Surya Namaskar also known as sun- salutation is a flowing sequence of 12 positions performed together as an exercise. It helps in the strengthening and flexibility of the muscles and the spinal column. Also, surya namaskar is a rhythmic combination of asanas, manthras and breathing exercises performed simultaneously.
Each asana/ posture counter acts the previous by stretching the body in a different way, thereby expanding and contracting the spinal cord, muscles and the chest to regulate breathing. One round of surya namaskar involves 2 sequences of certain repeating asanas, first with the right foot and then the left.
Benefits of Practising Surya Namaskar
It is said that is one excercise where 95% to 97% of the body muscles are activated. The breathing exercise, practised along with surya namaskar, provides more oxygen to the lungs.
A set off 24 surya namaskars performed everyday is equal to 500 situps, meaning the exercise burns out a lot of calories and helps in reducing body weight.
Apart from this it ensures the perfect functioning of the respiratory, digestive nervous and the endocrine systems. Lastly coordination of the asanas along with breathing and attaining perfection of postures with practise helps in improving concentration.
The 12 Asanas Of Surya Namaskar
Step 1 and 12
Stand straight with feet together in prayer postion with thumbs in contact with the chest. Exhale. This posture promotes balance and stimulates the Respiratory system.
Step 2 and 11
Now, while inhaling raise your arms and arch backwards so that the whole body forms a crescent shape. This posture helps in improving the flexibility of the spine and exercises the arms and shoulder muscles.
Steps 3 and 10
Exhale and bring hands down to your feet by bending forwards and touch the ground. Otherwise bend forward to the maximum you can. This posture tones the abdomen and stretches the back and leg muscles. It also helps to activate the digestive system.
Steps 4 and 9
Place your hands firmly on the ground and while inhaling stretch your left/(right) leg at the back resting on your toes with knees touching the floor and the right/(left) leg knee closer to the chest. Lift your head upwards to face the ceiling. Hand and wrist muscles are strengthened and helps ensure immunity of the leg muscles and ligaments.
Steps 5 and 8
Exhale and take your right/(left) leg at the back so that both the legs are parallel to each other and are pressed firmly to the ground and raise the hip up, so that the body forms an inverted V. let the hands head and the spine be on one straight line. Relieves shoulder and neck tension and stimulates blood circulation.
Now hold your breath and bring the hip down while moving the shoulder and face forward and straightening the body near the floor. in this posture the hip should be slightly raised. This is known as Sashtanga Namaskar. Stretches the arms, shoulder neck and back muscles and releases any tension present there.
This step involves inhaling, straightening the arms, lifting the chest and arching the head backwards so that you are facing the ceiling. In this posture your feet and toes rest on the ground while your arms balance the weight of the rest of your body. Stimulates circulation to the abdominal organs and stretches the upper and lower body.
A maximum of 12 surya namaskars can be practised at once in one session. But for beginners it is usually started with 3 per day and then gradually increased to 12.
One must remember to practice ‘shavasana’ immediately after the practice of surya namaskar so as to rest the body from the exertions it has gone through before continuing with other regular yoga asanas or pranayama. Whenever possible, surya namasakar must be performed, facing the direction of the sun.