Start your day with reverence for the sun, and harness its life-giving energy with Surya Namaskar
“Celebrating being alive is the essence of a spiritual experience.”
Sun Salutation – The Perfect Yoga Workout
If you are pressed for time and looking for a single mantra to stay fit, here’s the answer. A set of 12 powerful yoga asanas (postures) that provide a good cardiovascular workout in the form of Surya Namaskar. Literally translated to sun salutation, these postures are a good way to keep the body in shape and the mind calm and healthy.
Surya Namaskar is best done early morning on an empty stomach. Let’s begin with these simple yet effective Sun Salutation steps on our way to good health.
Each Sun Salutation round consists of two sets. These 12 yoga poses complete one set of Surya Namaskar. To complete the second half, you need to repeat the same sequence of postures, only moving the left leg instead of the right (in steps 4 and 9 given below). You might find several versions of doing Sun Salutation. However, it is best to stick to one particular sequence and practice it regularly for best results.
Besides good health, Surya Namaskar also provide an opportunity to express gratitude to the sun for sustaining life on this planet, feeling of grace and gratitude towards the sun energy.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose) – Exhale
Start by establishing equal weight on both feet and a tall, bright posture through the spine and crown of the head. Bring your palms together in front of the heart center. Pause and imagine a sun at your heart, shining brighter with each inhalation. Sense gratitude for the life-giving energy of the sun, for the prana (life force) that flows through you and all beings.
Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)- Inhale
Inhale, turn your palms out, and sweep your arms up and overhead. The spine can take a gentle backbend, lifting the heart and expanding the chest. Let this movement be a gesture of opening to life. Gaze up, keeping the forehead relaxed and the face soft.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) -Exhale
Exhale and fold forward at the hips. Let the descent be an offering of gratitude. Keep the spine straight as long as you can, then let it softly round into a full forward bend. You can bend your knees to ease strain on your back or hips. At the end of the exhalation, draw your chin in and gaze at your legs.
Anjayasana Or Low lunge – Inhale
Keep the right foot in this position, the knee bottom floor.Move the left foot until you feel a stretch in the muscles of the groin and the front of the left thigh.The front of the left foot should be facing the ground.
Now, exhale as you lift your body and do it in a vertical position.Extend arms to the sides and top. Must be perpendicular to the ground. Try to lift the pubis toward the navel and tailbone down. Try to push your chest and back toward your spine. Raise your head now. Extend your fingers towards the ceiling. Hold this position for one minute.
Plank or Dandasana Pose:
After Anjayasana bring left foot back with support of palms. Press your outer arms inward and firm the bases of your index fingers into the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then spread them away from the spine. Also spread your collarbones away from the sternum. Press your front thighs up toward the ceiling, but resist your tailbone toward the floor as you lengthen it toward the heels. Lift the base of the skull away from the back of the neck and look straight down at the floor, keeping the throat and eyes soft.You can also perform this pose by itself and stay anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Astangasana or Eight limb Pose – Exhale :
This in called Eight limb pose because eight parts of the body touch the mat. The knees, feet, hands, chest and chin. It is a great yoga posture to perform before the Cobra pose (Bhujangasana ). From Dandasana or plank drop the knees, chest and then the chin or forhead to the mat. Keep the legs together and elbows tucked in. Stretch the chin forward and place it on the mat allowing the front of the neck to stretch. Allow a curve of the lumbar spine and turn the tailbone upwards. The toes apply a forward force. They are pushed away from the body slightly to create a forward energy up the back of the legs. This is balanced by the energy caused by the hands pushing down and away from the body. Use both of these forces lightly.
7. Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose:
From Dandasana or plank pose gently drop chest, hip, thighs and feet and lying flat face downwards. From a prone position place the hands down under the shoulders, or farther away from your body depending on your spines flexibility, and raise the upper body. Push the legs together if you wish to engage the lower back and gluteuls. Leave the legs slightly open if you want a deeper stretch.
It can be quite hard on the arms when this posture is held. Try different positions with the arms. Allow a slight bend, straighten or do a combination of both.Holding Cobra can be a good way to open the smaller muscles in the spine before starting a sequence of Sun Salutations.
When done mildly the cobra pose can help relieve and even heal bulging discs in the lower back. However raising too high will aggravate the issue. So when performing this pose for healing remember to raise into mild discomfort and no further.
8. Downward facing Dog Pose or Adhomukha Svasana or Parvatasana – Exhale
Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins. Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis. Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes.
9. Ashwa Sanchalanasa or Equestrian Pose – Inhale
While Inhaling move the right foot forward in between the hands as you align your right knee above the heel. While lowering your left knee to the ground and keeping your right knee fixed in position, move the left one backwards until you feel a good stretch in the left thigh and groins. The dorsum of the left foot should be turned to the ground.
While inhaling, let your torso be vertical and upright. Your arms should be perpendicular to the ground. Increase the length of your tailbone by extending it towards the ground. Raise your chest, leading the movement with your breastbone, or sternum, with firm shoulder blades.
Now move your head back and gaze upwards,making sure that your posterior neck doesn’t get jammed.
10. Hasta-Padasana or Hand to foot Pose – Exhale
From Ashwa Sanchalansa or Equestrian Pose gently breathing out and bring the left foot forward. Keep the palms on the floor. You may bend the knees, if necessary. Breathing out, bend forward from the waist, keeping the spine erect. As you exhale completely, bring the hands down to the floor, beside the feet.
You may bend the knees, if necessary, to bring the palms down to the floor. Now make a gentle effort to straighten the knees.
Gently straighten the knees and if you can, try and touch your nose to the knees. Keep breathing.
It’s a good idea to keep the hands fixed in this position and not move them until you finish the sequence.
11. Hastauttanasana or Raised arm Pose – Inhale
Breathing in, roll the spine up, hands go up and bend backwards a little bit, pushing the hips slightly outward.
How to deepen this yoga stretch?
Ensure that your biceps are beside your ears. The idea is to stretch up more rather than stretching backwards.
12.Tadasana – Exhale
As you exhale, first straighten the body, then bring the arms down. Relax in this position, observe the sensations in your body.