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What is sun salutation – Surya Namaskar: 12 yoga poses to feel energized and build strength

What is sun salutation? Traditionally known as Surya Namaskar, a blend of harmonious yoga postures (asanas) to energise the body, build strength and relax the nervous system. Learn how to do it.

Surya namaskar poses are definitely the best choice you can make if you are looking to fit yoga and physical activity into your busy lives and schedule. Sparing only 10-15 minutes for yourself daily has dramatic changes in your life.

Generally, when asked what is Sun salutation, yogis and yogini understand Surya Namaskar as an exercise. It strengthens your back. True. Your muscles, your core. True. It definitely does all of that and more.

In fact, it is a complete and comprehensive workout for the physical body. But above all, it is an important tool that empowers human beings to break free from the compulsive patterns of our lives.

Surya Namaskar Benefits - Do you know how many calories do you burn after a mix of 30-minute exercises? Running burns around 414 calories, weightlifting burns around 200 calories, tennis around 232 calories, football around 298 calories. Surya Namaskar burns 417 calories!

But let’s step back to what is Sun Salutation.

From Sanskrit, the Surya Namaskar means Salute to Sun, or Sun Salutation, as it is known in the western world.

Sun Salutation is a sequence of 12 postures (asanas) gracefully structured to resemble a dance (flow). It is incredibly good for overall health, body, and mind, and impacts every part of the body. If done at a fast pace, Surya Namaskar is a great way to lose weight and an excellent cardiovascular workout, as well as stretching and toning the muscles in the entire body. And, that’s not all. Surya namaskar benefits don’t finish here.

Surya namaskar poses to improve the circulation of the blood throughout the body, helps in maintaining overall good health and ensuring wellbeing. The daily practice of Surya Namaskar poses offers many benefits for the digestive, respiratory, nervous and circulatory system.

But what is Surya namaskar in a deeper meaning? The beautiful Vedic prayer known as the Gayatri Mantra addresses the sun as “the one who illuminates our minds.” Surya Namaskar works directly on the Solar Plexus, a complex network of radiating nerves (a nerve plexus, from here the name) of the sympathetic system, large as the size of an almond and located on the abdomen, just above the navel area.

Sun Salutation can be practised at any time, morning or evening, however, because it’s connected with the sun, hence its name, is advisable to practice the sequence at sunrise when the first ray of light falls on the solar plexus. Studies have demonstrated that with the practice of Sun Salutation and meditation, the solar plexus can become as large as the size of the palm, hence, performs better and balances the body functions properly. Is when the solar plexus is contracted that we feel sensations of depression, anxiety, and negative emotions arise. On the opposite, when it expands, the central nervous system (intuitive mind) works better and becomes clearer, more focused. Last, but not least, don’t forget the benefit that Surya Namaskar has on your mind. Doing a few rounds of Surya Namaskar can be very relaxing and meditative, as the practice also helps to quiet the mind.

Surya is the Soul, both of the moving and unmoving beings. Thanks to the sun, its warmth, and light we have life on this Planet.

The sequence 

Sun Salutation has to be performed as one continuous exercise. Each position counteracts the one before, stretching the body in a different way and alternately expanding and contracting the chest to regulate the breathing.

Practised daily, on an empty stomach, it will also bring great flexibility to the spine and joints, and shape your waist.

One round of Sun Salutation consists of two sequences, the first leading with the right foot, the second leading with the left. Try to coordinate your movements with your breathing. Start by practising four rounds and gradually build-up to twelve rounds, and up to, ideally, 108.

Here below the instruction to practice Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation:

  1. Stand erect with feet together and hands in the prayer position in front of your chest. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed. Exhale.
  2. Inhaling, stretch your arms up and arch back from the waist, pushing the hips out, legs straight. Relax your neck.
  3. Exhaling, fold forward, and press your palms down, fingertips in line with toes – bend your knees if necessary.
  4. Inhaling, bring the left (or right) leg back and place the knee on the floor. Arch back and look up, lifting your chin.
  5. Retaining the breath, bring the other leg back and support your weight on hands and toes.
  6. Exhaling, lower your knees, then your chest and then your forehead, keeping your hips up and your toes curled under.
  7. Inhaling, lower your hips, point your toes and bend back. Keep legs together and shoulders down. Look up and back.
  8. Exhaling, curl your toes under, raise your hips and pivot into an inverted “V” shape. Try to push your heels and head down and keep your shoulders back.
  9. Inhaling, step forward and place the left (or right) foot between your hands. Rest the other knee on the floor and look up.
  10. Exhaling, bring the other leg forward and bend down from the waist, keeping your palms firmly on the ground.
  11. Inhaling, stretch your arms forward, then up and back over your head and bend back slowly from the waist.
  12. Exhaling, gently come back to an upright position and bring your arms down by your sides.

Besides good health, Surya Namaskar also provides an opportunity to express gratitude to the sun. Don’t forget, as the Rig Veda declares, that “Surya is the Soul, both of the moving and unmoving beings”, thanks to the sun, its warmth, and light we have life on this Planet.

For the next 10 days, try to start your day with a feeling of grace and gratitude towards his holiness the Sun. Do 10 rounds of Surya Namaskar every morning, before your usual routine, it takes only 10 minutes.

Please, write down your comments and let me know how this challenge worked. Love and lights, beautiful shining souls.

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