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Yoga is a wonderful, ancient practice that combines breathwork, movement, and meditation. One of the first practices that many yoga instructors learn to teach is a series of movements called Surya Namaskar (sun salutations).
What is Surya Namaskar?
Surya Namaskar is made up of multiple poses that are linked together by breath to create one uniformed sequence.
Surya Namaskar translates to sun salutations, it is literally a practice that is meant to salute the sun and wake up the body.
This practice is very beneficial to do, and when practiced first thing in the morning, it gives the system a great boost for the rest of the day. (1)
What are the benefits of Surya Namaskar?
Surya Namaskar has many advantages for the mind and body. Benefits of sun salutations include but are not limited to:
- Increasing circulation and blood flow
- Strengthening the muscles in the entire body
- Decreasing negative energy
- Waking the body up
- Decreasing toxins in the body
- Improving lung strength and making breathing easy
- Opening up the joints
- Increasing flexibility
- Decreasing stress, depression, and anxiety
- Energizing the body
- Increasing focus
What poses are used in Surya Namaskar?
Surya Namaskar A is made up of the following poses:
- Mountain pose (Tadasana)
- Upward hand pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
- Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- Half forward fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
- Plank pose (Phalakasana)
- Four-limbed staff pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
- Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
- Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
There are many Surya Namaskar variations. Most poses can be added to a sun salutation to create a new fun variation.
Some common poses that are used in Surya Namaskar include but are not limited to:
- Chair pose (Utkatasana)
- Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
- Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
How is Surya Namaskar done?
Sun salutations have many variations, but Surya Namaskar A is the most common.
The following is an explanation of how to do a sun salutation:
1. Begin in the mountain pose (Tadasana) with feet hip-width apart and hands at heart center.
2. On the inhale, lift the arms up to the sky, opening the heart and taking a slight backbend in an upward hand pose (Urdhva Hastasana).
3. On the exhale, bend at the waist into a forward fold (Uttanasana).
4. Inhaling, lift up halfway into a half-forward fold (Ardha Uttanasana).
5. Drop the hands to the ground, and jump or float the feet back into a plank pose (Phalakasana).
6. Exhaling, bring the hands, chest, and chin to the ground in a four-limbed staff pose (Chaturanga Dandasana), and then straighten out the body.
7. Inhaling, come up into a cobra pose (Bhujangasana), being mindful not to overextend and to lift with the muscles of the back.
8. Exhaling, tuck the toes, and press back into a downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Savasana), keeping a flat back. The knees can have a slight bend if need be. If desired, five breaths can be taken while holding this pose.
9. On the next inhale, jump or float the feet forward to the hands.
10. Exhale into a forward fold (Uttanasana).
11. Inhaling, bring the arms out and up, leading back up to an upward hand pose (Urdhva Hastasana).
12. Exhaling, bring the hands together at heart center, standing in a mountain pose (Tadasana).
Why is Surya Namaskar a great way to start the day?
By flowing through the poses and linking the movement with the breath, the blood starts pumping, and the body can wake up faster.
The poses mimic the sunrise and sunset and are meant as a salute to the sun. When practicing in the sunlight, the mind is naturally more relaxed, and serotonin is released, leading to a happier experience of the oncoming day.
By starting the morning with deep breathing and movement, the muscles become more open, the fascias are stretched (giving it more flexibility), and the organs are stimulated, making you ready for the day. It is also a great workout!
How many times should Surya Namaskar be done in one practice?
Surya Namaskar can be done as many times as is comfortable. Some people will do about five to ten at once. You can add more poses as you flow through the practice and do variations of Surya Namaskar.
Some people prefer to do a more intense practice, doing 108 Surya Namaskars at a time. However, this number can be very intense for beginners, doing about ten is usually a good place to start.
The number of times this practice should be done also really depends on you, your experience level, and your stamina. You should always do the amount that makes sense for yourself.
Why do people practice 108 Surya Namaskar?
The scared number 108 is often used in spirituality and yoga for many reasons.
One is, there are 108 Upanishads (spiritual teachings). Another reason is 108 represents the distance of the earth, sun, and moon, multiplied by their diameters. In addition, Vedic tradition says that 108 is the number of existence.
Often in yoga, breathwork and mantras are repeated 108 times, and mala beads are used to help keep track of these.
Surya Namaskar is practiced 108 times, usually when the seasons change to represent a new start and being reborn.
This can be very intense on the body with many benefits, but it is meant to be done by those who have a lot of experience with yoga and Surya Namaskar.
Is Surya Namaskar good for weight loss?
Any yoga practice is great for the body, including the benefit of weight loss. Surya Namaskar, in particular, is very helpful for weight loss and toning the body.
Many exercise-focused yoga classes use Surya Namaskar as a basis for the class. By continuing to flow through the movements, you can receive a great workout that definitely breaks a sweat.
In addition, Surya Namaskar is good for improving strength and helping to build more muscle in the body. (2) The practice is also great for increasing stamina to further keep the body moving in the future.
Sun salutations can also increase metabolism. (3)
What does science say about Surya Namaskar?
There is a reason this practice has been used for so many centuries. It is great for the body, and it has many benefits that are actually scientifically proven! (1)
Studies have been conducted to see how sun salutations affect the body, and results revealed that the practice improves focus, strengthens and tones the body, (2) regulates stress, (4) increases blood flow and benefits the respiratory system. (5)