Surya Namaskar: The Ultimate Guide to Sun Salutations

Get to Know Benefits, How to Do, Sequence, Poses

surya namaskar yoga

Surya Namaskar is one of the basic yoga practices; nevertheless, it holds a lot of significance in the yoga world. It stimulates your whole body and is a prayer of gratitude toward the sun. Furthermore, it is perfect for those looking to perform an intensive workout in a small amount of time. If you manage to complete the 12 asanas or yoga poses of this yoga sequence, it is equivalent to you having done 288 powerful yoga postures.

In this guide, we will break down various aspects of SuryaNamaskar. As a result, you will gain all the necessary information regarding this asana such as its benefits, how to perform it, the best time to practice it, and many other things. Also, check out the the best online yoga teacher training certification.

What is Surya Namaskar?

what is surya namaskar

In Sanskrit, Surya refers to the Sun while Namaskar means to bow or to greet. Thus in English, Surya Namaskar is also referred to as Sun Salutation. As per the traditional forms of the asana, each of the 12 postures is accompanied by a mantra or a chant. The mantras represent the 12 zodiac signs and supply energy to the body.

There is a lot of contradiction surrounding the origins of SuryaNamaskara. Some practitioners state that it was created 2500 years ago in the Vedic period, during which it was performed as a ritual that involved prostrating toward the rising sun, chanting mantras, offering rice and water. Others state that it is a relatively modern technique that was developed in the 20th century by the Raja of Aundh.

Every yoga practitioner first starts with Sun Salutation. As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois stated, “No asana practice is complete without sun worship. Without its focusing on mental energies, yoga practice amounts to little more than gymnastics and, as such, loses meaning and proves fruitless. Indeed the Surya Namaskara should never be mistaken for mere physical exercise – for something incidental, that is, that simply precedes the asanas of yoga”.

Performing the Sun Salutation provides many health benefits. It reduces the tension from your body and mind, improves circulation, regulates your breathing, and stimulates your central nervous system. According to ancient yogis, this asana also activates the Manipura (Solar plexus) Chakra, which is located in the navel area and is called the second brain. This increases the creative and intuitive abilities of an individual.

Each posture in Surya Namaskar increases muscle flexibility and also engages a different part of your body. As a result, your body gets warmed–up to practice more powerful and complicated asanas. Practicing Sun Salutation also helps you to gain spiritual knowledge and wisdom. It calms a person’s mind and enables one to think clearly.

Over the years, Surya Namaskar has gone through many changes, and as a result, many variations exist today. In the traditional Iyengar Yoga, it consists of Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Urdhva Hastasana (Raised Hands Pose), Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), Uttanasana with head up, Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose), Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). You can make a change in the above sequence. Along with these, you can also incorporate Navasana (Boat Pose), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), and Marichyasana (Sage Pose) postures.

sun salutation 12 steps

What are the Best Times of Day to do Surya Namaskar?

It is recommended that you perform Surya Namaskar early in the morning. However, if you are pressed for time, then you can do it in the evening as well. But before starting your yoga routine, ensure that your stomach is empty.

Practicing Sun Salutation in the morning rejuvenates your body and refreshes your mind. It makes you more active and also prepares your body to take on everyday tasks with enthusiasm. Another benefit of performing this yoga sequence early in the morning is that during this time, the ultraviolet rays are not very harsh. As a result, your skin doesn’t get overexposed to the sun and you can enjoy the benefits of this asana thoroughly.

If you are a beginner interested in performing Surya Namaskar in the morning, then you must start by practicing it in the evening first. The reason behind this is that during the evening, our joints are flexible and the body muscles are more active, which makes it easier to practice various poses. If you practice Sun Salutation with a stiff body, it can lead to severe consequences. Once you get accustomed to all the 12 steps, you can conduct your yoga routine in the morning.

When done outdoors, this yoga sequence will enable you to form a deep connection with the outside environment. However, you also have the option of practicing it indoors, but make sure that the room is sufficiently ventilated.

Here is another piece of advice for beginners. Start by performing two rounds of Surya Namaskar on alternate days. After that slowly shift to two rounds every day and eventually increase your sets until you can do 12 rounds every day. Keep in mind that quickly raising your rounds will negatively affect your body.

What Does Scientific Research Say About Suryanamaskar?

Many of us live a hectic lifestyle. As a result, we suffer from depression, stress, and other mental illnesses. Surya Namaskar is a yoga technique that provides relief from such problems and calms your mind.

An article published in the International Journal of Yoga and Allied sciences pointed out Surya Namaskar’s effect on emotional maturity and psychological well-being. The researchers took a sample of 30 students that were aged between 18 – 24 years. After the successful completion of the experiment, it was revealed that practicing Sun Salutation affected their psychological mindset positively and improved their concentration abilities. Along with that, the data also showed that the student’s emotional state had matured.

Currently, there are talks of incorporating Sun Salutation in school curriculums. A study, by name of “Effects of Surya Namaskar on Sustained Attention in School Children,” researched with a group of 64 students. They discovered that after performing this yoga sequence for a month, the children showed considerable improvement in their attention spans.

Another article that focused on the effects of Surya Namaskar on children’s cardiovascular and respiratory system pointed out that the regular practice of the yoga technique led to a decrease in the children’s heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. A significant increase in the vital capacity and peak expiratory flow rate was also discovered. The study conducted by Bhavanani and others revealed the positive effects of Sun Salutation on the functioning of the lungs, respiratory system, and handgrip strength.

Surya Namaskar stretches and activates every part of your body. According to a research paper, Sun Salutation has positive effects on muscle strength and body endurance. Its regular practice helps to develop a strong upper body, irrespective of whether you are a male or a female. Along with that, it also improves your lower body muscle strength and back muscle strength.

The same paper also highlights that practicing Surya Namaskar leads to a significant decrease in female body weight, but, not so much in males. In the modern world, obesity has become a serious issue. Many women use different techniques for losing weight, such as medicines, gym exercises, and strict diets, all of which can end up hurting their bodies. In comparison, Sun Salutation provides a natural method to attain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI).

In another study, six Asian participants were chosen who had been practicing Surya Namaskar for two years. The research revealed that there was a significant rise in their heart rate, and oxygen consumption rose as well. It was discovered that an individual weighing 60 kg expanded 230 kcal during a 30–minute workout session. In addition to that, the increased heart rate was perfect for inducing the cardiorespiratory effect. Thus this study further established that Sun Salutation is quite beneficial to those interested in weight management, and it can also improve an individual’s cardiorespiratory fitness.

Further evidence of the advantages of this yoga sequence can be found in the Surya Namaskar: A Path to Good Health article which points out that the continuous practice of the 12 asanas enhances the functioning of the endocrine system. It primarily focuses on the pancreas, thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands. This article reveals that Sun Salutation can strengthen your Peripheral and Autonomic Nervous Systems, which can be beneficial to patients suffering from neuronal issues, Metabolism Syndrome, and menstrual disorders.

The study also shows that if diabetes patients practice Surya Namaskar, it will reduce their blood sugar levels significantly. Furthermore, this yoga technique also reduces oxidative stress in the body, which plays an essential role in insulin resistance and is the leading cause of complications in diabetes patients.

Even though this yoga sequence has existed for centuries, the research community has recently shifted its focus toward it. As a result, many studies have been successfully carried out. However, the current data is not enough. To fully grasp, understand, and utilize the full potential of Surya Namaskar, further research is required. We hope that the data mentioned above, along with the research articles, will put your mind at ease and will allow you to practice Sun Salutation confidently.

Whar are the 12 Steps of Surya Namaskara?

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is composed of 12 different postures. In this section; we will discuss how to perform each of them properly.

1. Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

step1 pranamasana prayer pose

Pranamasana is the first posture in the yoga sequence. To accomplish this pose, stand upright on your mat and ensure that your feet are placed close to each other. Next, take a deep breath, expand your chest and relax your shoulder. During inhalation, raise your arms from the side, and while exhaling join both your palms together as if you are praying. The prayer posture or first salutation is complete.

2. Hasta Uttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)

step2 hasta uttanasana raised arms pose

Ensure that your palms are joined together, just like in the previous prayer pose. Take a deep breath, lift your arms, and slightly bent backward. Your biceps must stay close to your ears.

3. Hasta Padasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose)

step3 hasta padasana standing forward bend pose

Breathe out and bend forward from your waist. Try to touch the floor with your hands. However, ensure that your spine remains straight. While performing this pose, you should exhale slowly and thoroughly.

4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Lunge Pose)

step4 ashwa sanchalanasana high lounge pose

Bend your knees slightly, so that the palms can rest on the floor beside your feet. Take a deep breath, bring your right knee towards the right side of your chest and stretch your left leg backward. Raise your head and look forward.

5. Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose)

step5 chaturanga dandasana plank pose

Inhale and bring your right leg back as well. Now both your hands will be right under your shoulders. Ensure that your body is parallel to the ground.

6. Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight Limbed Pose)

step6 ashtanga namaskara eight limbed pose

This is also referred to as salutations using eight points or parts. After performing Chaturanga Dandasana, exhale and slowly bring your knees down toward the floor. Rest your chin on the floor and keep your hips suspended in the air. If done correctly, both your hands, knees, chin, and chest will rest on the ground while your hips will remain suspended in the air.

7. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

step7 bhujangasana cobra pose

Rest your legs and midsection flat on the ground. Position your palms beside your chest. Inhale and apply pressure on the hands to raise your upper body. At this point, your head and torso will resemble a cobra with a raised hood.

8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

step8 adho mukha svanasana downward facing dog pose

Keep your palms and feet where they are. Exhale and gently lift your hips, so that the body forms an inverted ‘V’. Straighten your elbows and knees. Look toward your navel.

9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (High Lunge Pose)

step9 ashwa sanchalanasana high lounge pose

After performing Adho Mukha Svanasana, go back to Ashwa Sanchalanasana by bringing your right foot forward. Keep your left leg stretched behind you and look forward.

10. Hasta Padasana (Standing Forward Bend)

step10 hasta padasana standing forward bend pose

Inhale and bring your left foot forward, such that it is next to your right foot. Keeping the position of your hands intact, exhale and slowly bend your torso to enter into the Hasta Padasana pose.

11. Raised Arms Pose

step11 hasta uttanasana raised arms pose

Inhale and lift your upper body. Join the palms and raise your arms above your head. Then bend backward as you did in step 2.

12. Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

step12 pranamasana prayer pose

This is the last step. Breathe out and stand straight in a relaxed manner. Lower your arms and hold your palms in front of your chest. This marks the end of the first set of Surya Namaskar.

To reap the maximum benefits of Sun Salutation, perform 12 sets of these 12 asanas every day, that is six rounds on the right leg and six rounds on the left leg.

How to do Surya Namaskar?

What are the Benefits of Surya Namaskar?

top benefits of sun salutation

Sun Salutation provides various health benefits. Let’s take a look at them:

1. Your body becomes toned and flexible

Surya Namaskar‘s various poses engage different parts of your body. As a result, your whole body ends up getting toned. It also makes your body more flexible. This results in improving your overall posture and makes it easier to balance your body.

2. Weight loss

The regular practice of this yoga technique boosts your metabolism, which helps to reduce weight in the belly area. Along with that, it also stretches your abdominal muscles, strengthens your skeletal muscles, and prevents unwanted fat deposition in these regions.

3. Beautiful hair and skin

Surya Namaskar enhances your blood circulation. As a result, the natural glow of your skin returns. Along with that, it also prevents the occurrence of wrinkles, hair loss, and greying of hair. This gives you a youthful and radiant look.

Sun Salutation is a natural remedy for blood pressure fluctuations. It is also very beneficial for heart muscles and is an excellent way to treat irregular heartbeats. This yoga technique also reduces your sugar levels. As a result, the risk of heart attack reduces, and your eyes, kidneys, and nerves stay healthy.

5. Improves energy and awareness levels

Like other asanas, this routine also focuses on breathing exercises. This relaxes your mind and sharpens your intellect. A relaxed mind, combined with a healthy body causes your energy levels to rise and makes you self–aware.

6. Absorption of Nutrients becomes easier

In the modern age, people don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a healthy meal. This has led to the development of an unhealthy lifestyle, which in turn has caused an increase in many illnesses such as PCOD, PCOS, and obesity. By performing Surya Namaskar daily, you can boost your digestive system and prevent many diseases from occurring.

Enhanced digestion makes it easier for the body to absorb nutrients. Better nutrient absorption regulates hormones and enables the body to perform vital functions smoothly. Thus your overall health improves.

7. Mood Swings and emotion stability

Deep breathing techniques, combined with specific asanas, have a positive effect on your nerve cells. Performing Sun Salutation proves beneficial for your brain. It can create a sense of balance between your brain’s left and right sides. This increases your emotional stability and enhances your creative and mental capabilities.

In addition to that, practicing Surya Namaskar improves the functioning of your endocrine system, especially your thyroid glands. This causes a decrease in anxiety and mood swings. It also induces a calming effect that enables you to concentrate and allows you to think clearly.

8. Helps regulate the menstrual cycle

Females with irregular periods can use this yoga technique to regulate their menstrual cycles. The daily practice of this routine can also make childbirth easier. Furthermore, it can also alleviate extreme period pain.

9. Insomnia

Surya Namaskar helps insomnia patients. It releases stress, and tension relaxes the mind, and induces sleep. It also ensures that you don’t become dependent on drugs and can fall asleep naturally.

10. Detoxifies your body

An integral part of Sun Salutation is inhalation and exhalation. If done correctly, it can help in the proper functioning of your lungs. Along with that, the amount of fresh oxygen supplied to your blood also increases. This releases carbon dioxide and other gases from your system and detoxifies your body.

11. Bone health

The lack of Vitamin D weakens an individual’s bones and can also cause skeletal deformities. People suffering from Vitamin D deficiency also have a high risk of heart disease and premature death. Since Surya Namaskar is performed while facing the sun, it helps your body to absorb the required amount of Vitamin D. This ensures that both your bones and body remain healthy.

How often should I do Surya Namaskar?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on a number of factors, such as your level of fitness, your goals, and your schedule. However, many experts recommend doing surya namaskar at least three times per week to see significant benefits.

How many rounds of Surya Namaskar should I do?

Ultimately, it depends on your own fitness level, goals, and schedule. However, as a general guideline, most people find that doing 3-5 rounds of surya namaskar (sun salutation) is a good starting point. From there, you can gradually increase the number of rounds you do as you start to feel more comfortable and confident with the movements.

Surya Namaskar Contraindications

Despite its many benefits, you must refrain from performing the Surya Namaskar if you are suffering from the following ailments:

  1. Heart patients should consult a doctor before starting this yoga routine.
  2. If you are suffering from back problems, you must practice Sun Salutation under your yoga teacher’s guidance.
  3. People having high blood pressure issues can avoid this sequence.
  4. Arthritis leads to knee stiffness and thus hinders mobility. Since Surya Namaskar involves knee movements, you must perform it with caution if you are an arthritis patient.
  5. People suffering due to hernia must refrain from practicing Sun Salutation as well.
  6. If you have a severe wrist injury, you can give this yoga sequence a miss.
  7. Pregnant women should not practice Sun Salutation as it puts pressure on the back and abdominal regions, thereby harming both the mother and the fetus.
  8. Women must also avoid performing Surya Namaskar while on their periods.

Chair Sun Salutation for Seniors

For those of us who have limited mobility, injuries, or other conditions that prevent us from performing the full Sun Salutation, there is always the option of modifying it by using a chair.

  1. Begin with the back of the chair behind you. It may be beneficial to support your back with a cushion on the lower back and it may also be beneficial to keep a pillow under your buttocks.
  2. On an inhale lift the arms up over the head and gently lean back against the back of the chair being careful not to let the neck fall too far back.
  3. On an exhale, keeping the back straight slowly drape the trunk over the legs, sliding the hands along the shins.
  4. On an inhale, slide the hands back up and come back to a seated position, drawing the right knee in towards the chest. Lean into the chair back and open through the chest.
  5. On an exhale round the back and draw the head towards the knee, dropping the shoulders.
  6. Release the right leg. Repeat on the other side.
  7. After both sides are complete, reach your arms over hand and lean against the back of the chair, perform another forward bend, come back and perform one last back bend, and return to an upright position with the hands in prayer position.

Surya Namaskar – The Go-To Yoga Practice

If you’re someone who has little time to spare for a daily workout schedule but still wants to stay fit, there is no better option than Surya Namaskar.

Even though it is a centuries-old yoga technique, yet in the modern world, it has ended up becoming the focus of the research community due to its proven track record of improving a person’s lifestyle. A person who practices Sun Salutation regularly will notice significant improvements in their lives, both physically and spiritually.

We hope that this article addressed all your questions and cleared your doubts. Always remember that while performing any yoga regimen, concentration, patience, and determination are required. Surya Namaskar is no different. Don’t try to rush things, take it slow and enjoy yourself.

If you want to know more about yoga, then take a look at our blog. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive regular updates regarding various asanas. Feel free to join our Yoga Teacher Training in India to learn Surya Namaskar from our Yoga Masters.

5 sources
  1. http://indianyoga.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/v1-issue2-article5.pdf
  2. https://www.longdom.org/open-access/effect-of-surya-namaskar-on-sustained-attention-in-school-children-2157-7595.1000110.pdf
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273138328_EFFECTS_OF_SURYANAMASKAR_ON_CARDIO_VASCULAR_AND_RESPIRATORY_PARAMETERS_IN_SCHOOL_STUDENTS
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193657/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3289222/
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Meera Watts
Meera Watts is the owner and founder of Siddhi Yoga. She is known around the world for her thought leadership in the wellness industry and was also recognized as a Top 20 International Yoga Blogger. Her writing on holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and other international magazines. Meera is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist, though now she focuses primarily on leading Siddhi Yoga, blogging and spending time with her family in Singapore.

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