Let’s talk about Sun Salutation
Sūrya Namaskāra or Sun Salutation is the most known and most practiced yogic sequence in the world. It’s a morning ritual of sun worship, made up of postures, invocations (also know as mantra in Sanskrit) and breath control techniques (pranayama). Sūrya Namaskāra is a very effective training to reawaken our physical and spiritual awareness and to warm up the muscles.
Even though it may sound strange, the today’s sun salutation has no ancient origins. Like yoga in its early days, this practice was not accompanied by poses but only by recitations of mantras and breathing techniques.
In the ancient texts there is no record of the sun salutation as we know it today, or as a sequence of asanas. However, a reference to the movement of the body present in today’s Sun Salutation is found in some Vedic texts. Indeed, in Vedic times the sun was worshipped by the recitation of Vedic mantras; at dawn, it was usual to bow down to the sun, facing down and reciting sacred words.
There are different variations of sun salutation, depending on the style of yoga that is practiced and the level of experience achieved.
In its most classical variant (hatha yoga), it’s a sequence of twelve poses, as many as the hours of the sun, marked by the rhythm of the breath. The asanas can be divided into two groups that recall the phases of the solar planet: the extension poses reflect the rising of the sun and those in bending represent the setting of the sun.
The variant that I prefer is the one practiced in Ashtanga Vinyasa: it’s the most intense and dynamic and is divided into Surya Namaskara A and Surya Namaskara B. Click here to see the videos of the A version and here for the B version video.
To get the maximum benefit from this practice it’s very important to combine each flowing movement with deep breathing: in general, at each backward bending and chest-opening yoga poses correspond an inspiration. Instead, we should exhale when we practice forward bending, yoga poses that squeeze the stomach. Thanks to the synchronization of the breath with the movement, the mind gets clear and concentration increases.
Sun salutation: when to practice it
As its name suggests, practicing the sun salutation before sunrise is certainly the best time to start the day with the right energy. However, you can practice it at any time of day as long as you are on an empty stomach or without food.
Furthermore, it is very important to adapt the practice to your health condition and body structure. Remember that striving for the asanas best execution is the negation of the yogic philosophy. Yoga teaches us to accept ourselves, to respect our body, our limits and our times.
As in all things, perseverance will make us feel the benefits and improve ourselves in terms of flexibility and strength.
Benefits of Sun Salutation
Do you know that 20 minutes a day of sun salutation is enough to make 80% of the muscles work?
The transition from one asana to another and the synchronization of breathing with the movements rebalance the psychophysical energies, restore the harmony between rest (lunar energy) and dynamism (solar energy), counteracting any states of apathy.
Summing up, the sun salutation:
- reactivates blood circulation
- stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system
- improves posture, coordination and balance
- lengthens and tones all the muscles
- dissolves muscle tension
- lengthens and strengthens the spine, arms and legs
- increases the immune defenses
- helps to detoxify
- accelerates the metabolism
- normalizes the respiratory and digestive system (stomach, liver, kidneys and intestines)
- lower stress levels
So, are you ready to unroll your yoga mat? Happy practice!