Surya Namaskar is Sanskrit for “sun salutation”. This means greeting the sun. The practice refers to the sun as the soul, the beginning, and end of all life. It is a set of 12 asanas (postures) that are designed to help heart health and overall good feeling.
There is a bit of controversy about whether it is a new form of yoga or an ancient one, but the general consensus is that surya namaskar is a modern variant of ancient forms of yoga. There is a surprising amount of disagreement and argument about this, but it does not matter a great deal.
The Practice of Surya Namaskar Yoga
There are 12 asanas in Surya Namaskar yoga. There are some variants of the asanas shown here, but these are the most commonly used. The first is Pranamasana.
Centered on the heart chakra, pranamasana is a preparation asana. It is an exhalation. Stand still with the hands lightly pressed together in front of the chest, with your fingers just below chin height. Exhale.
The inhalation following pranamasana. This is centered on the throat chakra. Raise your arms up high, linking them above your head and stretch out your body as you inhale.
As you exhale, bring your hands down to grip your ankles. This centers your sacrum chakra.
As you inhale, one foot goes back, the head lifts back and the arms extend in a stretch above and behind the head. Your front leg bends. This is the “third eye” chakra. You might need some instruction for this one. If you are stuck, look on YouTube for a visual guide.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Again centering on the throat chakra, this exhalation takes your palms forward to the floor, both your legs behind you, and your back arched with your bottom as far in the air as it will go.
For the solar plexus, this breath suspension asana brings your body down to the ground, keeping the solar plexus low and the bottom high in a short stress position.
Bringing the torso up, flattening the legs, and inhaling as your head rises, this centers on the sacrum chakra and stretches the back.
Adho Muka Svanasana
As you inhale, return your body to the previous adho mukha svanasana, exhaling as you go. This is for the throat chakra.
Using the opposite foot to the one previously used, bring your back foot back, bending the front leg, stretching the arms back and up as the head goes back and you inhale. The third eye chakra is stimulated here.
As you exhale, stand and bring your hands to your ankles. This centers your sacrum chakra.
The throat chakra is stimulated as you inhale, stretching your arms above your head.
Back to the first asana, you are centering your heart chakra as you hold your hands before you in a prayer position and breathe out. You can hold this position as long as you like.
Generally, 12 Surya namaskars are performed for each cycle. By the end, you should feel relaxed and enervated.
This author could not find any specific evidence for Surya Namaskara being especially beneficial according to the scientific literature. However, when yoga has been studied in general, it has been found to be extremely effective at helping to maintain fitness, muscle tone, boost mental health, encourage healthy eating habits, losing weight and increasing self-esteem.
Using the Surya Namaskara is good exercise for the back and lower joints. It will help you feel connected to your body, improve your proprioception, focus your mind, and help you relax. Suppleness and flexibility will definitely improve and you will promote healthy metabolism and health.
A Daily Practice
Practicing Surya Namaskara yoga every day will give you something to focus on and a nice form of gentle exercise that will help you keep fit and healthy but also help you feel better. The benefits of yoga on mental health are centered around breathing techniques, improved diet, better fitness, and the social interaction that often comes from yoga groups.
Joining a yoga group is a good way of getting exercise, losing weight, and making friends. Anyone can join and they are always welcoming to people who want to learn yoga. Surya Namaskar yoga is a relatively easy way of getting into yoga. The benefits are felt immediately and it teaches you basic breathing and body coordination, essential for further exploration into the yogic realms.
A Teacher is Worth Finding
You cannot see your own posture very well and you could end up getting some bad habits unless you have an experienced teacher to show you the correct way of doing things.