The Meaning of Sun Salutations [Surya Namaskar]

What are Sun Salutations and Why do we Practice them?

Surya Namaskar - Sun Salutation, is a sequence of 12 asanas performed in salutation to the Sun ('Surya'), and this is why it is often practiced at sunrise. The Sanskrit word 'namaskar' stems from 'namas', which means "to bow to" or "to adore." The Lord Sun is blessing us daily. He gives us so much nutrients, light and love.

"When I practice Surya Namakar my heart is full of gratitude and appreciation, and I practice with a smile on my face"

At the heart of any vinyasa flow, the Surya namaskar practice has many benefits. It serves as a full body workout, massaging all organs, strengthening the muscles and bones, increasing flexibility and strength. It involves movement of all the limbs, it gets the heart rate up and is excellent for the cardiovascular system. It massages all the internal organs and it is good for your digestion and endocrine system too.

However, it is much more than just a workout.

Each Sun Salutation begins and ends with the hands in prayer position - Anjali Mudra. The practice honors the Lord Sun, praying that he blesses us, cleanses our intellect and psychic bodies. The sun is our primary source of light, energy and life. Practicing Surya Namaskar in the morning, facing the sun, allows the energy of the sun to be absorbed, charging and purifying the solar plexus and the entire nadi system. The prana, or energy, created in the body during the practice is detoxifying and moves stuck emotions. It is also a very grounding practice.

If you can’t see the sun when practicing, use your creative imagination and visualise the sun ahead of you. Imagine with each inhalation you are drawing in the sun rays which heals every cell in your body, rejuvenating you from head to toe.

How to Practice Sun Salutations - Surya Namaskar

While practicing, employ deep, conscious ‘ujjayi breath’ (ocean breath) so your breath moves with each movement. The more you align your breath with each asana, the easier it will flow.

The description of how to do sun salutations are below.

Step 1: Prayer Pose (Pranamasana):

Begin the Surya Namaskar practice with the Prayer pose. Stand upright, preferably on a yoga mat or flat surface, with feet closely aligned with each other, with your toe joints touching if possible. As you inhale, raise your arms and as you exhale, fold your hands in prayer position before your heart. It is the first namaskar towards the sun - Pratham Namaskar.

Step 2: Raised Arms Pose (Hastottanasana):

From the prayer position breathe in gently and deeply lifting your arms up, keeping your ears in line with your arms and lean slightly backward. Try to stretch your whole body upwards to loosen up the entire body.

Step 3: Standing Forward Bend (Hasta Padasana):