Surya Namaskar: Step-by-Step Guide to 12 Poses of Sun Salutation

Surya namaskar is a full-body energizer sequence that combines 12 yoga poses with rhythmic breathing and mantras salutation to the sun. Also named ‘The Ultimate Asana’ or ‘The King of Yoga’, Surya Namaskar literally translates as Sun Salutation.

Getting into the meaning of Surya Namaskar clearly expresses that it is a technique of saluting the Sun with all dedication. Going deeper into Surya namaskar’s origin gives us a glimpse of the importance of this practice;

According to Hindu Mythology and Vedic literature description, Sun is the ultimate source of energy for every matter that exists in the Universe. Rig Veda even emphasizes its importance by declaring, “Surya is the Soul, both of the moving and unmoving beings“. Therefore, Surya namaskar is not only a yogic practice but also considered a pious one.

Lord Rama was a descendent and worshipper of Lord Surya. The great sages and ancient yogis treated the Sun as a revered entity by honoring the Sun with great devotion. As a result, the people of the Vedic age used to remain energetic, disease-free, and glorious throughout their life.

Derive the similar benefits and quality life by practicing the Surya Namaskar following this practice guide.

Surya Namaskar Meaning

The term, Surya Namaskar has been originated from Sanskrit roots. “Surya” refers to “Sun” and “Namaskar” is further a combination term composed of “Namah” means “to pray” and “Kara” is “hand”.

Namaskar is the gesture of joining hands like in Anjali Mudra and the first pose of this sequence (Prayer pose) shows an offering to the Divine. However, in the context of Surya namaskar, the 12 prostration practitioner does, laying his body face-down on the ground in the direction of the sun, are the different form of namaskars (salutations) to the divine. The divine in this mundane world is no other but is the sun only.

This implies that Surya Namaskar is a technique of praying to the Sun with joint hands. Joining the hands describes that the practitioner is praising the Sun as the supreme and respected being with dedication.

The involvement of the asanas, pranayama, chanting, and meditation into Surya Namaskar makes it a complete spiritual practice, i.e. Sadhana.

Also, the Pingala Nadi, a pranic channel through which life force flows represents the Sun. Practicing Surya Namaskar regulates the Pingala Nadi, which eventually regulates the energy levels of the practitioner.

Symbolic Representation

Surya namaskar is a dynamic process that is performed rhythmically in a certain sequence of yoga poses. It represents natural rhythms happening in our world:

  • Twenty-four hours of the day,
  • Twelve zodiac phases of the year,
  • Biorhythms of the body.

Besides these, Surya Namaskar is a way of paying homage to the Sun for sustaining life on Earth. Also, for regulating the entire solar system being an energy source since forever.

Surya Namaskar strengthens the back muscles and uplifts the metabolism. It serves as a cardiovascular workout and brings balance to the circulatory, respiratory, reproductive, and digestive systems.

Surya Namaskar Preparatory Guidelines

Surya Namaskar is the most practiced sequence in yoga. In order to practice it correctly and for maximum benefits, keep these preparatory points in mind;

  1. Before you begin Surya namaskar practice, a few rounds of gentle warm-up stretches is a good idea to open joint & muscle movement. However, in itself Surya namaskar is practiced as a warm-up exercise before asana & pranayama.
  2. When doing sun salutation in the morning (ideally), face towards the sunrise in the east direction. While in the evening, perform it facing towards the west.
  3. While doing Surya namaskar, make sure your every body movement (pose) is synchronizing with breathing in & out. Inhale in poses you stretch up and exhale in poses you bend forward or gaze down.
  4. If sun salutation is your stand-alone exercise, keep enough time to end this practice in a relaxation pose like Shavasana.
  5. Do 1st set of Surya Namaskar at a slow pace. Slowly increase the speed in consecutive rounds.

One set of Surya Namaskar comprises 2 rounds of 12 yoga poses. In the first round, the 4th pose of the sequence (Ashwa Sanchalanasana) is performed by stepping the right leg forward while in the second round, Ashwa Sanchalanasana is performed by stepping the left leg forward. This way, 1 set of Surya Namaskar means 24 yoga poses (2*12).

In general, 12 sets of Surya Namaskar are performed at the beginning of a yoga session. In this way, a practitioner performs 288 yoga poses (2*12*12) in a single sun salutation session.

12 Poses of Surya Namaskar

12 poses of Surya Namaskar comes in this sequence;

  1. Stand tall in Pranamasana (Prayer pose)
  2. Stretch arms up & back in Hasta Utthanasana (Raised arms pose)
  3. Slowly bend forward into Hastapadasana (Standing forward bend)
  4. Then step back right leg back into Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)
  5. Following this, come into Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff pose) by stepping both legs back
  6. Bring your knees, chest, chin down in Ashtanga Namaskar (eight-limbed pose)
  7. Raise the chest up into Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
  8. Lift the hips and the tailbone up in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog pose)
  9. Step forward right foot in Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)
  10. Step forward left foot and come in Hastapadasana (Standing forward bend)
  11. Stretch arms up & back in Hasta Utthanasana (Raised arms pose)
  12. Stand tall in Pranamasana (Prayer pose).

Surya Namaskar Steps

Follow the step-by-step instructions below to practice 12 poses of surya namaskar with breathing and mantra chanting;

1. Pranamasana (Prayer pose)

  • Stand upright bringing the feet together and arms by your sides.
  • Slowly bend your elbows to join your palms in a Namaskar Mudra in front of the chest.
  • Close your eyes, relax the entire body, and keep breathing normally.
  • Keep your focus around the chest on Anahata Chakra and chant “Om Mitraya Namaha“.

Benefits

  • Prayer pose signifies the dedication towards the Sun and sun salutation.
  • It calms the mind, develops patience, and relieves stress or anxiety.
  • It activates the Anahata chakra and helps in balancing the emotions.

Remember!

  • Spend time on Pranamasana without rushing on to the other pose as it inculcates the devotion for proceeding with the practice.
  • Remember to keep your eyes closed and mentally greet the Sun – the ultimate source of life.

2. Hasta Utthanasana (Raised arms pose)

  • After exhaling deeply in prayer pose, inhale – separating the hands raising and stretching the arms over the head.
  • Inhale, look up and bend the body slightly backward and push the pelvis forward
  • Keep the arms shoulder-width apart.
  • Feel the stretch in the belly and expansion of the lungs.
  • Chant Om Ravaye Namaha, while practicing hasta utthanasana.

Benefits

  • Stretches the arms, abdomen, neck, and back muscles.
  • Stimulates the Vishuddhi chakra and balances the thyroid and parathyroid gland and regulates the endocrine system.
  • This posture is beneficial in improving digestion.
  • It also relieves backaches, fatigue, and cures mild anxiety.

3. Padahastasana (Standing forward bend)

  • Exhale and fold forward from the hips placing the palms on the floor on either side of the feet.
  • Try to bring the head as close as possible to the knees.
  • The chest rests against the thighs holding this position.
  • This is practiced while chanting, “Om Suryaya Namaha.”

Benefits

  • Padahastasana stretches the spine and makes it supple.
  • It strengthens the thighs, calves, and knees.
  • It even relieves anxiety, stress, and headaches.
  • This pose has therapeutic action on insomnia and osteoporosis.
  • It stimulates the Sacral chakra and enhances the creative side of the practitioner as well as brings in pleasure.
  • It is also beneficial for the digestive and reproductive systems.

Remember!

  • While folding forward keep your spine erect.
  • Instead of reaching the floor with palms, touching the fingertips to the floor would also do.

4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)

  • Inhale, step the right leg back pushing the foot as far as possible, placing the knee on the floor with tucked-in toes.
  • Bend the left knee to place the foot on the floor.
  • Press the palms or fingertips beside the left foot on the floor.
  • Arch the back and tilt the head backward lifting the chin to look up.
  • Here, chant Om Bhanave Namaha.

Benefits

  • Ashwa Sanchalanasana enhances the strength of the legs and spine.
  • It increases lung capacity and improves the respiratory system.
  • On the energetic level, it works on Ajna Chakra and develops brain capacity.
  • It cures constipation, indigestion, and sciatica.

Remember!

  • Keep you internal focus on the eyebrow center.
  • While holing the pose, the hips are pressed downward.
  • The body weight is equally distributed among both the hands, left foot, right knee and toes of the right foot.

5. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-limb pose)

  • Inhale drawing the left foot backward placing it beside the right.
  • Exhale curling the toes in and pressing the hands on the floor lower the chest closer to the floor.
  • Balance the entire body on the toes and hands.

Benefits

  • This posture focuses on strengthening the core muscles and tones the abdominal muscles.
  • It strengthens the arms, shoulders, and wrists.
  • Chaturanga dandasana also helps improve posture as the spinal muscles also gain strength.
  • The core muscles are actively engaged holding this posture that helps in burning the abdominal fat.

Remember!

  • Keep the shoulders stacked over the wrists.
  • The shoulders must remain relaxed and pulled away from the neck and head.
  • While lowering the torso, align the hips and shoulders in the same plane.

6. Ashtanga Namaskar (Eight Limbed pose)

  • Exhale and lower the knees to the floor and take your hips slightly back.
  • Slide little forward placing the chest and chin on the floor.
  • Therefore, only the toes, knees, chest, hands, and chin touch the floor.
  • The buttocks, hips, and abdomen are kept raised.
  • It is done chanting, Om Pushne Namaha.

Benefits

  • It strengthens the arms and leg muscles.
  • It stimulates the Manipura Chakra.
  • This pose also relieves digestive ailments.

7. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)

  • Inhale, lower the hips, point the toes back, and slide the chest forward.
  • Arch the back rolling the shoulders down.
  • Slowly look up like the cobra raises its hood.
  • Chant Om Pushne Namaha.

Benefits

  • It improves the blood circulation.
  • This pose stretches the shoulders, chest, back, and legs muscles.
  • It improves the flexibility of the spine.
  • It activates the sacral chakra.
  • This relieves the menstrual pain, backache, and sciatica.

Remember!

  • Do not lock the elbows while raising the torso and arching the back.
  • Keep the elbows slightly bent and squeeze them together to the back.
  • The lifted trunk is supported with the helps of the arms.
  • Only the thighs and hips remain in contact with the floor.

8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

  • Exhaling lift the hips and push them backward to place the heels on the floor and straighten the arms.
  • Lower the head between the arms, forming an inverted V with the legs, arms, and back.
  • Press the palms and heels on the floor, and take a few breaths.
  • Chant Om Khagaya Namaha, during this pose

Benefits

  • It activates the vishuddhi chakra.
  • This inverted pose supplies oxygenated blood to the brain and calms the mind.
  • It also improves body posture and helps in increasing height.

9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)

  • Breathe in to bring the right forward between the hands bending the knee.
  • Simultaneously, lower the left knee to touch the floor, tuck the left toes in, and push the pelvis forward.
  • Tilt the head backward to gaze up as in pose 4 reciting, “Om Adityaya Namaha.”

10. Padahastasana (Standing forward bend)

  • Exhaling, bring the right foot forward and bend forward at the hips.
  • Bring the palms to the floor beside the feet as in pose 3.
  • Recite the mantra, Om Savitre Namaha.

11. Hasta Utthanasana (Raised arms pose)

  • Inhale to raising torso to stand erect, and stretch the arms upward.
  • Transform from padahastasana to hasta utthanasana as described in pose 2.
  • The mantra for this pose is Om Arkaya Namaha,

12. Pranamasana (Prayer pose)

  • Exhaling, gently bring the arms down to join the palms in front of the chest.
  • Chant “Om Bhaskaraya Namaha.”

These 12 poses are again repeated to complete one round having 24 poses in all. After completing one half as described above, slight variations take place in ashwa sanchalanasana as:

  • In position 16 the left foot goes back and right foot is placed forward on the floor.
  • Similarly, while assuming it again in pose 16, the right foot is stretched back.

Follow-up practice

On completing each round of Surya Namaskar, relax the body and shift the focus on the breath. Remain relaxed until the breath becomes normal. Shavasana must be practiced after completing Surya Namaskar.

Precautions and Contraindications

  • Remain focused on breathing pattern while assuming each step.
  • Practice it only with the expert’s consultation if you have blood pressure issues.
  • Do not practice it if you’ve had a recent surgery or brain hemorrhage.
  • It must be performed after cleaning the bowels and on empty stomach.
  • Avoid surya namaskar after heavy workout.
  • Discontinue practicing Surya namaskar if a fever, acute inflammation, boils or rashes occur due to excess toxins in the body.
  • Heart patients must skip this practice.
  • Do not attempt this practice with hernia or intestinal tuberculosis.

Surya Namaskar Benefits

1. Strengthens the muscles

Surya Namaskar consists of various stretching poses which lengthens the spine and other muscles of the body. This improves the flexibility and makes the muscles stronger.

2. Boosts metabolism

The asanas involved in Surya namaskar stimulates the endocrine system regulating hormonal flow. It uplifts the metabolism rate of the body.

3. Improves cardiovascular health

Surya namaskar also involves inverted poses where the heart is placed over the head. It gently massages the heart and improves the blood circulation to the entire body. This is helpful in controlling the blood sugar levels and maintains the blood pressure.

4. Uplifts energy levels

This practice stimulates all the energy chakras from root to the crown. It balances and aligns the chakras, thereby, providing spiritual benefits. The stimulation of chakras activates the Kundalini energy and rises up the crown of the head. It improves the energetic levels.

5. Provides a toned body

Regular practice of Surya Namaskar stretches the muscles and helps burn calories. By trimming the fat layer it provides a toned body and helpful in achieving an ideal weight.

6. Balances doshas

By incorporating proper breathing pattern into the postures in Surya Namaskar helps in regulating Vata, Kapha, ad Pitta. This is so because all the five elements are balanced. Finding a balance among the doshas prevents all the ailments and strengthens the reproductive, digestive, circulatory, and respiratory systems.

7. Psychological benefits

Surya Namaskar provides soothing effects to the nervous system. It brings in fresh supply of oxygen and blood to the brain. This brings in mental clarity, relieves stress, anxiety, and depression.

8. Delays aging

By improving the body internally on physical and mental level, all its benefits are also reflected on external appearance. It rejuvenates the skin, alleviates or delays wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Conclusion

Surya Namaskar is a full package of health benefits, improving the overall health of body, mind, and soul. There is no other such yogic exercise which is easier, convenient for all age groups, and benefitting all the major systems of the body.

Start incorporating Surya Namaskar in to your exercising routine to uplift your overall health and reap all the possible benefits.

Surya Namaskar FAQs

What is the best time to perform Surya Namaskar?

Surya Namaskar is intended to greet the Sun, hence recommended best time for this practice is during sunrise. However, if it’s not possible to manage morning hours then it could be performed in the evening.

Are the Surya Namaskar poses suitable for all the body types?

Yes, it is suitable for all the body types as long as you are not having any medical issues. The pose and entire practice can be customized as per the convenience. There are modifications and variations available for the kids, pregnant women, senior citizens, and several ailments.

Can Surya Namaskar be practiced without chanting the mantras?

It is okay to practice Surya Namaskar without chanting the mantras. Beginners might practice it without chanting for 4 weeks continuously and once changes in energy levels is observed, you can easily fuse the chanting into the practice to gain the spiritual benefits.

Can women practice Surya Namaskar during menstruation?

There is no strict restriction about practicing Surya Namaskar during menstruation. However, if any uneasiness or pain is felt during the practice, it must be skipped for a few days. Also, you can reduce the number of rounds during primary day of the period and increase it gradually with passing

How many rounds of Surya Namaskar can be practiced in a day?

12 rounds of Surya Namaskar are considered an ideal practice. However, beginners can begin with 2-4 rounds. It can be increased up to 108 rounds maximum if seems convenient.

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