Surya Namaskara Salutation to the Sun
Controlling movements (chalana) and sthithi (position) of body, gaze, breath, mind and enjoying stillness and bliss is termed as yogasana (Sthira Sukhamasana-Pathanjali-Yogasootras). They help sadhaka (practitioner) to control these four instruments which are the tools of yoga. Swasana kriyas (breathing exercises), Pada vyayamangal (leg exercises), Kara vyayamngal (armexercises), Greeva vyayamangal (eye exercises), Merudanda vyayamangal (spinal exercises) and finally three namaskaras, namely, Soorya namaskara, Chandra namaskara, Anangarathi namaskara, constitute yoga vyayamas as yogaasanas.
Chandra namaskara is done for beauty, charisma and magnetism and Anangarathi namaskara helps sadhaka to gain sexual potency and powers. Soorya namaskara improves general health and vitality. Soorya namaskara combines several spinal positions with rhythmic breathing, rapid movements, sunbathing and prayerful contemplation of the divine power that the sun represents.
One should do it facing the morning sun or evening sun, bathing our whole body in the life-giving rays of the sun – the giver of life, joy and warmth to the whole world.
Sun gazing is called sooryda-rshana and bathing in its rays is termed sooryasnana. There are three snanas (baths) in yoga jala snana (bathing in water), vaayu snana (bathing in air) and soorya snana (bathing in sunlight), that is, allowing air and light to enter through the skin pores.
But the most important point is that sooryadarsana should be done within period of one hour after sun rise (or one hour before sunset). According to Swami Shivananda, “Soorya namaskara consists of 12 postures or stages, one posture smoothly and gracefully follows into the next. There is a fairly vigorous movement which builds up muscles too, yet it conforms to the vitally important rule in yoga that there should be no undue strain or violence to practice. Hence the extraordinary and unique result after the practice and the practitioner does not feel tired or exhausted but feels thoroughly refreshed”.
There are several variation in soorya namaskara as practised by different yoga schools and masters. What we give here is the most suitable one and which seems to be the best in our research. But one should also be aware of the fact that yoga should be learnt from a yoga master and not through books or magazines.
As for the inner thoughts with which soorya namaskara is done, the practitioner inwardly watches every little movement of body and mind, examines the breath process and becomes aware of the mind activities. He pays attention to every change that takes place in the body especially spine and breath. The mind must be quiet and observant to do this.
Yoga is an awareness programme. If practiced regularly, our powers of awareness and concentration will increase.
You should stand erect with your head and body straight but relaxed. The feet are together with the weight of the body centred on the balls of the feet. The knees are straight and the arms are relaxed by the side of the body. Inhale deeply and begin
- Exhale, bring your hands together at the centre of the chest with the palms flat against each other. Elbows are out towards the sides, knees straight but relaxed and the head is erect. Known as prayer position, this is powerful physical, mental and psychic centring of the body.
- Inhale and stretch your arms up over head. Arch your body backwards. Knees and elbows are straight. Arms are alongside the ears. Hips are arching forward.
- Exhale as you bend forward bringing the hands to the floor next to the feet. If you can’t put your hands on the floor with the knees straight, you may bend the knees slightly. Make sure that the fingers and toes are in a straight line and the head is in towards the knees. Hands are as flat on floor as possible.
- Without moving your hands, inhale and stretch the right leg back as far as possible. Drop the right knee to the ground. Stretch the head up. Hands remain on the floor next to feet in straight line.
- Note: Right and left legs will alternate going back on alternate salutations.
- As you retain the breath, bring the other leg back. Body is in a straight line (often known as the push up position) from the head to the heels. Do not lift the hip. Do not drop the head.
- (Namaskara position) Exhale; Drop the knees straight down to the floor. Keep the hips up without rocking the body backward, bring the chest straight down to the floor between the hands. Bring the forehead to the floor.
- Inhale as you slide the body forward until the hips are on the ground. Arch the chest up and bring the head back. Legs and hips remain on the ground. Do not move the hands as you come into this position. Elbows are slightly bent and there is no tension in shoulders.
- Exhale: tuck the toes under. Without moving the hands or feet, bring the hips up as high as possible. Push the heels toward the floor. Hands are flat on ground. Head is between arms. Look at your feet. This is known as the inverted-V position.
- Inhale: Bring the right foot forward between the hands so that the fingers and toes are lined up. Drop the left knee to the floor and stretch the head up. Same as position 4.
Note: Right and left legs will alternate coming forward on alternate salutations.
- Without moving the hands, exhale as you bring the left foot forward next to the right foot. Forehead is in towards the knees -same as position 3. Keep the hips as high as possible. Fingers and toes are in a straight line.
- Inhale: Stretching up and arch backwards as position 2.
- Exhale as you bring your arms forward and down alongside your body, returning to the starting position. Relax and take a deep breath. Get ready to begin again.