Â“Salute to the SunÂ” is a form of sun worship and self vitalization that is reputed to have been handed down from the enlightened sages of the Vedic Age. Surya Namaskara can be practiced on varieties of awareness ranging from that of simple physical exercise for health to a complete sadhana (yoga meditation) which incorporates asana, pranayama, and mantra and chakra meditation. Salute to the Sun is a collection of a series of twelve poses that are designed to exercise the spine by having the person bend it back and forward. The best way to perform the poses includes alternating the breathing between inhaling and exhaling in accordance to each pose.
SURYA NAMASKARA: "SALUTE TO THE SUN" – HOW TO DO IT
“Salute to the Sun” is a form of sun worship and self vitalization that is reputed to have been handed down from the enlightened sages of the Vedic Age. Surya Namaskara can be practiced on varieties of awareness ranging from that of simple physical exercise for health to a complete sadhana (yoga meditation) which incorporates asanas, pranayama, and mantra and chakra meditation. Salute to the Sun is a collection of a series of twelve poses that are designed to exercise the spine by having the person bend it back and forward. The best way to perform the poses includes alternating the breathing between inhaling and exhaling in accordance to each pose.
The physical movements of the practice link together twelve asanas in a dynamically performed series. These asanas are ordered so that they alternately stretch the spine backwards and forwards. When performed in the usual way, each asana is moved into with alternate inhalation and exhalation (except for the sixth asana where the breath is held in external suspension). A full round of Salute to the Sun is considered to be two sets of the twelve poses with a change in the second set to moving the opposite leg first through the series.
The practice is considered to be deepened when the accompanying mantras and chakra awareness meditations are performed in each position.
Surya Namaskara is traditionally performed at sunrise which is considered the most spiritually favorable time. It is a gentle and aristocratic practice. This makes it open to people of all ages and levels. However, teachers caution that it is also a very powerful practice and that it can be not obvious while performing the series how much effect it is having on the body. They advise that it is important to have not eaten for at least three hours before practicing, to not overdo the exercise and to rest adequately afterward. Usually practitioners rest in shavasana (the dying pose) while their respiration and heartbeat return to normal.
As with all exercise maximal benefit is obtained by performing the practice regularly, rather than excessive performance in any one session. “Salute to Sun” is considered a complete exercise.
Salute to the Sun Sequence
As mentioned earlier, there are twelve postures that are adopted, in a set sequence, to complete the poses meant for sun salutations.
• Stand with your feet together and hands at the side. Slowly raise hands and touch palms facing each other and place on the chest like praying. Take a few deep breaths and then exhale. This is known as ‘pranamasana’ or the prayers pose.
• As you inhale, stretch your hands above your head while holding the palms still together in the prayer position while and arching your back. This pose is known as ‘hasta uttanasana’ or the raised hands pose.
• As you exhale, for the next pose you need to bend forward. Keep bending over till you are able to place your hands next to your feet. Bend your knees if you feel strenuous. This pose is known 'hastapaadasana' or the standing forward bend pose.
• The fourth pose is the ‘aekpaadprasarnaasana’ or the equestrian pose. You need to do here is to inhale and stretch your right leg back while you keep the leg and the spine in one straight line.
• Once you are in the equestrian pose, exhale and bring the left foot back to place it next to the right foot. At this point you should be inhaling as you support you weight on your hands and feet while keeping your back straight and in line with your legs. This pose is called ‘dandasana’ or the four-limb staffs pose.
• ‘Ashtanga namaskara’ or the salute with eight limbs is the next pose where you will lower you body as you exhale. This pose is similar to the pose you are in during the downward motion when doing push-ups. Once in the pose, you will need to hold your breath and inhale as you transit to the next pose.
• The next pose, ‘bhujangasana’ or the cobra pose, you will raise your torso up, bending yourself back at the waist without raising your legs and inhaling all the way up.
• ‘Adho mukha svanasana’ or the downward facing dog pose is the next pose. Here you will exhale as you lift your hips up and push back. At the end of this motion you should have your hips raised and your head down at a lower position.
• After the this pose comes the ‘ashwa sanchalanasana’. This is where you return to the equestrian pose as you inhale.
• The next pose will be the ‘uttanasana’ where you return your body to the pose of standing, while you bend forward at the waist and exhale.
• ‘Hasta uttanasana’ is the pose where you return your arms to the position where they are held together and raised above your head as you inhale.
• The final pose is the return to the prayer pose or ‘pranamasana’. While returning to this pose you will need to exhale. Exhale, and in a slow, sweeping motion, lower your arms to the sides. End by bringing your hands up into prayer position. Rest! Relax!
Once you have completed the first set of the twelve poses you need to repeat them with the left leg being stretched back first during the equestrian pose.
Ronthoughts Journal – Yoga-Prana and Pranayam