Surya Namaskar and it’s Benefits
This Ancient Yoga Practice can help with Modern Health.
Standing in Tadasna (Mountain Pose) on your yoga mat, you start to feel centred and focused, as you inhale you reach your arms up into the sky feeling the breath fill and expand the lungs, then exhale as you forward fold stretching the lower back and energizing the spine.
Inhale, stepping your right leg back into a low lung, feeling the hips stretch and open. Exhale into a high push up, then lower into chatarunga using the outbreath as you feel your muscles activate and inner strength build. Inhale into cobra, noticing the front of the body and lower back open and stretch, then exhaling into downward facing dog, feeling the rush of blood invigorating the mind.
Step or jump to the front of the mat and pause in a forward fold feeling grounded and settled. As you rise to standing inhaling fully, bringing your arms up over your head, taking a slight backbend, then exhale hands to heart centre back in Tadasna. Repeat on other side.
How do you feel when you wake in the morning? Is your body stiff and sore? Is your mind groggy? Maybe it takes a few coffees to get into the day?
Now imagine how you would feel after moving your body and breathe through the above sequence. As you move your heart pumps fresh oxygen to the muscles energising the body, you release all tightness and stiffness from the joints and awaken the mind, moving it into a clear and alert state for the day ahead.
This asana sequence known as Sūryanamaskāra literally means “salute to the sun” (surya = sun, namaskara= salute) and is the most widely practiced sequence in Yoga. If you have ever been to a Yoga class, you would have experienced the sun salutations in some form.
Suryanamaskara was traditionally practiced daily at sunrise to pay respect and express gratitude to the Sun, which is the source of all forms of life on the planet. Without the sun, there will be no life.
It’s also said by the ancient Rishis (holy men) that the navel (which is the central point of the human body), is connected with the sun. This point is known as the solar plexus. Surya Namaskar enhances the solar plexus, which increases one’s health, happiness, creativity and intuitive abilities. So by practicing these salutations daily, we are taking time to express gratitude for life, and connect to the subtle essence of our mind and body.
Sun salutations are not only about the spiritual. They have profound physical health benefits also. The sun salutations are a series of 12 postures, each designed to activate specific areas of your body.
The sequence increases blood flow and circulation to all the major organs to improve correct functioning. It positively impacts the liver, heart, kidneys and digestion. It strengthens and stretches all the muscle groups, toning the arms, legs and abs. It stimulates the lymphatic system which boosts immunity, and lubricates the joints. Its kick starts metabolism and balances hormones.
This sequence is the perfect workout for mind and body and can be practiced by anyone.
As it’s a sequence, you can modify to suit how you are feeling that day, speed it up or slow it right down. If practiced fast, it provides a great cardiovascular workout. If done at a slower pace, these postures help tone the muscles, relax the system and creates a moving meditation.
By adding this ancient practice into your daily routine, you will quickly see results in increased energy, positive moods, weight loss and wellness.
Author: Tegan Wallis
Tegan is a Naturopath, Ayurveda Health Consultant, and Yoga Teacher.