Known variously as Surya Namskar or Prostrations to Sun or Sun Salutation, the Surya Namaskar is one of the best exercises that people can perform. The benefits accruing from these exercises are unique and excellent. This is a yoga based exercise and it is customary to perform Surya Namaskar after performing loosening yoga exercises.
The human being can be thought of consisting of ‘pancha kosas’ (or five sheaths) consisting of the Annamaya (or Body), Pranamaya (or Breath), Manomaya (or Mind), Vijnanamaya (or Intellect) and Anandamaya (or Bliss) sheaths.
These same five kosas can be further grouped into Gross (or Sthula), the Annamaya or body sheath, Subtle (or Sukshma) consisting of the pranic, mental and intellectual sheaths and the Causal (or Karana), the Bliss sheath.
Properly performed Surya Namaskar impacts and influences all five sheaths – the body, the breath, the mind, the intellect and the bliss – thus providing to the performers of these exercises the benefits for the Sthula (Gross), Sukshma (subtle) and Kaarana (Causal) bodies.
Whereas conventional exercises of all forms including aerobic, weight lifting, walking, jogging and running are designed to provide benefits to the physical body and its various component organs including joints and muscles, Surya Namaskar provides benefits of a holistic nature by working on the physical body, praana (breathing), mind, intellect and the bliss components (or kosas) of the entire human personality.
In that sense, Surya Namaskar can be considered to be a personality development tool and must be included as part of one’s wellness program
Surya Namaskar Postures and Breathing Pattern
1. Stand facing the Sun with palms folded and both the thumbs touching the chest. Breathing: Inhale while raising the hands and exhale as hands are brought down to chest level
2. Raise hands upward, with feet firmly on the ground, bend backwards, stretch arms fully. Breathing: Inhale
3. Slowly bend forward, hands touching the earth with respect, head touching the knees. Breathing: Exhale
4. Set both hands with the palms down firmly on the ground, pull the left leg backward, raise the head looking at the Sun, full weight resting on the two palm and ten fingers. Breathing: Inhale
5. Bring right leg back close to left leg, keeping hands and legs straight, bend the body at the hip forming an arch, just like a mountain, known as ‘parvathasan or mountain pose’. Breathing: Exhale
6. Stretch yourself fully on the ground in the Saashtanga Namaskar pose (all eight ‘anga’ or parts of the body on the ground – head, thigh, eyes (sight), mind, word, feet, hands and ears (hearing)).
In reality, feet, knees, thighs, chest, forehead touch the ground with the hands stretched out and in folded position, with your mind and thoughts on the full namaskar, then slowly turn the head to the sides first to left and then to right so that each ear touches the ground.
Breathing: Inhale first and then Exhale fully.
7. Slowly raise the head, bend backward as much as possible, hands straight, in the cobra pose. Breathing: Inhale
8. Parvathasan – same as Step 5. Breathing: Exhale
9. Same as Step 4 with the difference that the right leg is brought forward. Breathing: Inhale
10. Same as Step 3 Breathing: Exhale
11. Same as Step 2 Breathing: Inhale
12. Same as Step 1 Breathing: Exhale, Inhale and Exhale.
Beginning practitioners are advised to start performing one set of 2 Namaskaraas for few days, get comfortable and then gradually increase the set of 2 namaskaraas to 2, 3, 6, 12 sets, taking into account their ability to do these namaskaaraas over a period of as many days as it takes to reach comfortable levels before increasing the set of Surya Namskaara from 1 set to 2 sets, from 2 sets to 3 sets, from 3 sets to 6 sets, from 6 sets to 12 sets to complete the 12 set of 2 Namaskaaras each for the 24 Namaskaraas.