The Sanskrit word ‘surya’ refers to sun and ‘namaskara’ refers to salutation. Thus Surya Namaskara is the practice of salutation to the sun. As the sun sustains life and is the source of energy in our solar system, it has been worshipped by the mankind from time immemorial.
Surya Namaskar is the conglomeration of seven postures, some done twice, in what totals twelve poses. It is practiced in a continuous flowing series. These postures, called the asana, are so sequenced that they alternately stretch the spine backward and forward. Each asana is moved into with alternate inhalation and exhalation and is associated with specific mantra which shows one’s complete surrender to the higher reality. Thus it not only provides physical and mental benefits but also spiritual benefits.
Surya Namaskara is generally performed early in the morning facing the rising sun, exposing the body to the ultraviolet rays. It can also be performed at other time of the day in empty stomach. The twelve positions of Surya Namaskara are explained as follows:
Position 1: Pranamasana
Stand erect with both feet touching each other. Now join the palms together, in prayer pose, in front of the chest. Breathe normally and mentally pay respect to the sun.
Position 2: Hasta Uttanasana
With a deep inhalation, raise both the arms above the head and tilt slightly backward arching your back.
Position 3: Padahastasana
With a deep exhalation, bend forward, place the palms on either side of the feet and then without straining touch the knee with the forehead.
Position 4: Ashwa Sanchalanasana
With inhalation, stretch your right leg back as far as possible and allow the right knee to rest on the floor. At the same time bend the left knee and then make an arch in the spine by tilting the head back.
Position 5: Parvatasana
With a deep exhalation, move the left foot back, raise the hips and buttocks up and then lower the head in between the arms.
Position 6: Ashtanga Namaskar
With exhalation, bring your knees, chest and the chin on the ground and raise the buttocks and the abdomen.
Position 7: Bhujangasana Bring down the pelvis on the floor and then with a deep inhalation, raise the head, chest and the abdomen above the ground. Now bend the spine back and look up.
Position 8: Parvatasana
Exhaling deeply, again raise the hips and the buttocks up, place the heels on the ground and keep the head in between the arms.
Position 9: Ashwa Sanchalanasana
Inhaling deeply, bring the right foot forward in between the palms. Let the left knee touch to the ground. Now make an arch in the spine by bending the head backward.
Position 10: Padahastasana
Exhaling deeply, move the left foot forward, bend in front and touch the knee with the forehead.
Position 11: Hasta Uttanasana
Inhaling deeply, raise the torso and stretch the arms above the head. Now bend backward by arching your back.
Position 12: Pranamasana
Bring the palms together in front of the chest in prayer pose and breathe normally.
It should not be practiced in high blood pressure, heart ailments, or by those who have had a stroke. People who suffer from back pain, hernia, ulcer, colitis and glaucoma should also avoid. It must not be performed in fever. Females should avoid during menses. Older people must do carefully.
- Each of the postures of Surya Namaskara enhances our prana Shakti, develops our concentration and activates the psychic centres which help in rebalancing the physical and mental energies.
- It detoxifies the body by eliminating the impurities and the mucus from the lungs and fills them with fresh and clean air which increases the oxygen content of the blood, improves our vitality and prevents respiratory ailments.
- The alternate stretching and compression of the abdominal organs tones and strengthen the digestive organs, increase the digestive fire and improves our appetite, digestion and absorption of food. Besides it also helps in the elimination of the fecal matters.
- Improves the circulation of blood that helps in the nourishment of tissues and elimination of wastes from the body.
- Activates the lymphatic system which helps to resist infection.
- Strengthens and improves the flexibility of our muscles, bones and joints and helps in relieving pain and stiffness.
- Stimulates and tones the nerves, activates the brain centre and induces physical and mental balance.
- Harmonizes the function of the endocrine glands, thus helps to maintain a physiological balance in the internal environment of the body.
Thus Surya Namaskara bestows good health. It is a powerful practice that brings balance in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our being and helps us I maintain an active life.