Surya Namaskara has been handed down from the enlightened sages of the Vedic ages. The sun symbolizes spiritual consciousness and in ancient times was worshipped on a daily basis. In yoga the sun is represented by pingala or surya nadi, the pranic channel, which carries the vital, life giving force.
It is an effective way of loosening up, stretching, massaging and toning all the joints, muscles and internal organs of the body. Its versatility and application make it one of the most useful methods of inducing a healthy, vigorous and active life, while at the same time preparing for spiritual awakening and the resulting expansion of awareness.
Its performance, in a steady, rhythmic sequence, reflects the rhythms of the universe; the 24 hours of the day, the 12 zodiac phases of the year and the biorhythms of the body. The application of this form and rhythm to the body/mind complex generates the transforming force which produces a fuller more dynamic life.
Surya Namaskara includes semi-inverted poses, so the caution for inverted postures applies. It should not be practiced by people suffering from high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, or by those who have had a stroke, as it may over stimulate or damage a weak heart or blood vessel system. People with back conditions such as slipped disc and sciatica will better be managed through an alternative asana program.
During the onset of menstruation, this practice should be avoided. If there are no adverse effects, the practice may be resumed toward the end of the period. During pregnancy, it may be practiced with care until the beginning of the 12-week. Following childbirth, it may be commenced approximately forty days after delivery for re-toning the uterine muscles.
The practice of surya Namaskara as a whole gives a great number of benefits. It strengthens the back and helps balance the metabolism. It stimulates and balances all the systems of the body, including the reproductive, circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems. Its influence on the endocrine glands helps to balance the transition period between childhood and adolescence in growing children.
Synchronizing the breath with the physical movements of surya Namaskara ensures that the practitioner, at least for a few minutes daily, breathes as deeply and rhythmically as possible, increasing mental clarity by bring fresh, oxygenated blood to the brain.
Time of practice
The ideal time to practice surya Namaskara at sunrise, the most peaceful time of the day, or sunset. Whenever possible, practice in the open air, facing the rising sun. However it may be practiced any time provided the stomach is empty.
Before commencing the practice, stand with the feet together, with the hands hanging loosely by the side of the body. Close the eyes and become aware of the whole physical body as one homogeneous unit.
Take the awareness to the soles of the feet in contact with the floor. Feel that the whole body is being pulled downwards by gravity and that any tensions are being pulled down through the body and into the ground. At the same time, experience the vital force surging up from the earth and flooding the whole being.
Bring the awareness inside the body and mentally begin to relax it. Starting from the top of the head, take the awareness systematically through all the parts, releasing any tension.
Finally, take the awareness to the heart or eyebrow center and visualize a brilliant, red rising sun infusing the whole body and mind with its vital and healing rays.
Position 1: Pranamasana (prayer pose)
Keep the eyes closed.
Remain standing upright with the feet together
Slowly bend the elbows and place the place the palms together in front of the chest, mentally offering homage to the sun the source of all life.
Position 2: Hasta Utthanasana (raised arm pose)
Separate the hands raise and stretch both arms above the head, keeping them shoulder width apart.
Breathing: Inhale while raising the handsBend the head and upper trunk slightly backwards.
Awareness: Physical- on the stretch of the abdomen and expansion of the lungs.
Spiritual- on vishuddhi chakra.
Position 3: Padahastasana (hand to foot pose)
Bend forward from the hips until the fingers or palms of the hands touch the floor on either side of the feet.
Bring the forehead as close to the knees as is comfortable.
Do not strain.
Keep the knees straight.
Breathing: Exhale while bending forward. Contract the abdomen in the final position to expel the maximum amount of air from the lungs.
Awareness: Physical- on the back and pelvic region.
Spiritual- on swadhisthana chakra.
People with back conditions should not bend forward fully. Bend from the hips, keeping the spine straight, until the back forms a ninety-degree angle with the legs, or bend only as far as is comfortable. Caution for inverted postures applies.
Position 4: Ashwa Sanchalanasana (equestrian pose)
Place the hands on the floor besides the feet.
Stretch the right leg back as far as is comfortable, at the same time; bend the left knee, keeping the left foot on the floor in the same position. Keep the arms straight. In the final position, the weight of the body should be supported on hands, the left foot, right knee and top of the right foot. The head should be tilted backwards, to the eyebrow center.
Breathing: Inhale while stretching the right leg back.
Awareness: Physical- on the stretch from the thigh through the lower back, and on the eyebrow centre while balancing.
Spiritual- on ajna chakra.
Position 5: Parvatasana (mountain pose)
Keep the hands and right foot still, and take the left foot back beside the right foot. Simultaneously, raise the buttocks and lower the head between the arms so that the back and legs form two sides of a triangle.
Do not strain.
Breathing: Exhale while taking the left foot back.
Awareness: Physical- on the stretch through the Achilles tendons, the back of the legs, shoulders and throat region.
Spiritual-on vishuddhi chakra.
Position 6: Ashtanga Namaskara (salute with eight parts)
Keep the hands and feet in place.
Lower the knees, chest and chin, or forehead, to the floor; the feet will come up on to the toes.
In the final position only the toes, knees, hands, chest and forehead touch the floor.
The buttocks, hips and abdomen should be raised.
Breathing: The breath is held out in this pose.
Awareness: Physical-on the arch in the lower back and on the abdominal
Spiritual- on the Manipura chakra
Position 7: Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
Keep the hands and feet in place.
Slide the chest forward and raise first the head, the shoulders, then, straightening the elbows, arch the back into the cobra pose. This will lower the hips and buttocks to the floor.
Bend the head back and direct the eyes to the brow center.
The thighs and hips remain on the floor and the arms support the trunk.
Unless the spine is very flexible the arms will remain slightly bent.
Breathing: Inhale while raising the torso and arching the back.
Awareness: Physical-on the relaxation of the spine.
Spiritual-on swadhisthana chakra.
Position 8: Parvatasana (mountain pose)
The hands and the feet do not move from position 7.
From Bhujangasana assume Parvatasana.
Keep the arms and legs straight, grip the floor with the toes and use the strength of the arms to raise the buttocks and lower the heels to the floor.
Breathing:Exhale while raising the buttocks.
Awareness:As for position 5.
Position 9: Ashwa Sanchalanasana (equestrian pose)
Keep the palms on the floor and the right foot in place.
Bend the left leg and bring the left foot forwardbetween the hands.
Simultaneously, lower the right knee so that it touches the floor and push the pelvis forward.
Tilt the head backward, arch the back and gaze at the eye brow center.
Breathing:Inhale while assuming the pose.
Awareness:As for position 5.
Position 10: Padahastasana (hand to foot pose)
Bring the right foot next to the left foot.
Straighten both legs.
Bring the forehead as far down the legs as possible without straining.
Breathing:Exhale while performing the movement.
Awareness:As for position 3.
Position 11: Hasta Utthanasana (raised arms pose)
Keep the arms and spine in a straight line.
Raise the torso and raise the arms above the head.
Keep the arms separated, shoulder width apart.
Bend the arms and upper trunk backwards slightly.
Breathing: Inhale while straightening the body.
Awareness: As for position 2.
Position 12: Pranamasana (prayer pose)
Bring the palms together in front of the chest.
Breathing:Exhale while assuming the final position.
Awareness: As for position 1.