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Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)

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What is Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)?

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)

Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation, is a 12-pose yoga sequence. This is a fantastic warm-up yoga flow or high intensity cardiovascular workout that has a promising impact on the overall wellness of body and mind.


Every round of Sun Salutation is separated into two sets, consisting of 6 unique yoga stretches that are repeated twice. These poses are best practiced on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. 


Also, there are multiple variations on how to perform Sun Salutation. It is recommended to stick to one form (especially as a beginner) and practice the same flow daily for the best results.


Overview


Surya Namaskar is derived from the Sanskrit words Surya, which means "Sun," and Namaskar, which means "Greeting" or "Salute." 


Surya, "God of The Sun," is a Hindu demigod. According to ancient Hindu scriptures, the Sun is the source of life and energy on the planet earth. Hence, this yoga flow provides an opportunity to show gratitude to the Sun for supporting life on this planet and excellent health. 


The Sun Salutation’s roots are hazy because this yoga flow was not recorded in any Hatha Yoga source before the 19th century. Indian tradition associates Surya Namaskar exercises with the 17th-century saint Samarth Ramdas, without specifying which moves were engaged. Sun salutations from the past, such as Aditya Hridayam, are described in the Ramayana’s “Yuddha Kaanda” Canto 107 but are unrelated to today’s modern sun salutation flow.


Sanskrit Name: सूर्यनमस्कार          Pronunciation: soor-yaa-hh nama-sa-kaar


Pose Type: Yoga Flow                 Also known as: Sun Salutations


Strengthens: Knees, Legs, Back, Abdomen, and Arms  


Stretches: Hamstrings, Lower Back, Abdomen, Neck, Ankles, Knees, and Inner Thighs



Health Benefits of Surya Namaskar

  • Entire body’s hormonal balance is enhanced.

  • Raises mental vibration and emotional health.

  • It is an excellent cardio workout for a quick burn.

  • Regular practice can help you burn full body fat fast. 

  • Overall, muscles are toned, and flexibility is improved.

  • Balances your chakras, bringing harmony to your body. 

  • The digestive tract is stimulated, which increases your metabolic rate.


When to Avoid Performing Surya Namaskar?

  • Avoid during pregnancy.

  •  Avoid if you have arthritis.

  • Avoid this practice under bright sunlight.

  • Avoid if you have a knee, back, arm, or spinal injury.

  • Avoid if you have high blood pressure or health problems.

How to do Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)

Learn how to practice Sun Salutation A, one of many versions, and align your breath with your body’s movements. This process will be detailed, so make sure you pay close attention while following these in real-time:


Part 1 - Preparation for Surya Namaskar 


Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskar) is used as a warm-up flow for most yoga poses, because it helps induce blood circulation in the entire body. There are no specific yoga poses to prepare for sun salutation. 


1.  Full-Body Stretching - Make sure to perform simple stretches such as neck rotations, side to side back flexing, arm-shoulder stretches, and leg stretches before Surya Namaskar. 


Full-Body Stretching


You can also warm up the body by doing a few rounds of deep breathing to open your nostrils (which is required for better energy flow during Sun Salutation).


2. Brisk Walking - If you are performing sun salutations in an outdoor setting, consider brisk-walking for around 10 to 30 minutes prior to starting this yoga flow practice.

 

Brisk Walking


Walking at a steady pace will activate your leg muscles and help initiate cardiac function for enhanced blood circulation throughout your body. 


Part 2: Step-by-Step Instructions to Perform Surya Namaskar-A 


There are various Sun Salutations varieties, but here’s a guide to Surya Namaskar-A (ashtanga yoga variation), which includes step-by-step instructions for synchronizing your breath with your movements.


Step 1- Start by standing straight in Tadasana, with your hands in the Anjali Mudra (prayer position). Close your eyes, take a few moments to center yourself, and focus on your breath. 


Step 2- Inhale deeply and sweep your arms up above your head into Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute). Here, lengthen the spine and stretch your upper body towards the sky. 


Step 3- Exhale and fold forward into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) by drawing your belly button inwards, thigh muscles upwards, and softening your knees slightly.


Step 4- To protect the lower back, inhale and lengthen the spine into the Ardha Uttanasana (Extended Front Fold), still drawing the belly inwards. Rest your hands on your shins or the floor in front of you with your fingers.


Step 5- Exhale, bend your knees, step backward with your right leg, and get into an Ashva Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose). Keep your spine long by pressing the top of your right leg up, and slightly drawing your left hip backward.


Step 6- Inhale, plant your palms on the mat, and step your left leg back to join your right leg in a Phalakasana (High Plank). Firm up the front of your body, keep the core engaged and your neck in line with your spine by strongly pressing your hands into the mat.


Step 7- Exhale and enter into a Chaturanga Dandasana by dropping halfway to the floor – also known as Low Plank or Four-Limbed Staff pose. Remember that high plank to low plank is one combined step, so no pause is needed during this transition. 


Step 8- Inhale and roll into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) by rolling forward and upwards. For this pose, roll your shoulders down the back, press your hands into the floor, and open your heart up and out.


Step 9- Exhale, drag your belly button in and up and return to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog). Press your legs with your toes in the mat and lengthen the entire spine by grounding your hands into the floor.


Step 10- Return to the Equestrian Pose by inhaling and stepping your right foot forward to your right thumb.


Step 11- Exhale and enter into the Standing Forward Fold by bringing the left foot forward to meet the right.


Step 12- Return to Urdhva Hastasana by inhaling, grounding through the feet, softening the knees a little, firming the abdomen, and sweeping the arms out and up.


Step 13- Finally, exhale and return to Tadasana by lightly pressing the palms together and drawing them down the midline. 


Step 14- This was one round of sun salutations. Before repeating the cycle on the other side, take a few seconds to center yourself and reconnect with your breath.



Performance Duration for Beginners: Perform 12 rounds of Surya Namaskar. 


Performance Duration for Advanced: Perform 108 rounds of Surya Namaskar.

Part 3: Things to Keep in Mind


Are you aware of how to perform Sun Salutations? Here are some simple suggestions for making your Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) experience more enjoyable, effective and mindful: 


  • Pay attention to direction: Flowing direction matters because we greet the sun and try to absorb more vital energy from it during the practice. 


So, east or west, which way should you face? If you’re doing Sun Salutation in an outdoor location in the morning, face east, and if you’re doing it in the evening, face west. 


  • Best done with mantra chanting: Mantras are high-energy quotes from Hindu scriptures. There are 12 Mantras for every step of Sun Salutation. Chanting these will help you concentrate your mind on the practice by aligning the body with the mind. Beeja Mantra, or Seed Mantra, is the source of enlightenment for the full body Chakra Balance and healing of Chakras. 


  • Pay Attention to your breathing: If your breathing pattern is not specific for each pose, you may not be able to smoothly transition through flowing poses, and you may not get the full stretch. 

Part 4: Relaxing Poses for Surya Namaskar-A


It is important to rest and calm the intensive energy in the muscles after performing Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar). As a result, the practice should come to a stop while performing the following relaxation poses:


1. Savasana (Corpse Pose) - Savasana is the position of lying flat on one's back on the ground like a corpse. This relieves the exhaustion brought on by a long practice of Sun Salutations Flow, and it promotes mental clarity.


Savasana (Corpse Pose)


You can learn to relax by remaining still for a period of time and keeping your mind steady while fully conscious. Both the body and the mind are energized and refreshed by this mindful relaxation.

 

2. Advasana (Reverse Corpse Pose) - Advasana is a basic yoga pose that is also calming for the entire body. This yoga posture is performed for deeper relaxation post-sun salutations and mental tranquility to offer the body deep rest. 


 Advasana (Reverse Corpse Pose)

Image Credits: finessyoga.com


It not only relieves weariness but also protects against a variety of ailments. Also, it’s the best asana for balancing the whole body and curing the Vata dosha.

Surya Namaskar-A Modifications and Props

The 12 yoga stretches involved in Sun Salutations are moderately challenging. So, if you feel as a beginner you are not prepared to perform a few postures in this flow, kindly consider using these posture modification cues:


  • Bending the knees in Uttanasana: If your back is not flexible enough to bend and touch the ground, consider bending your knees. This will allow you to avoid too much pressure on the lower back and knee joints. 


Uttanasana

Image Credits: yogatherapyalacarte.com


  • Stay low in Ashwa Sanchalanasana: If it feels like too much pressure to open the chest completely during this low lunge posture, consider placing both hands on the mat and stay low to the ground. You can also place a cushion under your knee to avoid pressure on the knee joints. 


Ashwa Sanchalanasana

Image Credits: fitsri.com


  • Bending legs in Adho Mukha Svanasana: Down Dog Stretch is a challenging pose for beginners due to the complete engagement of hamstrings, quads, and calves muscles. To avoid pain in knees and arms joints, bend your knees and arms slightly. 


Adho Mukha Svanasana

Image Credits: bayleafyoga.com


  • Replace Urdhva Mukha Svanasana with baby cobra: If Up-Dog Posture is painful around the elbows and lower back, consider a baby cobra modification. 


 baby cobra


This will help in targeting the same muscle groups but with very light pressure on the elbows and lower back. 


  • Use props for Chaturanga Dandasana: This is the most challenging pose for newbies, leading to muscle soreness around the triceps and biceps. Also, it requires lots of strength to come smoothly towards the ground from high plank to this low plank posture. 


Chaturanga Dandasana

Image Credits: littlemandarin.melbourne


So, beginners can consider adding yoga block support while coming down low to maintain the right balance in their arms without any excess pressure on the arms joints

Surya Namaskar-A Variations to Consider

If you feel strong in Surya Namaskar A or it’s just too easy for you, you can try adding more challenging postures to this same flow and level up your strength with the following:


  1. Intensify Urdhva Hastasana: Instead of Urdhva Hastasana try Standing Arm Backbend Pose. This will help you engage the lower back muscles, making it stronger for all types of back-bend yoga asana. 


Urdhva Hastasana


  1. Intensify Ashva Sanchalanasana: Instead of Ashva Sanchalanasana try Warrior I Pose. This will help you challenge your body balance, and also strengthen your knees and quads, with a deeper chest opener than the Equestrian Pose.


Ashva Sanchalanasana

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Level-Up Flows After Surya Namaskar-A for Advanced Yogis

By practicing the following successor yoga flows, you can progress to the advanced level of Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) and gain more strength and flexibility over time:


Level-Up Flows 1 - Surya Namaskar A (With Jump Transitioning)

Level-Up Flows 2 - Surya Namaskar B (Sun Salutation B), this contains 19 steps in one round.

Surya Namaskar A (With Jump Transitioning)

Credits: giphy.com

Surya Namaskar A (With Jump Transitioning)


Surya Namaskar B with 19 Steps

Image Credits: lonabarnhart.com

Surya Namaskar B with 19 Steps in One Round


Similar Yoga Flow Practices like Surya Namaskar

The most prominent yoga flow after Sun Salutation is Moon Salutation or Chandra Namaskar which is done to calm the nervous system just before going to bed for a deeper rest and rejuvenation state. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)

What are the benefits of Surya Namaskar?

What are the disadvantages of Surya Namaskar?

Does Surya Namaskar reduce belly fat?

Who should avoid Surya Namaskar?

How to perform Surya Namaskar Mantra?

What are the 12 Steps of Surya Namaskar?

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