The Sanskrit name Surya here refers to the sun and Namaskara means ‘salutations’. The sun symbolizes spiritual consciousness and in ancient times was worshipped daily. In yoga, the sun is represented by Pingala or Surya Nadi, the pranic channel which carries the vital, life-giving force. Surya Namaskar is an effective way of loosening up, stretching, massaging and toning all the joints, muscles and internal organs of the body. Its versatility and application make it one of the most useful methods of inducing a healthy, vigorous and active life, at the same time preparing for spiritual awakening and the resulting expansion of awareness.
Surya Namaskara is a complete sadhana, spiritual practice, in itself for it includes asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation techniques. It is an excellent group of asana with which to start morning practice. Surya namaskara has a direct vitalizing effect on the solar energy of the body which flows through pingala nadi. Regular practice of Surya namaskar regulates pingala nadi, whether it is underactive or overactive. Regulation of pingala nadi leads to a balanced energy system at both mental and physical levels.
Surya Namaskar generates prana, the subtle energy which activates the psychic body. Its performance, in a steady, rhythmic sequence, reflects the rhythms of the universe; the twenty-four hours of the day, the twelve zodiac phases of the year and the biorhythms of the body. The application of this form and rhythm to the body-mind complex generates the transforming force which produces a fuller and more dynamic life.
- The practice of Surya namaskar should be immediately disconnected if a fever, acute inflammation, boils or rashes occurs due to excess toxins in the body. When the toxins have been eliminated, the practice may be resumed.
- Surya namaskar includes semi-inverted postures, so the cautions for inverted postures apply.
- It should not be practised by people suffering from high blood pressure, coronary artery diseases or by those who have had strokes, as it may overstimulate or damage a weak heart or blood vessel system.
- It should be also avoided in cases of hernia or intestinal tuberculosis.
- People with back conditions should consult a medical expert before commencing this practice. Conditions such as slipped disc and sciatica will be better managed through an alternative asana program.
- During the onset of menstruation, this practice should be avoided. If there are no adverse effects, the practice may be resumed towards the end of the period.
- During pregnancy, it may be practised with care until the beginning of the twelfth week. Following childbirth, it may be commenced approximately forty days after delivery for re-toning the uterine muscles.
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The practice of Surya namaskar as a whole gives a great number of benefits. It strengthens the back and helps balance the metabolism. It stimulates and balances all the systems of the body, including the reproductive, circulatory, respiratory and digestive system. Its influence on the endocrine glands helps to balance the transition period between childhood and adolescence in growing children.
Synchronizing the breath with the physical movements of Surya Namaskar ensures that the practitioner, at least for a few minutes daily, breathes as deeply and rhythmically as possible, increasing mental clarity by bringing fresh, oxygenated blood to the brain.
Time of practice
The ideal time to practise Surya namaskar is at sunrise, the most peaceful time of the day, or sunset. Whenever possible, practice in the open air, facing the rising sun. Surya Namaskar, however, may be practised at any time provided the stomach is empty.
Before commencing the practice, stand with the feet together or slightly apart, and the arms hanging by the sides of the body. Close the eyes gently and become aware of the whole physical body as one homogeneous unit. Minimize swaying movement and balance the bodyweight equally on both feet.
Take the awareness to the soles of the feet in contact with the floor. Feel that the whole body is being pulled downwards by gravity and that any tensions are being pulled down through the body and into the ground. At the same time, experience the vital force surging up from the earth and flooding the whole being.
Bring the awareness inside the body and mental being to relax it. Starting from the top of the head, take the awareness systematically through all the parts, releasing any tension. Intensify, once more, the awareness of the whole physical body and feet in harmony with it.
Finally, take the awareness to the heart or eyebrow centre and visualize a brilliant, red rising sun infusing the whole body and mind with its vitalizing and healing rays.