Namaskar= greeting or salutations
One of the most popular practices of hatha yoga, surya namaskar has been adopted throughout the yoga circuits unanimously as a method to activate the sympathetic channels, increase blood flow, toning the nerves, activating the motor circuits in skeletal as well smooth muscles and to maintain the cardiac health. Although not found much in details in ancient yogic texts like Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, Gherand Samhita or Goraksh Samhita, it has been there for ages and still is one of the favorite things every yogi would like to add on to their practice routine.
Surya or Sun, being the focal point of existence on earth, has been granted supreme status, across the world cultures. In Vedic culture, it has been highly decorated as a supreme being (Devtaa) which provides the very base for sustaining life, and thus is considered to be vital. It is strongly suggested that all the phenomena of nature that makes life possible on this planet are holy in themselves, which provides us the grounds, on which we can connect with them on a more psychic plane.
Following the same principle, Surya namaskar was devised as a method of paying our tributes to the Sun. The energy of Surya is experienced on various physical and mental planes by all of us. The flow of blood in our arteries and veins is correlated with the solar cycles. The process of digestion, is also relying upon the amount of Agni (fire) in the abdominal region, may it be the secretion of digestive juices, acids and bile or the peristalsis in the smooth muscles of the visceral organs, it’s all related to the amount of energy that is prevalent in the region. Low Agni results in sluggish digestion and an overall lack of nutrition. Our intelligence on the other hand is also related to the energy and is termed as one of the manifestation of solar principles. Hence the practice of sun salutation is a method of acknowledging the greatness of Surya, as the epicenter of energy, and at the same time trying to harness this energy which has been localized in the micro cosmos known as the human body.
We are going to share the steps for classical Surya Namaskar here with some explanations along with pictures so that all of you can get a basic idea about the practice. It’s not very difficult to begin with it and if you are a beginner in yoga, this will be the most suitable practise to start with. Also being a regular practitioner, you will not ignore the benefits that it can provide. Surya Namaskar, can be used to introduce our body into the new dimensions of movement and postures, while we are trying to step onto the path of Yoga, and at the same it can also prove to be a magnificent energy booster for already practicing yogis. If you have that thing called scarcity of time and are not able to spend a considerable amount of time on your mat, 8 to 12 rounds of Sun salutations are enough to reap those energy levels for the whole day.
There are a couple of things to be kept in mind before the practice:
- You must be on an empty stomach before beginning the practice.
- Try and empty the bowels before starting the practice.
- Its always preferred to practice surya namaskar at the time of sunrise.
- Your position while practice must be so that you are facing east while standing on your mat.
- You can use Mantras as well so as to bring more focus and depth to the practice. Mantras that are used represent the 12 names of Sun.
- Most of the times, the rhythm and speed of the practice must be kept real slow, so you can experience the movement patterns and muscular usage in different positions and also in transition from one to another.
- Surya namaskar is a practice of flow. Try and be more fluid in movements rather than dragging the body parts.
- Precision of positioning the body in each of the postures is a must. Doing it slowly will give you enough control over your muscles, that eventually will increase precision.
- In the first position stand on top of the mat with hands folded in a Namaste position. This is called Samsthiti (neutral position). Feet will be together and body to be held firmly while balancing the weight equally on right and left sides. Align the head and neck in a comfortable position avoiding any kind of strain in neck muscles.
- From the above, inhaling raise your arms up over the head, while arching the back gently halfway backwards. Avoid a deep fall in the initial stages of practice so as to avoid any imbalance. Keep your head aligned with the trunk and don’t let it fall further than that. It might cause some dizziness otherwise. Arms should be held firmly straight in line with the ears. This is called Hastuttanasana (raised arm position).
- From the above position, exhaling gently initiate movement at the hip joint to bring the trunk in a forward fold while trying to place the palms by the side of the feet. If you cannot reach down to ground or if you feel discomfort in the lower back, rest your hands on the knees to support the back. Advanced practitioners can lengthen the trunk as far as possible. Just remember this is about bending from the hip joint and not in the lower back. This is called Padhastasana (hands to feet position).
- Now inhaling take a lunge from the right leg and place the feet firmly on the ground while lowering the upper body in a horse riding position. This is called Ashwasanchalana (horse riding position). If you cannot hold your trunk upwards without support as shown in the image, then place your palms on the floor by the side of the foot. Also make sure that the left knee which is in front should not be shifting further than the left ankle position.
- Now exhale and take the left leg back and place it next to right and by bearing the weight on your hands gently shift the body backwards into Parvatasana (mountain pose). Make sure the tail bone is tucked upwards and knees are as straight as possible. Both the feet must be kept together in this posture.
- Then holding the breath, roll the body from the shoulders lowering it towards the floor and placing knees, chest and chin on the ground. See the curved position of the lower back which will raise the hips away from the floor. Palms must be close to chest and elbows tucked in to the body. Also the toes will be tucked inwards towards the body. This position is called Ashtang Namaskar.
- Inhaling, now scoot the body forwards while rolling from the shoulders into a mild backward arch called Bhujangasana (cobra position). Try to keep the bend in the back gently initially so as to avoid any painful conditions, while in the advanced practise you can try to rise up as high as possible in the posture. Shoulders must not be squeezed while lifting up and elbows must be tucked inside to the body. Keep the pelvic bones at the waist in contact with floor so as to get the perfect arch.
- Exhaling move into parvatasana again from here. Remember the position to retained as mentioned earlier.
- From here, inhaling, bring the right leg stepping forward in between both the feet and resting the left knee down on the floor to lunge into ashwasanchalana (position no. 4).
- Now exhaling bring the left leg forward while straightening both the legs at the knees to stand up into padhastasana (position no. 3)
- From there inhaling raise the trunk up while keeping it erect in the spine and the arms coming up simultaneously with the trunk. Raise up into hastuttanasana (position no. 2)
- From that position, exhaling, bring the hand back into namaskar position in front of the chest as in position no. 1.
This completes a half round of the practise. Perform the same on the left side to complete the full round of the Surya Namaskar. Ideally one should perform 12 rounds like these in one session to receive the benefits. Given below are the mantras that can be chanted loudly before beginning each round of practice.
- Om Mitraay Namah
- Om Ravaye Namah
- Om Suryaay Namah
- Om Bhaanave Namah
- Om Khagaay Namah
- Om Pooshne Namah
- Om Hiranyagarbhaay Namah
- Om Marichaye Namah
- Om Aadityaay Namah
- Om Savitre Namah
- Om Arkaay Namah
- Om Bhaaskaraay Namah
Manatra adds up holistic value to the practise to any of the techniques of Hatha yoga and hence they are used vividly before, during and after the practise.
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