Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation as it is often called in the Western world, is a series of 12 poses done either in sequence or individually. This hatha yoga practice can be done at any time of day and will help improve balance, flexibility, and strength. The practice was designed so it can be done by anyone, regardless of age, gender, or physical ability level.
We’ve talked about many asanas in this blog before, asanas that can help us become stronger, more flexible, balanced, sleep better, strengthen immunity, and much more. Among those asanas we have Uttanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, and Chaturanga Dandasana which have been mentioned individually but are originally part of the 12 Step sequence called Surya Namaskar. Today we will talk about Surya Namaskar as a whole in a bit of detail.
Why Practice Surya Namaskar
Studies have shown that practicing Surya Namaskar has positive physiological benefits as evidenced by changes in pulmonary function, respiratory system, handgrip strength and endurance, and resting cardiovascular parameters of the subjects involved in the study.
Studies also show that there is a difference between the effects of Fast and Slow Surya namaskar. The effects of Fast Surya namaskar are similar to those of physical aerobic exercise with increased muscular endurance and power. Whereas the effects of Slow Surya Namaskar are similar to those of Yoga training. Researchers also recommend introducing Surya Namaskar to School children to enhance their physical fitness.
Surya Namaskar helps maintain one’s cardiovascular health, stimulates the nervous system, helps in stretching, flexing, and toning the muscles, can help in weight loss, strengthen the immune system, enhances cognitive functions, and improves our overall health.
Practicing Surya Namaskar
Surya Namaskar is a 12 step process. Each step is Yoga Posture/Asana and can be practiced individually in it’s own right. The 12 asanas the Surya Namaskar consists of are as follows: Pranamasana, Hastauttanasana, Hastapadasana, Ashwa Sanchalanasana, Dandasana, Ashtanga Namaskar, Bhujangasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Ashwa Sanchalanasana, Hastapadasana, Hastauttanasana and lastly Tadasana. Let’s talk about each of these asanas one by one.
1. Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)
The Sanskrit word ‘Pranam’ means ‘to pay respect’. Palms held together is the starting pose of Sun Salutation.
2. Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)
It is a raised arm pose. It improves digestion, stretches and tones the muscles of the abdomen, and helps in the full intake of oxygen.
3. Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend)
It reduces belly fat and gives a flat stomach. It is also known for stopping hair loss problems. Standing Forward Bend cures stomach disorders such as constipation.
4. Ashwa Sanchalasana (Equestrian Pose)
The equestrian pose is a low lunge balancing pose. It opens the hip flexors and stretches psoas muscles on the side with the leg extended. It also strengthens the quadriceps, gluteus, gluteus maximus, and hamstrings.
5. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four limbed staff pose)
It is also known as Low Plank. The straight body parallel to the ground is supported by the toes and palms, with elbows at a right angle along the body.
6. Ashtanga Namaskara (Salute with eight points)
In India, this Asana is popularly known as “Dandavat Pranam”. It strengthens the biceps, rhomboids and trapezius muscles on the back. It stretches the toes and helps increase the range of motion for backbends.
7. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose is a reclining back-bending asana. It stretches the chest, shoulders, and abdomen, tones the buttocks, and stimulates abdominal organs. It also helps relieve stress and fatigue.
8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
It is an inversion asana that helps strengthen our bones as it is a weight-bearing exercise. It improves blood flow to the brain and improves posture.
9.Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
It is a standing asana that helps us to create stability in shoulder joints. It strengthens the legs, posterior chain, helps correct posture, and improves balance.
Who should NOT do Surya Namaskar
Pregnant women should not practice Surya namaskar after the third month of pregnancy. People with high blood pressure, Hernia, or TB are also advised against the practice of Surya namaskar. If one has had surgery, they must consult their doctor before practicing Surya Namaskar.
To learn this ancient Indian yoga technique of Surya Namaskar from an expert teacher and practice yoga to heal your body, don't forget to take a look at our schedule for live yoga classes and join in!