Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar
Sun Salutation is probably the most popular Yoga sequence. Surya Namaskar consists of 12 yoga poses (8 different ones) and is best to be practiced in the morning in order to wake up the body and greet the sun. The sequence can be also done any time during the day (at least 2 hrs after eating) in order to calm or rejuvenate the body & mind.
The transition from one yoga posture to another is facilitated by the breath.
Inhale as you extend or stretch, and exhale as you fold or contract.
The backward and forward bending yoga poses alternate and therefore inhale and exhale also alternate during the sequence.
As you move through the Yoga poses, follow your breath carefully. Always slow down or stop if you are straining, breathing too hard, or if your breath is shallow. Breathe through your nose (and not the mouth). The nose filters the air and warms it up. Since the sequence is a “salutation” to the sun, try to be as aware during the movements as possible, with your mind focusing on your breath.
Start your practice with one or two rounds, eventually building up to more (some people perform 10-15 daily). In traditional practices in India, 108 rounds were done. Each round consists of two cycles, one begins with the right foot backwards into the launch and the other one with the left. Make sure you always include both of the sides, in order to keep the body & mind balanced.
Sun Salutations can be practiced by anybody (except by people with the Contradictions listed below). As with any activity, if you have higher Vata, try to practice as slowly and consciously as possible, focusing on long grounding breaths.
If your Pitta is high, focus your attention more inward and try not to practice each pose perfectly. Focus more on relaxation and inner calmness.
If Kapha is the dosha that needs to be balanced, you can pick up the pace and practice more vigorously.
Benefits of Sun Salutation
Increases circulation and warms up the whole body
Strengthens the digestive & elimination systems (reduces constipation, gas and other digestive difficulties)
Cleanses/detoxifies the body & mind
Stretches the spinal column and the whole body (including all of the important large muscles)
Tones up the abdominal muscles
Increases the lung capacity and oxygenates the blood
Strengthens the heart
Balances the endocrine system, especially the thyroid gland
Strengthens the nervous system and improves memory
Calms anxiety, stress, depression
Increases metabolism and reduces fat
Promotes health, strength, flexibility and longevity
There are many variations of the individual Yoga Poses in the Sun Salutation sequence. The following sequence is one of my favorites:
2. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
3. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
4. Yoga Lunge
5. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
6. Plank Position
7. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
8. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
9. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
10. Yoga Lunge
11. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
12. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
With Yoga poses 9-12 being the same as poses 5, 4, 3 and 1 respectively.
Don't practice Sun Salutation when you are pregnant or menstruating. This practice is also not advisable if you have Hernia or high blood pressure. If you have back pain, you should seek an advice from an experienced yoga instructor. Also, don't push yourself. At the beginning, some of the poses might be hard for you to perform. Do what you can, always with awareness.
Wake up every morning with saluting to the Sun!
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