 

Hand to Foot Pose (Hasta Padasana)

Mantra:  Om Suryaya Namaha (salutations to he who induces activity)

Hand to Foot Pose (Hasta Padasana) - Pose of Surya Namaskar

Exhale, bend forward from the hips and place your hands on each side of your feet on the mat. Slightly bend the knees for comfort if required.

 

Equestrian Pose (Ashwa Sanchalanasana)

Mantra:  Om Bhanave Namaha (salutation to he who aluminizes)

Equestrian Pose (Ashwa Sanchalanasana) - Pose of Surya Namaskar

Inhale and step the right foot back into the lunge pose while maintaining a 90-degree bend in the left knee. Open up the chest.

 

High Plank (Dandasana)

Mantra: Om Khagaya Namaha (salutations to he who moves quickly in the sky)

High Plank (Dandasana) - Pose of Sun Salutation series

Exhale and bring the left foot back to meet the right foot, forming a high plank. Maintain a straight body and contract the core.

 

Eight-Limbed Pose (Ashtanga Namaskara)

Mantra: Om Pushne Namaha (salutations to the giver of strength and nourishment)

Eight-Limbed Pose (Ashtanga Namaskara) - Pose of Sun Salutation

Lower the knees, chest, and chin to the mat, and raise the hips. Place the elbows close to the chest.

 

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Mantra: Om Hiranya Garbhaya Namaha (salutations to the golden cosmic self)

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) - Pose of Sun Salutation series

Inhale, glide forward, bringing the chest off the mat. Maintain your palms firmly planted on the floor. Pull back the shoulders and open the chest.

Read more about Cobra Pose

 

Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Mantra: Om Marichaye Namaha (salutations to the lord of the dawn)

Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) - Pose of Surya Namaskar series

Exhale, raise the hips, and tuck the toes in to form an inverted “V” with your body. Press the palms into the mat.

 

Equestrian Pose (Ashwa Sanchalanasana)

Mantra: Om Adityaya Namaha (salutation to the son of Aditi, the cosmic mother)

Equestrian Pose - Pose of Surya Namaskar series

Exhale, bring the right foot forward between your hands to a lunge again. Raise your head and spread your chest.

 

Hand to Foot Pose (Hasta Padasana)

Mantra: Om Savitre Namaha (salutations to the stimulating power of the sun)

Hand to Foot Pose (Hasta Padasana) - Pose of Surya Namaskar series

Exhale, step your left foot forward to meet the right foot, folding forward from the hips. Bring your hands down to touch the mat.

 

Raised Arms Pose (Hasta Uttanasana)

Mantra: Om Arkaya Namaha (salutations to he who is fit to be praised)

Raised Arms Pose (Hasta Uttanasana) - Pose of Surya Namaskar series

Inhale, extend the spine, and arch your back gently as you sweep your arms high.

 

Prayer Pose (Pranamasana)

Mantra:  Om Bhaskaraya Namaha (salutation to he who leads to enlightenment)

Prayer Pose (Pranamasana) - Pose of Surya Namaskar series

Exhale, and come to a standing posture with the feet together in a prayer pose. Repeat the same with the other leg.

 

How Many Surya Namaskars in a Day?

The number of rounds of Surya Namaskar is not fixed. But that being said, one should never perform to the point of exhaustion. Individuals need to recognize their limitations. Although Surya namaskar is a practical exercise, overdoing it can cause unpleasant aches and pains. 

According to experienced yogis and gurus, it is recommended that a beginner start with 2 to 3 rounds and work their way up to 12 rounds as their physical capability improves. Six rounds done slowly, followed by six rounds done fast, is a helpful daily practice. Twelve rounds of surya namaskar also help to tone the abdominal muscles effectively and lose weight.

A daily practice of 108 rounds may be done to purify the body, but only under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Once the necessary number of rounds has been performed, unwind in Savasana for some time. You will notice your physical restrictions fading with practice and time.

 

Variations of Surya Namaskar

Surya Namaskar accommodates a range of fitness levels. 

Slow Flow

It involves completing each posture mindfully, paying attention to the breathing, and holding each pose for a longer duration for a more profound stretch.

 

Dynamic Flow

To maximize the cardiovascular benefits of the practice, move swiftly through each position at a steady pace.

 

Chair

Surya Namaskar may also be done while being seated. By using the chair as support, one may adjust the positions accordingly.

 

Advanced

More challenging forms of Surya Namaskar include the Ashtanga sequence B. The postures call for a minimum level of physical endurance and strength. Additionally, improper breathing may cause the positions to be more challenging to maintain. Therefore, to benefit from Ashtanga Sun Salutation B, one must improve their breathing and have a basic level of physical strength.

 

Benefits of Surya Namaskar

There are several advantages of the Surya Namaskar practice that extend to mental and physical health. Surya namaskara leads to flexibility, endurance, and muscular strength. It develops coordination, leading to greater overall strength. It improves blood circulation and increases cardiac strength. Furthermore, Surya namaskar also tones the body and burns calories, which promotes weight reduction. It also supports the functioning of the gastrointestinal system. Additionally, it also encourages the regularity of the menstrual cycle.

Surya Namaskara is the perfect way to begin any yoga session since it warm-ups the body and eliminates fatigue. It unlocks the potential for self-healing and causes the life energy, or prana, to circulate throughout the entire system. We teach in-depth about Surya Namaskar in our yoga courses in Rishikesh.

This position has a relaxing impact on the mind on an unconscious level. Breath and movement in unison promote attention in the present moment and help to still the mind. In addition to improving attention and concentration, the practice can provide practitioners with a profound sensation of inner calm and serenity. Surya Namaskar offers a comprehensive approach to health that nurtures the body and the mind.

Psychologically, it brings the body, breath, and mind into harmony, which increases our vitality with more acute awareness.

 

Precautions during Surya Namaskar 

It is helpful to perform Surya Namaskara at every stage of life, including childhood, adulthood, and old age. However, overexertion due to practice is not recommended for senior citizens. 

People who have high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, intestinal TB, hernias, or have had a stroke shouldn’t perform Surya Namaskara since it might overstimulate or harm the blood vessel system. 

Individuals experiencing back pain must consult a medical professional or a yoga instructor before practice. Women menstruating may refrain from the practice during a difficult or heavy phase. 

Sun salutation can be performed up until the start of the twelfth week of pregnancy. Following labor, about forty days following delivery, it can be progressively resumed for uterine muscle retention.

Meghna Banerjee