Without the Sun, there will be no life on earth. Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is a very ancient technique of paying respect/expressing gratitude to the Sun, which is the source of all forms of life on the planet. It is important to understand the science behind this very ancient technique, because a deeper understanding will bring forth the right outlook and approach towards this very sacred and powerful yogic technique.
Surya Namaskar means to bow down to the sun in the morning. The sun is the life source for this planet. In everything that you eat, drink and breathe, there is an element of the sun. Only if you learn how to better “digest” the sun, internalize it, and make it a part of your system, do you truly benefit from this process.
Getting up early in the morning and practicing Surya Namaskar is one of the best ways to start your day. Surya Namaskar is a sequence of 12 yoga poses that flow one into the other with rhythmic breathing. Each of the 12 poses of Surya Namaskar is designed to have a specific benefit on the body. The sequence can boost your cardiovascular health, improve your blood circulation, help you beat stress and detox your body along with several other benefits.
A classical version of Surya Namaskar has been explained below. Practicing this covers asanas, pranayama, bandhas, kriyas, mudras, mantras and bija aksharas in itself. It consists of 12 flowing steps in a sequence and it is advised to build up the practice stage by stage.
Tadasana – Stable Mountain. This is the starting point for all standing asanas.
Bring your palms together in front of the heart center and as we bring our hands together in Namaste, we gather the space of the heavens back into our heart and breath, acknowledging that our body forms the center point between heaven and earth. Give a good stretch from the ankle and wrist and feel the trunk lift and lengthen and move into Urdhva Hastasana.
As we lower our bodies, we connect with the earth. Arch from the lower back and bend forward and gaze at your legs in Padahastasana. Kick the right leg back, landing on your toes with the left shin at 90 degree to the floor and look up in Eka Pada Prasaranasana. Without disturbing the hands, contract the abdominal muscles and feel the vast expanse of the cosmos within the movement of your body. Gaze slightly in front. From head to toe, the body is like a plank in Dwi Pada Prasaranasana.
Try not to sink your hips or collapse your core. Let this action be an offering of the heart, a surrendering of the ego, a full-body prostration to the earth. Toes, knees, chest, palms and forehead should touch the floor in Sashtanga Namaskarasana. Lift the head and chest and push the body slightly forward and stretch the toes back into Bhujanghasana. Exhale, tuck your toes under, and use the strength of your belly to pull your hips up into Bhudarasana. From here, again repeat the first three steps into Eka Pada Prasaranasana, Padahastasana and back into Tadasana. This completes half the cycle. Repeat the entire 12 steps with the left leg to complete one complete cycle.