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Surya Namaskar: Everything you Need to Know

Surya Namaskar: Everything you Need to Know

Surya namaskar or sun salutation is an age-old and popular technique of paying respect to the sun – the source of all forms of life. It is performed through a systematic sequence of 12 powerful yoga poses.

Surya refers to the Sun and Namaskar means Salute or Salutation. Its richness is not just symbolic due to its mythological beliefs, but it’s known to bring an immensely positive impact in our physical as well as mental well-being.

This form of yoga is a series of 12 poses which makes one set, and every round of sun salutation comprises 2 sets. There are also different versions or forms of this yoga, which we’ll explore later in this article. However, experts advice to follow one specific version and continue the same on a regular basis for effective and best results.

Doing surya namaskar early in the morning at sunrise on an empty stomach leads to best results. Going back to our roots, ancient saints and sages stated that there are Devas (divine desires/lights) that regulate different parts of the human body. The solar plexus is a central point of human body located behind the naval, and known as the second brain is connected to the sun.

Surya namaskar can help you learn to enhance the solar plexus by internalising the sun as part of your body system. The 12 poses of surya namaskar are intended in a way to help you sync the 12 sun cycles with your physical ones. When done regularly and efficiently, sun salutation enhances your confidence, intuitiveness, creativity, and mental abilities.

Surya namaskar steps

Surya namaskar could be a great cardiovascular workout when performed at a fast pace. Also, it can be equally calming and insightful when the 12 poses are done at a relatively slower speed. All the steps of surya namaskar together are as good as a total body workout.

The 12 postures, also referred to as surya namaskar poses, stretch your body and increase its flexibility and strength with regular practice.

Let’s have a look at the steps of sun salutation which helps in revitalising your mind, body, and soul. The guide also facilitates you with tips on how to deepen into each pose for better results.

Step 1: Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

  1. Stand upright on the edge of your yoga mat with both your feet aligned together and body weight distributed equally on both your feet.
  2. Expand your chest, take a deep breath, and let your shoulders relax.
  3. Inhale slowly and while doing so, lift both your arms from the sides.
  4. Exhale and while doing so, bring your palms together, joining them in front of your chest in a prayer position.

Tips:

  • Keep your spine erect.
  • Ensure your feet are activated and stand like a tripod.

Step 2: Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)

  1. Retain the previous position
  2. Breathe in, lift your arms upward and lean backwards slightly.
  3. Make sure to keep your biceps closer to your ears.
  4. Try to stretch your whole body as much as possible from the heels up to the fingers.
  5. This stretching helps to loosen up the knots in your body.

Tips:

  • Try to push the pelvis slightly forward.
  • Instead of just pushing your body backwards, try to reach up with your fingers.

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Step 3: Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend)

  1. Breathing out, bend forward from your waist, keeping your spine erect.
  2. While you exhale completely, bring your arms down slowly to the floor, next to your feet.
  3. Try to keep your knees straight as much as possible.
  4. This surya namaskar pose strengthens the back, abdominal muscles, and nervous system.

Tips:

  • Let your hands stay fix in this position.
  • Don’t move them until you finish this 3rd surya namaskar pose.

Step 4: Ashwa Sanchalasana (Equestrian Pose)

  1. Inhale and stretch your right leg backwards as far as possible.
  2. Fold your left knee and place it close to the left side of your chest.
  3. Place your hands on the floor, spreading your fingers.
  4. Look up and bend your neck backwards a little.
  5. This surya namaskar posture helps in bringing flexibility to your legs.

Tip:

  • Make sure to keep your left foot exactly in between your palms.

Step 5: Dandasana (Stick Pose)

  1. Breathe in and stretch your left leg behind towards the right one, getting your body into a straight line.
  2. Your body should be parallel to the floor.
  3. This surya namaskar pose is a great way to tone your wrists, legs, arms, and gets you ready for more challenging arm balances.

Tip:

  • Check to keep your arms perpendicular to the floor.

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Step 6: Ashtanga Namaskara (Salute with eight parts or points)

  1. Slowly bring your knees to the floor and exhale.
  2. Slightly elevate your hips and abdomen and slide forward.
  3. Relax your chin and chest on the floor.
  4. This surya namaskar posture strengthens your chest muscles and hands.

Tip:

  • The two hands (palms), two feet, two knees, chest, and chin – all the 8 parts of the body should be touching the floor.

Step 7: Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

  1. Press your palms into the mat and lift your head and chest off the floor in the cobra pose.
  2. Keep your elbows to the side of your body fixed in this position.
  3. Rotate your shoulder blades away from the ears and push your neck backwards slightly.
  4. Try to look upwards. This is a wonderful surya namaskar pose to treat a headache and backache.

Tips:

  • Inhale and make a slow attempt to push your chest forward.
  • As you exhale, try to push the navel down.
  • Do not push your body beyond its limits. Only stretch till where your body allows.

Step 8: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog pose)

  1. From Bhujangasana, breathe out and raise your hip as well as your tail bone up.
  2. Keep your heels on the ground, chest downwards and create an inverted-V pose with your body.
  3. This surya namaskar posture has multiple benefits like improved circulation, stress-relief, better body posture, improved respiration, and many more.

Tips:

  • Try to keep your heels on the ground as much as possible.
  • Make an attempt to gently lift your tail bone up and gradually go deeper into the stretch.

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Step 9: Ashwa Sanchalasana (Equestrian Pose)

  1. Change to Equestrian pose from Adho Mukha Svanasana.
  2. Repeat step 4, but this time with the opposite side.
  3. Inhale and stretch your left leg backwards as far as possible.
  4. Fold your right knee and place it close to the right side of your chest, placing your hands on the floor.
  5. Look up and bend your neck a little backwards.

Tips:

  • Place your right knee exactly in between your hands (palms).
  • Ensure your right calf is perpendicular to the ground.
  • Make a gentle effort to push your hips down towards the ground to deepen the stretch.

Step 10: Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend)

  1. Slowly bring your left foot forward – next to your right foot.
  2. Bend down and repeat the Hastapadasana pose step 3.
  3. You can bend your knees if it gets too difficult to keep them straight.

Tips:

  • Keep on breathing.
  • Try to keep your knees straight, touching your nose to it.

Step 11: Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)

  1. Repeat step 2.
  2. Inhale deeply, stretch your arms upward, and slightly arch your back.
  3. Push your hips slightly outwards.
  4. Your attention should be more towards stretching your body and hands upward instead of going backward.

Tip:

  • Keep your biceps closer to your ears.

Step 12: Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

  1. Exhale and get your arms down.
  2. Stand straight in an upright manner with a relaxed and calm mind.

Tip:

  • Relax in this surya namaskar posture and feel the vibrations and serenity within your body and mind.

Repeat the poses, this time taking the left leg behind in Ashwa Sanchalasana (Equestrian Pose). This completes one set of surya namaskar. Try to repeat these surya namaskar steps 12 times to reap the best results. You can begin with a few rounds and gradually keep increasing. Don’t push your body from the beginning. Take it slow.

To end these surya namaskar poses, lie down and relax your body. Your body needs enough time to cope with the effects of the stretches of your surya namaskar postures (sun salutation). Just lying down and being at peace can give your body and mind enough rest.

Surya namaskar mantra

Surya namaskar mantras are the chants which while reciting during the surya namaskar postures bring harmony to body, breath, and mind. The more you practise it with the mantras, the deeper the benefits. When performed with sincere gratitude, it can uplift your surya namaskar yoga experience to a divine level.

Let’s get acquainted with these 12 surya namaskar mantras to be recited with each posture.

Pose 1: Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

  • Mantra: Om Mitraaya Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the one who is friendly to all.

Pose 2: Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)

  • Mantra: Om Suryaya Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the shining or radiant one.

Pose 3: Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend)

  • Mantra: Om Ravaye Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the one who dispels darkness and induces activity.

Pose 4: Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose)

  • Mantra: Om Bhaanave Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the one who illuminates or brightens up.

Pose 5: Dandasana (Stick Pose)

  • Mantra: Om Khagaya Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the one who is powerful and moves quickly through the sky.

Pose 6: Ashtanga Namaskara (Salute with Eight Parts Pose)

  • Mantra: Om Pooshne Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the giver of nourishment, fulfilment, and strength.

Pose 7: Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

  • Mantra: Om Hiranya Garbhaya Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the one who has golden colored brilliance.

Pose 8: Adho Mukha Svanasana/Parvatasana (Downward Facing Dog/Mountain Pose)

  • Mantra: Om Mareechaye Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the lord of infinite rays.

Pose 9: Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose)

  • Mantra: Om Aadityaaya Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the son of Aditi, the cosmic divine mother.

Pose 10: Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend)

  • Mantra: Om Savitre Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the lord of creation, the one who gives life.

Pose 11: Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)

  • Mantra: Om Arkaaya Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the one who is worthy of praise and deserves the glory.

Pose 12: Tadasana (Mountain)

  • Mantra: Om Bhaskaraya Namaha
  • Meaning: Salutation to the one who leads to wisdom and cosmic enlightenment.

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Surya namaskar benefits

Weight loss

Surya namaskar helps in shedding fats (literally) in areas such as hips, thighs, abdomen, chin, and neck. Regular and disciplined practice of sun salutation enhances your metabolism, which in turn helps to reduce weight in the belly area by stretching the abdominal muscle. Surya namaskar postures are also great for toning the abs and strengthening the musculoskeletal system.

Cognitive skill booster

One of the finest benefits of sun salutation is that it revitalises the nervous system consisting of brain and spinal cord, improving your concentration power.

Balance doshas

All the 3 doshas – Kapha, Vata, and Pita can be balanced with the help of surya namaskar. These elements might suffer an imbalance due to various factors. Weather, daily work stress, food, sleep can all affect the doshas. Nevertheless, they can all be balanced easily with regular and sincere surya namaskar practice.

Improves blood circulation

The concentrated inhalation and exhalation process throughout each surya namaskar posture keeps the blood oxygenated. Enhanced flow of fresh blood in the body system is a great way to detoxify from toxic elements and carbondioxide.

Enhances the glow of skin and quality of hair

Good blood circulation results in natural glow on your skin. Sun salutation benefits not just your blood circulation and skin, but also prevents hair loss and greying of hair.

Blood pressure and heart-related problems

Adding to the list of surya namaskar benefits, it has the capability to reduce sugar levels. As a result, the risk of heart attack reduces. Your eyes, kidneys, and nerves stay healthy as well.

Emotional stability

One of the benefits of sun salutation is also enhancing your creative and mental capabilities by creating a sense of balance between your left and right brain. The breathing techniques in sun salutation have a positive effect on your nerve cells bringing you emotional stability.

Surya namaskar variations

Not being restricted by borders, surya namaskar has now evolved into diverse forms, resulting in its different variations. The classic sun salutation can be performed in 3 different ways – namely, Hatha, Ashtanga, and Iyengar.

Ashtanga surya namaskar

Under this practice, surya namaskar has 2 forms. The first form has 9 poses, while the second one has 17-19 poses. The vinyasa flow in both the type needs to be maintained properly. As Ashtanga yoga is physically challenging, the second form requires more time and practice.

The surya namaskar steps in Form 1 include:

  • Tadasana
  • Urdhva Hastasana
  • Uttanasana
  • Anjaneyasana
  • Dandasana
  • Chaturanga Dandasana
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Virbhadrasana I

The surya namaskar steps in Form 2 include:

  • Samasthiti
  • Utkatasana
  • Uttanasana
  • Ardha Uttanasana
  • Chaturanga Dandasana
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Virabhadrasana I
  • Chaturanga Dandasana
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Virabhadrasana I
  • Chaturanga Dandasana
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Ardha Uttanasana
  • Uttanasana
  • Utkatasana
  • Samasthiti (Tadasana)

Hatha surya namaskar

In this variation, surya namaskar is performed through the 12 classic postures which we’ve learnt above in this article. The emphasis in this form is on breathing.

Iyengar surya namaskar

Like Hatha, Iyengar sun salutation is also performed in the 12 postures, but with more emphasis on speed and energy. It’s usually done faster than other forms of surya namaskar.

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Surya namaskar side effects/contraindications

Though it has many advantages, there could be disadvantages of surya namaskar for people suffering from below conditions. They should consult their doctors/therapists/yoga instructors before doing surya namaskar.

  1. Heart problems
  2. Back problems
  3. High blood pressure
  4. Arthritis
  5. Hernia
  6. Wrist injury
  7. Pregnancy
  8. When in periods

Surya namaskar dos and don’ts

There could be certain ill-effects of surya namaskar when not performed correctly. Many times, people, especially beginners tend to make certain mistakes while attempting surya namaskar, which might lead to certain health troubles. Let’s read the most popular ones.

  • Not performing the breathing exercises correctly
  • Skipping the Hasta Uttanasana posture
  • Not moving forward while doing the Ashwa Sanchalanasana
  • Skipping the warm-up before doing surya namaskar yoga
  • Increasing the number of sets from the very beginning
  • Incorrect alignment

If you’re one of the victims of today’s fast-paced lifestyle who still wants to stay healthy, surya namaskar is your go-to exercise. In spite of being an ancient yoga technique, it still holds a proven track record of improving lifestyle physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Here Comes the Sun: The Tradition of Surya Namaskar/https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/here-comes-the-sun/Accessed on 30/10/2019

The Complete Guide To Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation/https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/the-complete-workout-surya-namaskaras/Accessed on 30/10/2019

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) – A Complete Yoga/https://yogabharati.org/surya-namaskar/Accessed on 30/10/2019

Learn How to Do Surya Namaskara A/https://www.verywellfit.com/surya-namaskara-a-3566700/Accessed on 30/10/2019

Surya Namaskar – A complete detailed guide for a perfect yoga workout/https://www.artofliving.org/in-en/yoga/yoga-poses/sun-salutation/Accessed on 30/10/2019

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Written by Nikita Updated 03/09/2021
Expertly reviewed by Dr. Ruby Ezekiel