Light has long been symbolized as a gateway to higher consciousness and self-illumination. In many different cultures the sun is seen as the creator of life, as everything that exists originates from its gleaming rays. The sun is the pathway to the Divine, and it “must contain the potentiality of all that is to be known” (Rosen, 2007). Hindus believe that the sun is the “eye of the world” (loka chakshus), and unites all selves in itself as one.
Surya Namaskar translates from Sanskrit to Sun Salutation. The word Surya means “the one who brightens the world,” and Namaskar means “I bow my head with complete gratitude and respect to you” (Mayuresh, 2019). In Hinduism, Surya is the God of the Sun and it is understood to be the creator of the universe and connector of the physical and spiritual world.
The practice of Surya Namaskar came from Indian culture, and was used as a way of paying respects to the sun – the source of all life and a symbol of the Divine (2020). As such, Sun Salutations are considered to be one of the most important yoga practices. The origin of Sun Salutations is debated upon – some say the sequence is over 2,500 years old from ancient Vedic times as a ritual to dawn, and others say this practice originated in the 20th century from India.
The sun is the pathway to the divine, and it “must contain the potentiality of all that is to be known” – Alain Danizlou
Sun Salutations are a sequence of harmoniously connected Asanas, which is Sanskrit for body postures, that are integrated with the breath to establish a graceful and purposeful flow of movement.
While there are many variations of Sun Salutations, the basic poses in order of performance are:
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
2. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
3. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
4. Half Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
5. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
6. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
7. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Moving through these poses is synchronized with the inhalation and exhalation of the breath. Some yogis suggest practicing six repetitions, and others suggest twelve (Rivers, 2020). This is a guideline – be sure to explore the magic number of Surya Namaskaras that will best serve you! Even just a few Sun Salutations every day can have a significant effect on your body, allowing you to move more freely with greater strength, stamina, and flexibility.
The benefits of practicing Sun Salutations have the potential to reset your mind and body for the rest of the day. Like with all forms of yoga, Sun Salutations stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to help you feel more relaxed and at ease. This deep relaxation reduces inflammation and expels free radicals from your organs, which fights off illnesses and strengthens your immune system (Lewis, 2019). With each breath in, your cells revive themselves, bringing mental clarity. The continuous flow of movement linked to the breath increases the vital energy of prana in your body, which helps remove any energy blockages (2019).
Other benefits include:
· Becoming more centered and grounded
· Improved focus and intention setting
· Physical benefits including muscle strength and flexibility
· Boosting the immune system and overall health
· Finding inner peace and de-stressing
The beauty of Sun Salutations lies in the potential to expand our awareness of our body, soul, and mind, and the energies whirling around us. Sun Salutations can bring a physical calm and powerful mental clarity.
As you practice, focus on the connection of the breath with the sensations of the body flowing through the different movements, and allow yourself to be fully present.
The light within me honours and acknowledges the light within you
Megan Binder (B.A. Psychology)
The benefits of Sun Saluations: What are sun salutations. (2019, February 26). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://soulfullyoganola.com/benefits-of-sun-salutations/
Lewis, A. (2019, September 06). Sun salutations explained-and why you should master them. Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.byrdie.com/sun-salutation
Mayuresh, N., & I. (2019, June 01). 7 health benefits of Surya NAMASKAR: All you need to know about sun salutations. Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.bookyogaretreats.com/news/health-benefits-sun-salutations
The origin of the sun salutation. (2020, April 14). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.ekhartyoga.com/articles/practice/the-origin-of-the-sun-salutation
Rivers, R. (2020, March 19). 6 reasons to practice Daily sun salutations. Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.yogabasics.com/connect/yoga-blog/sun-salutations-benefits/
Rosen, R. (2007, August 28). The tradition + practice of classic sun SALUTATIONS (Surya NAMASKAR A). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/here-comes-the-sun/
What is Surya Namaskar? (2020, August 26). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.yogapedia.com/definition/5503/surya-namaskar