What is Surya Namaskar and how to make it part of your daily life?
Surya Namaskar (Sun salutation) is a yogic exercise that activates various parts of the body. It comes from Indian tradition, has long been practiced, and has many variations.
Generally, Surya Namaskar consists of 12 postures (asanas), many of which are repeated in a cycle. They are a series of alternating forward and backward bends that stretch and compress the limbs and muscles in the body. It can be done slowly or at a fast pace. One can progress to a fast pace once they are familiar with the individual asanas in the Surya Namaskar and have practiced the slow pace for some time.
To begin with, do it slowly. Get into each of the asanas and hold the pose for 2-3 seconds, then move into the next asana. You need only 5-10 minutes of a Surya Namaskar practice every day to build a healthier you.
How to do Surya Namaskar
While standing, bring your hands to a prayer position in front of your chest. Stand tall and straight, squaring your shoulders. Keep the legs together and the body relaxed. Your arms should be parallel to the ground.
Raised arms pose/Hasta uttanasana
Lift the arms over your head and bend backward. Keep your arms closer to your ears. Bend only as far as you feel comfortable. As you build the practice you will get more flexible and can go farther while you bend backward. Go slow, as you might get dizzy if you attempt to go too far back without practice
Hand to foot pose/Hastapadasana
In one continuous motion, bend forward and touch your feet with your hands. Try to keep your knees as straight as you possibly can.
Equestrian pose / Ashwa Sanchalanasana
Push your left leg back and touch the ground with your toes. Hold the two hands and right leg in the same position from the previous step. Now lower the left knee to the floor and look straight ahead. Keep the right leg between your palms.
Four limbed Staff pose/ Chaturanga Dandasana
Holding the left leg, push out the right leg back so they are level with each other. Keep your abdomen off the floor balanced by your palms and legs.
Caterpillar Pose / Ashtanga Namaskara
Slowly, bring your knees down, keeping your abdomen in the air. Lower your face to the ground and place your chin down. The feet, Knees, Chest, Chin, and hands are now in contact with the ground. Push forward into the next asana in a rolling motion.
Cobra Pose /Bhujangasana
Move forward and raise your chest off the ground. Keep the lower half of your body on the floor completely and look straight ahead.
Mountain pose / Parvatasana
Arch out your back, lift your hip towards the sky. Keep your toes and fingers on the ground making a triangle with your body.
Equestrian pose / Ashwa Sanchalanasana
Lower your hip and bring your left knee to the ground. Slide the right leg forward between your hands. You would end up in the same pose as in Step 4.
Hand to foot pose / Hasta padasana
Bring your left leg forward and keep both hands on the ground. Push out your knees to arrive at the same pose as in Step 3.
Raised Arms Pose / Hasta uttanasana
Straighten up and roll into the bend backward. Do it in one fluid motion slowly as if uncoiling your body into the same pose as in Step 2.
Standing Mountain pose / Tadasana
Straighten your spine and lower your hands by your side.
How does Surya Namaskar/Sun Salutation fit with your lifestyle?
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- You can learn and master the skill quickly.
- You can do Surya Namaskar anywhere and it is easy to adopt because all you need is you.
- Practicing Surya Namaskar is “Me Time” at its best.
- While living in close quarters with near and dear ones, your lives are intertwined. Seeing your practice can motivate people around you to participate.
- It is as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. Once you master the basic asanas, you can seek out the more advanced variations. These would increase the energy being burned during the exercise.
- You can also do parts of the asanas individually and master Surya Namaskar over a few days.
Scientific Benefits of Surya Namaskar
- Studies were conducted to measure the effects of Surya Namaskar (Effects of Suryanamaskar on Cardiovascular and Respiratory Parameters in School Students): “…it was determined that a 45-day practice improves physical health and increases cardiorespiratory efficiency.
- Practiced over a few months, Surya Namaskar was found to reduce resting pulse rate and blood pressure (“Effect of Suryanamaskar Practice on Cardio-respiratory Fitness Parameters: A Pilot Study”, Pratima M. Bhutkar et al).
- It regulates breathing patterns and encourages deep breaths that energize and activate the body.
- Reduces Vitamin D deficiency by exposing one to the beneficial sun’s rays when done in the morning.
What to know before you do Surya Namaskar
- It is best done during the day facing the Sun. The next best time to do it is whenever you can.
- Please have an empty stomach during any asanas. If you have just eaten, wait an hour or two before you perform the Surya Namaskar.
- Please follow the instructions closely on the placement of the hands and legs with each other. It might seem simple, but done the right way you would feel the stretches in muscles that are meant to be worked.
- Surya Namaskar is as simple or as hard as you want it to be. Do 1, 10, or even 100 a day. Start small with a set and add more. A set includes one on the right side and one on the left side. You can increase the number of sets being performed on any given day.
- The benefits are multifold when they are accompanied by deep breathing.
How to make it a habit.
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- Commit to a time and number of days in a week.
- Be mindful of the changes in your body. Observe for a week and you will be amazed at the benefits. Pause and celebrate.
- Have an accountability partner. Exercise with them or check-in daily on whether you met the commitment.
- Look for Yoga in the park or local meet up groups.
- Weather permitting, there are also local hiking groups that organize Yoga at Summit. Or host an event to do Surya Namaskar.
- We all have that special place that makes us happy. Be it by the lake, ocean, or a favorite corner of the house. Make it more special by doing Surya namaskar there.
- Find a guide for the first few sessions, even if it is for someone to observe your posture when you are doing the asanas. Or Youtube it and watch closely. The sessions which detail where you should feel the burn are worth their weight in gold.