Those of you who practice yoga regularly probably know this already - no yoga class begins without a few rounds of the Surya Namaskar or the Sun Salutation. This graceful amalgamation of 12 asanas is the perfect way to warm up the body and get your blood flowing; it is the ultimate total body workout.
Before we get into its benefits, let us first understand the asanas that form part of the Surya Namaskar and their sequence. Remember, the breathing is critical for it to have the desired impact on the body, mind and soul.
1. Inhale, exhale - Pranamasana
Stand straight, feet together stand tall and bring your palms close to your chest in a 'namaskar'
2. Inhale - Hasta Uttanasana
Raise your arms in the upward direction and arch back
3. Exhale - Padahastasana
Reach forward and down, bring your head close to your knees. Bend the knees slightly if you must and ensure that at least your fingers touch the mat.
4. Inhale - Ashwa Sanchalanasana
Extend the right leg back, drop the knee to the ground. Maintain the left knee bent and make sure your hands are firm on either side of the left foot. Look up.
Remember that the leg you are drawing back should be maintained while returning back in repetitive sequences. Accordingly, we have to bring the legs forward in the returning sequence.
5. Retain the breath - Parvatasana
Bring your body into an inverted V-shape.
6. Exhale - Ashtanga Namaskara
Drop your knees down, chest down, forehead down
7. Inhale - Bhujangasana
Slide forward, bring your hips down and bring your head, chest and shoulders up
8. Exhale - Parvatasana
Lift your hips up and press your heals on the mat into an inverted V-shape.
9. Inhale - Ashwa Sanchalanasana
Bring your right leg forward , between your hands, left knee on the ground and look up.
10. Exhale - Padahastasana
Bring your left leg forward, forehead close to your knees
11. Inhale - Hasta Uttanasana
Reach forward, stretch up and arch back
12. Exhale and relax - Pranamasana
Come back to the prayer position we started with.
Repeat the same as above on the left side.
It is often said that those who practice Surya Namaskars regularly do not really need any other form of cardiovascular or strengthening exercise. In fact, I know a few people who just do 54 rounds (108 in total) of it every day and that pretty much takes care of their fitness regime.
Allow me to list a few of the many benefits of practicing the Surya Namaskar regularly.
- Enables effective cardiovascular conditioning
- Improves physical strength and balance
- Helps in increasing flexibility
- Tones the muscles of the body
- Helps in strengthening the core
- Improves blood circulation
- Opens up the joints and loosens stiffness
Another great long-term benefit, from a spiritual perspective is that it works on the Manipura Chakra or the Solar Plexus, helping one develop creative, emotional and intuitive capabilities.
I strongly recommend you make this part of your exercise regime, irrespective of if you would like to practice yoga or not. Since it gets your blood flowing, it is the ideal warm up for almost any workout - be it a run, a swim or even a gym routine.
Remember to breathe with each asana, and the slower your practice it, the better the benefits. Six rounds (12 in all) is ideal and should be enough to get you going.
If you have any questions on the Surya Namaskar or on yoga in general, please feel free to write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author: Dr D. Vadivel, Chief Naturopathy Consultant at Naad, is a graduate of the Government Yoga & Naturopathy Medical College, Chennai and brings with him an experience of over ten years. During the span of his career, he has worked in renowned hospitals, including allopathic set-ups and wellness centres across the country. He is currently researching energy healing methods for psycho spiritual dimensions, which are a part of anthroposophic medicine. Dr Vadivel's expertise lies in healing asthma, vertigo and migraine and he also specialises in acupuncture for neurological disorders.