Literally translated, suryanamaskar means ‘sun salutation' and is usually performed facing eastwards - the direction of the rising sun. The sun is a vital source of energy for all life forms and the suryanamaskar is considered to be a prayer to seek the sun's energy. This energy, also known as prana, is believed to revitalise your body and mind. It's performed early morning and preferably on an empty stomach. The ‘prayer' involves twelve yoga poses or asanas, which are performed in a sequence. Suryanamaskars are usually followed by breathing exercises, (pranayama), and meditation. Now that you know what the suryanamaskar is, let's take a look at the 12 poses that comprise this workout.
Begin with pranamasana (prayer pose) where you stand erect with your hands folded in prayer. Next up ishasta uttanasana (raised hands pose) where you raise both hands above your head and arch backwards. Then perform the padhastasana (hand to foot pose) where you bend forward and touch the ground with your palms. Then extend your left leg back and place your right foot between your palms on the floor; this is ashwa sanchalanasana (horse rider's pose). Next do the dandasana pose, as you take the right leg back, followed by sashtanga namaskar (eight parts pose) where eight points of your body touch the floor. Raise your upper body in bhujangasana pose (cobra pose) and then do the parvatasana (mountain pose) where you perform the inverted V. Then extend your right leg back and bring your left knee forward in ashwa sanchalanasana. Then carry out the padhastasana, hasta uttanasana and pranamasana in that order. This completes one set. Now perform the same routine by extending your right leg instead of the left in step four. This completes one round. Do as many rounds as you feel comfortable with and gradually increase the number each week. These postures must be performed in tandem with breathing exercises where you inhale and exhale at particular points in the routine.
There are several benefits – both physical and mental - of performing suryanamaskars regularly. It's an excellent cardiovascular workout and you will burn calories. You will also see a marked improvement in your posture. The asanas stretch all the muscles in the body and this leads to better flexibility. The various poses help your internal organs to perform better and your digestive system and blood flow is regulated. The workout will also help tone your body and you will experience some inch-loss, especially excess belly fat. The suryanamaskar is carried out facing the morning sun, which is the best time to soak in the Vitamin D that is so vital for your bones. The routine also has a calming effect on your mind, relaxing it and also ensuring a good night's sleep.
As with any form of exercise, make sure that you consult your doctor before starting with suryanamaskars, especially if you have any heart condition, slip disc or arthritis.
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