Surya Namaskar is a mark of respect to the sun as our existence depends upon its light. The Namaskar comprises a series of 12 graceful poses or asanas.
And the best way to perform it is facing eastwards, at dawn, while the sun is still rising. Of course, you can even do the Surya Namaskar at any other time during the day, but just make sure you have an empty or light stomach. The best part is that since it does not require any equipment you can do it anywhere.
Ideally, each of these asanas is done while chanting an accompanying mantra. You may chant each mantra just before the respective pose or chant the entire Surya Mantra at one go, and then perform the asanas.
The steps involved
Surya Namaskar is a form of exercise by itself and helps build stamina and strength, provided it is done regularly and in the correct way.
1. Aum mitraya namah
Stand with your feet together and hands joined in front of the chest in the traditional namaskar position.
2. Aum ravaye namah
Inhale and stretch your hands up straight, above your head. Stretch your neck and look upwards. Bend slightly backwards to make an arch of the upper body.
3. Aum suryaya namah
Exhale and bend from the waist to touch your fingers to the floor. After regular practice, you will be able to touch your forehead to the knees and rest the palms flat on the ground.
4. Aum bhanave namah
Now resting both hands firmly on the ground, inhale and take the right leg behind and stretch it out on the floor, lunge down. Bend the left knee and keep the foot in line with your hands. Stretch your neck up and gaze skywards. [In the next round, start with stretching your left leg behind first].
5. Aum khagaya namah
While exhaling, straighten the left leg out such that both feet are together and your back is straight, not curved. Make sure that your gaze is on the floor and your elbows are not bent.
6. Aum pushne namah
Slowly bring your knees to rest on the floor, then your chest, followed by the forehead. Do not rest the hips on the floor. This might be difficult initially but with practice, you will master the art.
7. Aum hiranyagarbhaya namah
In a smooth movement, raise your head and upper body, resting your palms on the ground. Your gaze should be straight ahead. Be cautious not to hold your breath while in this pose.
8. Aum marichaye namah
From here, get into an inverted V-position keeping your knees and elbows straight; rest the soles and palms flat in the ground and allow the head to hang down freely.
9. Aum adityaya namah
Fold the right leg from the knee and bring it close to the chest, resting it near the hands. When doing this, the left leg should be stretched out behind you.
10. Aum savitre namah
Bring the left leg in front, rest it next to the right foot and rest your hands on the ground.
11. Aum arkaya namah
Inhale deeply and get back to the standing position. Standing with your feet together, stretch out your hands above the head, keeping the elbows straight. Bend your spine backwards.
12. Aum bhaskaraya namah
Join the palms of both hands together in front of the chest in the namaskar position. Spend a few moments absorbing the energy of the sun and prepare your mind for the next round. Relax and stretch your hands out by your side. This completes one round of Surya Namaskar.
There are many variations of the Surya Namaskar. The one mentioned above is the traditional method and suits people of all ages and fitness levels.
- Each time you bend down, exhale as a sign of surrendering to the earth and inhale while coming up, taking in positivity and energy.
- When you first start doing sun salutations, certain poses might be difficult. So slight variations are allowed. But do not focus on just completing the sequence. Strive to do each asana to perfection and in its proper sequence.
- Don't get lost in numbers; focus on your breath and movements.
- If you experience any discomfort, do not force your body to do more. Your movements should be supple and graceful—more like a dance than an exercise. If you do experience back pain or discomfort after doing the Surya Namaskar, consult your physician.
- While chanting the mantra, drop your eyelids and focus on the meaning of the words. Then, as you do the pose, be silent and listen as your body does the talking—you might discover hitherto unknown aspects of your own body.
- At any point during the sequence, do not hold your breath. Breathing should be controlled and rhythmic.
- Regular practice of Surya Namaskar increases endurance and vitality. It exercises almost all muscles of the body and increases flexibility. It works out the body as a single unit.
- With each round of Surya Namaskar, you will notice how the breathing becomes deeper. This increases supply of oxygen to the body and increases metabolism.
- Sun salutation helps not just to increase your physical stamina—your capacity to sustain effort—but also your mental stamina. It boosts confidence and helps to maintain composure and calm.
- One full Surya Namaskar consumes 13.91kcal. Doing just 12 Surya Namaskars is equal to doing 250 sit ups; it burns the same amount of calories. And doing 24 Surya Namaskars equals to working out for 30 minutes at the gym in terms of calories consumed.
- Since Surya Namaskar involves chanting, poses and breath control, it works at a mental, physical and spiritual level. And if you do it before playing any competitive sport, it increases your focus.
- This exercise strengthens your core—muscles of your abdomen, back and pelvis. Strengthening your core muscles improves your gait, posture and makes you agile. It also helps prevent conditions such as hernia.
- The to-and-fro movements of this exercise keep your back healthy.
- It regularises activity of the endocrine glands and digestive system.
- It prevents and cures hair fall and premature greying.
Note: It should not be practised by pregnant women after the first three months.
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