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The Sun or Lord Surya symbolizes the supreme cosmic power – the life force that enables all living beings to thrive and grow. Sun is the creator of the universe and a source of energy for living beings, without which life is not possible on Earth. Therefore, Sun is worshipped in many parts of the world.
Suryanamaskar or Sun Salutations consists of a set of asanas for paying respect to the sun. It is a repetitive prayer or an opportunity to bow down or to provide homage to God, who provides life to us.

Importance of Suryanamaskar

It consists of 12 different poses which are performed after one another in sequence with rhythmic breathing. It is a great way to warm up your body before doing any asanas. It is best when performed before or at the time of sunrise facing towards the east.
The poses stretch all the muscle groups of the body, which allows opening of the body. Continuous practise of suryanamaskar strengthens the back muscles, and increases the strength and flexibility of the entire body with increase of stamina.

Benefits of Suryanamaskar

Suryanamaskar has both physical and mental health benefits. Some of the major benefits of Suryanamaskar are as follows:

Physical Benefits of Suryanamaskar

a. Helps in weight loss
b. Strengthens all the muscles and joints of the body
c. It aids in healing the body
d. It lengthens the spine muscles and increases the flexibility of back and hip muscles
e. It ensures better functioning of the digestive system.
f. It helps to regulate the menstrual cycle in women
g. It improves blood circulation in the body and keeps the skin young and glow h. Stretches arms, shoulder, neck and back muscles, releases tension in neck and shoulder
i. Continuous breathing in a rhythmic pattern improves the oxygen content in the blood and stimulates the lungs and improves the respiratory system of the body.

Mental Benefits of Suryanamaskar

a. It reduces mental stress, helps to fight depression, and anxiety and calms the mind
b. It improves self-confidence, concentration and focus of mind
c. It also promotes a sense of self-discipline and mind power
d. It also helps to cure insomnia
e. Connects the body, mind and soul.

To sum up, it has a far-reaching impact on the entire body and is a great way to uplift mood and improve mental health. In addition, the amount of energy gained by doing merely a few rounds of suryanamaskar is tremendous.

Can we do Suryanamaskar Daily?

Suryanamaskar is a very good warm-up and can be practised daily. Daily practice of suryanamaskar boosts the energy level and boosts morale. It also increases the endurance, stamina and strength of the body.

Daily practice of suryanamaskar at a fast pace set a mood or intention for the entire yoga practice and you will feel much more energetic and happy during the entire practice. The most beautiful part of it is that focusing purely on own breath during the movements of suryanamaskar reduces the thoughts in the mind and the body starts moving in a rhythmic manner as if it is surrendering itself to the breath and rhythm formed due to continuous movements of the body.

Speed of doing suryanamaskar

Suryanamaskar can be done at a slow, medium and fast pace. Every pace has its own benefits:
Slow-paced: A beginner can start doing suryanamaskar at a slow pace. Suryanamaskar at a slow pace allows the body and mind to focus on the alignment and breathe during each asana and allow them to complete the movements properly. Holding at a particular pose due to slow speed increases the flexibility of the body. Further, it increases the endurance of the body due to extra time taken due to slow speed.

Medium paced: Once a person is used to performing suryanamaskar at a slow pace, then he can increase its speed depending on the body and time taken. Due care to be taken on the breathing and alignment of the body while increasing the speed. Even at a medium pace, a person should do proper breathing and complete the poses. It helps to increase the strength of the body and the effects are the same as doing cardio exercise.

Fast-paced: It is a very good warm-up exercise and helps to reduce excess weight from the body. Due care to be taken on the breathing and alignment of the body while increasing the speed.
A person can start with a slow pace and can increase to medium after doing a few rounds at a slow speed and likewise can increase to a high pace.

How many rounds can be done?

In my personal experience, a person can start with 12 rounds and can increase 5-10 rounds weekly depending upon the capacity and level of fitness and can go up to 108 rounds for daily practice. The speed would depend upon the level of fitness and practice.

A person can first achieve 108 rounds at a slow pace and as the body allows can gradually increase the speed. So, in simple terms, he can start with a round in 24 seconds, then 20 seconds, then gradually reduce to 18 seconds, 15 seconds and then to 10 or 11 seconds and keep going to increase speed.
Various Yoga centres organize suryathon, weekly or twice in a week. Practice can be done through that also.

Poses of Suryanamaskar

Traditional Suryanamaskar consists of 12 steps, which consist of 7 poses and 5 are repetitive poses. Further, these poses are performed with chanting mantras in each step. These 12 mantras are the names of the Sun. Also, various variations of Suryanamaskar also exist, wherein certain poses are slightly changed.
The twelve poses are as follows:

1. Pranamasana

2. Hastauttanasana

3. Hastapadasana

4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana

5. Dandasana

6. Ashtanga Namaskara

7. Bhujangasana

8. Adho Mukha Svanasana

9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana

10. Hastapadasana

11. Hastauttanasana

12. Pranamasana

Pose I: Pranamasana: Breath in and out – In samsthiti position Palms together in front of the chest. The entire body is relaxed. Equal pressure on both legs

Pose II: Hastauttanasana: Breathe in and lift your arms and bend backward Neck should be between your hands and push your hips forward. Look upward, do not drop your head back and do not bend your knees.

Pose III: Hastapadasana: Breathe out and bend forward, placing your palms on the floor If your palms are not able to touch the floor with your knees straight, bend your knees slightly.

Pose IV: Ashwa Sanchalanasana: Breathe in and bring your right leg in front, place your left knee on the floor Push the pelvis forward and the right knee should be at a 90-degree angle. The chest should be open and look upwards

Pose V: Dandasana: Exhale and bring your right leg back Body to be in push-up position Pose VI: Ashtanga Namaskara: Touch your knees, chest, and chin to the floor and hips slightly upwards Inhale and exhale both to be done in this posture.

Pose VII: Bhujangasana: Breath in, raise your upper body and look up Keep your legs together on the floor and pointed. Elbows are slightly bent and your shoulders are rolling back and pushing down.

Pose VIII: Adho Mukha Svanasana: Breathe out and move your hips up and head towards the floor Try to look at the naval and keep the heel on the floor. Do not bend the knees in this position. It is an inverted V position.

Pose IX: Ashwa Sanchalanasana: Breathe in and bring the left foot forward in between your hands It is the same as in Position 4

Pose X: Hastapadasana: Breath out, and bring your right foot forward Which is the same as position 3

Pose XI: Hastauttanasana: Breathe in and lift your arms and bend backwards Which is the same as in Position 2.

Pose XII: Pranamasana: Breath in and out – In samsthiti position Same as position 1

My Personal experience

I(Mudita Bhadani) started doing suryanamaskar daily due to the lockdown in March 2020, I was not able to move out. Centres and Gyms were shut down. In that scenario, the best exercise I found, that I could do without thinking was Suryanamaskar. Although, I used to hate it when I started working out but kept going to do suryanamaskar due to its vast benefits, discussed above.

The only physical benefit that I could see in the short term was weight loss but with continuous practice, the impact was more than only weight loss. It boosted my confidence and morale when everything was falling and days were gloomy. Further, it allowed me to do my regular workout in a much better way. It is one of the most simple asanas which benefits the body to a larger extent.

It also helped me heel various pains that I was facing due to continuous sitting during the days and thigh pains. The logical explanation is the strength and stretching it provided to my muscles. Further, without knowing and without doing any extra practice, it increased my flexibility. I was able to do back bending poses such as chakrasana and other poses easily in a very short time frame.
One additional benefit – I started feeling my breath, not only while doing suryanamaskar but also doing other asanas and even it helped to improve pranayama practice.

To date, I love starting my practice with suryanamaskar as a warm-up and helps me every day to have a satisfactory feeling when I complete my practice

Caution: While suryanamaskar has various benefits, it is advisable to do as per the fitness of the body and under the instructions of the trainer or yoga guru, otherwise it may lead to various injuries or pains in the body. Further, always listen to your body.