If you’ve practiced much yoga at all, you’ve no doubt performed countless Sun Salutations. The series comes from the Hatha Yoga tradition, but now many styles of yoga have adopted it with their own variations. It’s kind of a chilly and rainy day today, so why do I feel the urge to practice Sun Salutation?
Surya Namaskara (pronounced soor-yee-ah-nahma-skar) is a series of yoga postures coordinated with breath that can stand alone as a complete physical workout or spiritual practice and is often used as a warm-up in yoga classes. Surya means sun (from the hindu sun deity). Nama, the root of Namaskar, means to bow. Namaskar is a greeting or salutation which gives us our “salute to the sun.”
Although there are many variations, a typical Sun Salutation consists of 12 poses. You will stretch and lengthen your spine in 4 directions: elongation, forward bending, back bending, and inversion while flexing and extending your major muscle groups. All of this from Sun Salutation – how cool is that?! One complete a round of Sun Salutation consists of going through the 12 poses twice — once for the right side of the body and one for the left.
The series also helps distribute prana (our life force energy) throughout our bodies as it rides the breath. As you perform the poses, a good mantra to remember is: “Lengthen and extend on the inhalation, soften and surrender on the exhalation.”
The sun is our primary source of light and across many cultures light is a symbol of consciousness. The sun salutation can be thought of as a tribute to our own inner light and is a beautiful series, especially energizing when performed mindfully, attention turned inwards to the heart. Although the sun is obscured by clouds today, perhaps this is all the more reason to practice Sun Salutation – knowing that it continues to burn brightly.
It is common to perform the Sun Salutation at sunrise which is traditionally considered to be the most “spiritually favorable” time of day. But why not take the next few moments, no matter what the time of day, to practice a round and feel the effects of Sun Salutation on your body, thoughts and emotions?
In Carol Krucoff’s words, “Sun salutations can energize and warm you, even on the darkest, coldest winter day.”
Have a look at the video below to see Shiva Rea moving thorugh Surya Namaskar.