Surya Namaskar – Sun Salutation / Asana series 4

If you only have a few minutes a day to dedicate to your Yoga practice, I would say this is the one thing to do. No matter how advanced or beginner you are or what Yoga style you like. This is a quite ancient combination of movements with the perfect mix of postures to keep you in balance, which at the end is one of the main goals of Yoga.
There are different theories about the origin of this beautiful sequence, but there should be no doubt it was put together to venerate and honor the Sun, giver of life!
There are many variations of Surya Namaskar according to different Yoga Traditions, but the one I want to talk about today is the traditional Surya Namaskar.
Surya Namaskar links in perfect harmony breath and movement: stand in Padmasana (with the hands in Anjali mudra in front of your heart center), inhale into Tadasana (Mountain), exhale into Uttanasana (Forward Bend), inhale right foot back into Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Lounge), hold the breath left foot back into Plank, exhale into Ashtanga Namaskara (knees-chest-chin on the ground), inhale into bhujangasana (Cobra), exhale into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), take a few breaths here, inhale right foot between the hands into Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Lounge), exhale left foot between the hands into Uttanasana (Forward Bend), inhale all the way up into Tadasana (Mountain), exhale hands into your heart centre in Anjali mudra (prayer). Then you do the same starting with the left foot back to complete one cycle.
This is a very good and complete series that if practiced with intention can give you many benefits. And when I say with intention I don’t mean with a tense body as that would only result in fatigue and tiredness; what I really mean is inner intention and awareness.
A very important benefit of the practice of Sun Salutation is the stimulation of the main energy channels (Nadis) and the lymph nodes, therefore is a good practice to strengthen your immune system and blood circulation. Then, as you flow from pose to pose you are improving body alignment and opening the chest in Mountain; lengthening the hamstrings, opening and strengthening the lower back when you bend forward; opening the hips and stretching the quadriceps in lounge; stretching the calves and hamstrings, and strengthening the arms, shoulders and back muscles in Downward Dog; improving blood circulation and breathing capacity as you open up your chest in knees-chest-chin on the ground; opening the chest and strengthening the back muscles in Cobra.
I always encourage my students to lengthen and open up when practicing Surya Namaskar to give the muscles a good stretch, but the most important to increase the breathing capacity.
I think this series of movements is also very meditative since you keep your focus on your breathing at all times. And here I would like to invite you all to try two different approaches so you can feel the importance of the breath. First try one entire cycle breathing with the movement. Then try one full cycle letting the breath set the rhythm of your movement. When you practice this way you understand better the importance of the breath. I love doing very deep and long breathing Sun Salutes; it is like practicing Yoga in slow motion and it gives me not only a very relaxing feeling but also the chance to feel connected with myself. And that is also the beauty of practicing Surya Namaskar on your own; you have the chance of setting your own pace.
When you get familiar with the Sun Salutation, you can start playing around with this rhythm to make it as relaxing or as energizing as you want and you can always adjust it according to your own strength and flexibility.
It is better to practice it early in the morning facing the Sun as it rises, but you can also practice it at any time of the day.
I leave you today with some beautiful Sun Mantras, wishing you a happy and healthy practice.
Om Mitraya Namaha … Light of Universal Friendship
Om Ravaye Namaha … Light of Compelling Radiance
Om Suryaya Namaha … Dispelled of Darkness or Ignorance
Om Bhanave Namaha … Shining Principle
Om Pushne Namaha … Light of Mystic Fire
Om Savitre Namaha … Light of Enlightenment
Om Arkaya Namaha … Light That Removes Afflictions

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