Surya Namaskar (Salutations to the Sun) is devoted to the worship of the Solar deity, the provider of energy and intellect. It has been practiced in Bharat for thousands of years. The complete set of “asanas” combined with proper deep and rhythmic breathing can provide significant physical and mental benefits. They can be practised any time , however, mornings on an empty sotmach are preferred. When practiced in the morning, Surya Namaskar relieves stiffness, energizes the body and refreshes the mind. It is a form of exercise for all fitness levels. It is a spiritually uplifting exercise and promotes a keen awareness of the interconnectedness of your body, mind and breath.
It is one of the best exercises that people can perform. The benefits accruing from these exercises are unique and excellent. This is a yoga based exercise and it is customary to perform Surya Namaskar after performing loosening yoga exercises, in that sense Surya Namaskar can be considered to be a personality development tool and must be included as part of one’s wellness program. The Surya Namaskar is performed usually early in the morning facing the morning rising Sun. The Namskar is done in 12 steps, each step having its own posture (including position and form) with its own breathing pattern (inhalation or exhalation), and its own mantra.
The Surya Namaskar Postures and Breathing Patterns:
The 12 postures are:
1. Stand facing the Sun with palms folded and both the thumbs touching the chest.
Breathing: Inhale while raising the hands and exhale as hands are brought down to chest level.
2. Raise hands upward, with feet firmly on the ground, bend backwards, stretch arms fully.
3. Slowly bend forward, hands touching the earth with respect, head touching the knees.
4. Set both hands with the palms down firmly on the ground, pull the left leg backward, raise the head
looking at the Sun, full weight resting on the two palm and ten fingers. Breathing: Inhale
5. Bring right leg back close to left leg, keeping hands and legs straight, bend the body at the hip
forming an arch, just like a mountain, known as ‘parvathasan or mountain pose’. Breathing: Exhale
6. Stretch yourself fully on the ground in the Saashtanga Namaskar pose (all eight ‘anga’ or
parts of the body on the ground – head, thigh, eyes (sight), mind, word, feet, hands and ears
(hearing)). In reality, feet, knees, thighs, chest, forehead touch the ground with the hands
stretched out and in folded position, with your mind and thoughts on the full namaskar, then
slowly turn the head to the sides first to left and then to right so that each ear touches the ground.
Breathing: Inhale first and then Exhale fully
7. Slowly raise the head, bend backward as much as possible, hands straight, in the cobra pose.
8. Parvathasan – same as Step 5. Breathing: Exhale
9. Same as Step 4 with the difference that the right leg is brought forward. Breathing: Inhale
10. Same as Step 3 – Breathing: Exhale
11. Same as Step 2 – Breathing: Inhale
12. Same as Step 1 – Breathing: Exhale, Inhale and Exhale.
You don’t need to be doing yoga regularly in order to practice the Surya Namaskar. If performed correctly, this exercise does not strain or cause injury. If performed in the morning, it relieves stiffness, revitalises your body and refreshes the mind. Do it during the day and it will instantly boost you up, practice it after sundown and it helps you unwind.
Benefits of Surya Namaskar
- Tones up the digestive system by the alternate stretching and compression of abdominal organs. It activates digestion and gets rid of constipation and dyspepsia.
- Abdominal muscles are strengthened.
- Promotes sleep and calms anxiety
- Prevents skin disorders and makes skin look refreshed
- Thoroughly ventilates the lungs, and oxygenates the blood.
- Tones up the nervous system and improves memory.
- Helps to get rid of unpleasant smells from the body
- Improves muscle flexibility.
- Prevents loss of hair and greying.
- Reduces fat.
- Revives and maintains the spirit of youthfulness.
- If you are suffering from sleeplessness then, surya namaskar is the best medicine.
- Apart from just the physical level, surya namaskar helps in keeping you stress free and rejuvenate your mind, because, it promotes the circulation of fresh oxygen to your brain.
In addition to the general health benefits associated with performing Surya Namaskar, each of the yoga poses in the series provides specific health benefits:
- Pose 1 (and 12): Promotes balance, stimulates the respiratory system, exercises shoulder, back and neck muscles
- Pose 2 (and 11): Promotes balance, promotes digestion, exercises arms and shoulder muscles, tones the spine, promotes flexibility in back and hips
- Pose 3 (and 10): Promotes blood circulation, tones abdominal tracts, stretches back and leg muscles, stimulates spinal nerves, stimulates lymphatic system
- Pose 4 (and 9): Exercises spine, strengthens hand and wrist muscles
- Pose 5 (and 8): Stimulates blood circulation, strengthens the heart, strengthens wrist and arm muscles, relieves neck and shoulder tension
- Pose 6: Strengthens leg and arm muscles, increases flexibility in neck and shoulders, stretches arms, shoulder, neck and back muscles, exercises back muscles, releases tension in neck and shoulder
- Pose 7: Stimulates circulation to abdominal organs, tones digestive tract, stretches upper and lower body, promotes flexibility in the back, stimulates nerves in spine
- Poses 8 through 12 are essentially repetitions of poses 5 through 1, respectively. The health benefits of each are similar to their corresponding poses.
Who should not do Surya Namaskar?
- Pregnant women should not practice this after third month of pregnancy.
- Patients of Hernia and high blood pressure are warned against this practice.
- People suffering from back conditions should seek proper advice before commencing Surya Namaskar.
Over time, Surya Namaskar will help you achieve a sense of well-being and purpose.