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Everybody who has visited a couple of yoga classes is at least vaguely familiar with the Sun Salutation. At first, this set of exercises may seem difficult or make no sense, but it is worth doing it several times to appreciate its beauty and benefits. The combination of poses in the Sun Salutation performed with the proper breathing techniques is a suitable practice for all yoga practitioners – from beginners to advanced. Moreover, it can take as little or as long as you want, based on your experience level and the time you have available. Let’s learn more about this truly tremendous practice.
What is it?
In Sanskrit, the word “Surya” means “sun”, and “Namaskar” – “greeting, bow.” The Sun Salutation is a set of poses (asanas) combined to salute the sun, meet the new day, and recharge with strength, energy, and light (happiness). It is generally accepted that the salutation consists of 12 asanas, which are repeated several times alternating between sides (a full round consists of 2 repetitions of the poses – 12 on each side). However, different schools of yoga have different interpretations of the practice, adding or exchanging the postures in the set. For greater accessibility, the Sun Salutation has even been adopted so that it can be performed while sitting in a chair. Thus, it is truly a practice for people of various experience and fitness level.
When should it be performed?
Ancient yoga traditions suggest that Surya Namaskar would bring the most benefits if performed at dawn or a little earlier to coincide with the sunrise. Be sure to face the East, from where the sun rises, when performing the practice. Unfortunately, the modern pace of life does not always allow us to practice so early in the morning. Not to worry, you can still perform the Sun Salutation whenever it is most convenient for your schedule. In the morning the practice would set you up with a fresh start for an energetic and successful day, and in the evening it would help you relax and alleviate the stress from the day. In any case, make sure to practice on an empty stomach.
Pace and Repetitions
If you are new to yoga, or to the Sun Salutation, you should start by performing the practice at a slow pace. Carefully consider each pose individually, learn how to perform it, and then proceed to the sequential execution of the complex. Once you are used to the sequence and you are sure you perform the individual postures with the correct alignment, you can increase your pace.
Various schools and practitioners recommend to start with 3 rounds (on each side), and gradually increase the number of repetitions. Experienced yogis even do a special practice consisting of 108 rounds of Surya Namaskar. As a beginner, however, you should strive for quality, not quantity. Listen to your body and increase the number of rounds you do gradually.
This beloved practice has gained its popularity not only because of its accessibility but also because of its many benefits.
The postures which comprise the Sun Salutation engage different parts of your body. As a result, if you perform the poses correctly, they would benefit your entire body. This improves your overall posture and facilitates the balance of your body, increasing both your flexibility and your stamina.
Regular practice of Surya Namaskar boosts your metabolism, which helps to reduce weight. It enhances blood circulation, giving you a young and radiant look.
Last but not least, this practice focuses on synchronizing breath and movement. You should breathe and move smoothly at a continuous rhythm during the entire complex. This relaxes your mind and sharpens your awareness and concentration.
Mistakes to Avoid
To help you put your best foot forward, we have listed some common errors to avoid with your Sun Salutation:
Breathing out of sync – as mentioned earlier, you should strive to synchronize the physical postures with your breathing. Ideally, you would be able to perform each movement with either breathing in or out. Instructions on each posture would mention which poses should be used for inhaling and which for exhaling. Sacrificing breathing for movement does not produce the desired result. Practice at a convenient pace for you, until you master the practice fully.
Not warming up – instead of doing light warm-up exercises, many beginners jump directly into their Surya Namaskar routine. This can lead to muscle injuries, especially if your body is not flexible. Therefore, before practicing the Salutation of the Sun, start by warming up your joints and muscles. After completing the sequence, take the time for a few relaxing stretches.
Increasing the number of sets too fast – beginners should increase the number of rounds of Sun Salutation they perform gradually. This will give you enough time to correctly understand the movements involved in all yoga poses. If necessary, you can also customize asanas according to your needs, so that they are more useful.
Incorrect alignment – in Surya Namaskar each pose requires your close attention and must be performed correctly. Alignment errors can damage your joints, cause muscle tension, and increase back pain. So, when practicing, be careful, stay focused also pay attention to every move. It is very beneficial to use the help of an experienced instructor while learning the routine.
Words of Caution
Despite the many benefits of this practice, you should consult a medical professional before starting your Sun Salutations, if you have severe pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure or heart problems. If you have knee or lower back issues, you should be careful while performing the practice.
We hope this article answered your questions and brought you clarity regarding one of the most popular yoga practices. Surya Namaskar can be performed by practitioners of any level and if you use it as a regular routine it can provide many benefits to your life, giving you energy, stamina, and structure. Remember that any yoga regimen requires concentration, patience, determination. Surya Namaskar is no different. Do not try to rush, stay in the moment of your practice to enjoy.
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