Updated: May 9, 2021
If you are looking for a simple yet effective workout routine, then Suryansmaskar or Sun Salutations is your answer. The effortless combination of asanas (yoga postures), breathing, and chanting of mantras make it the best exercise for your body. I would consider it a marvelous gift of yoga to the whole of mankind which comprises physical, mental, and spiritual benefits- stimulating and rejuvenating the whole body with its stretching asanas while relaxing your respiratory system with its breathing techniques and renews spirits with the mantras or chanting.
Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar - pronounced Sur-yah-Namah-skar) is a sequence of 12 powerful yoga poses with profound benefits that have been written about for thousands of years.
At the physical level, the practice of Sun Salutation stimulates the metabolism and the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and reproductive systems. It provides a good cardiovascular workout, stretches every part of the body, lubricates, and strengthens joints and muscles. This sequence takes your spine through almost every possible range of motion and when integrated with the breath (the pattern in which we inhale and exhale with each pose), it encourages deep and rhythmic breathing, increasing blood to the brain and bringing mental clarity.
So let's dive right into it. Remember, Suryanamaskar is a sequence of 12 poses in which:
Pose 2=Pose 11
Pose 3= Pose10
Pose 4= Pose 9 (with alternate legs switching)
Pose 5, 6, 7, and 8 are individual poses
Pose 1 and 12 Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)
This is a basic prayer stance. Stand at the edge of the mat keeping your feet together and balance your weight evenly on both feet. As you breathe in, lift both arms up from the sides, and as you exhale bring your palms together in front of the chest in a prayer position.
Benefits: Establishes a state of humility, gratitude, concentration, and calmness. Helps maintain the balance of the body. Relaxes the nervous system.
Mantra: ॐ मित्राय नमः. Aum Mitraya Namah (One Who is friendly to all)
Pose 2 and 11 Hasta Uttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)
Breathing in, lift the arms up and bend back, keeping the biceps close to the ears. In this pose, the effort is to stretch the whole body up from the heels to the tips of the fingers.
To deepen the stretch, push the pelvis forward a little bit. Ensure that you are reaching up with the fingers rather than trying to bend backward.
Benefits: Stretches abdominal and intestinal muscles, arms, and spinal cord. Expands the chest resulting in the full intake of oxygen.
Mantra/Chanting: ॐ रवये नमः Oṃ Ravaye Namaḥ. (The shining one, the radiant one)
Pose 3 and 10 Hasta Padasana (Hand to Foot 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.
You may bend the knees, if necessary, to bring the palms down to the floor.
To deepen the stretch, straighten the knees.
Benefits: Tones abdomen, muscles of thighs, and legs. Stretches spine and back muscles. Opens the hips and shoulders.
Mantra/Chanting: ॐ सूर्याय नमः Oṃ Sūryāya Namaḥ. (Who is the dispeller of darkness and responsible for bringing activity)
Pose 4 and 9 Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Lunge 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.
For Pose 9 when you repeat the pose again- go back to Ashwa Sanchalanasana (lunge pose) by bringing your left foot forward. Keep your right leg stretched behind you and look forward.
Benefits: Tones abdomen, muscles of thighs, and legs. Makes the spine and neck flexible. Good for indigestion, constipation, and sciatica.
Mantra/Chanting: ॐ भानवे नमः Oṃ Bhānave Namaḥ. One who illumines, the bright one
Pose 5 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.
Benefits: Strengthens arm, back, and abdominal muscles. It also helps in curing certain problems of the spinal column and cord. Improves posture. Calms the mind.
Mantra/Chanting: ॐ खगाय नमः Oṃ Khagāya Namaḥ. (Who is all-pervading, one who moves through the sky)
Pose 6 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.
Benefits: Strengthen nerves and muscles of shoulders, arms, back, and chest. Enhances the flexibility of the back and spine. Reduces tension and anxiety.
Mantra/Chanting: ॐ पूष्णे नमः Oṃ Pūṣṇe Namaḥ. (Giver of nourishment and fulfillment)
Pose 7 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.
Benefits: Benefits the adrenal glands and kidneys sending them a richer supply of blood. Tones ovaries, uterus, and liver. Muscles of the back, abdomen, and entire upper body are strengthened. Aids in relief and elimination of menstrual irregularities. Relieves constipation. Elevates mood. Invigorates the heart.
Mantras/Chanting: ॐ हिरण्यगर्भाय नमः Oṃ Hiraṇya Garbhāya Namaḥ (who contains everything)
Pose 8 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.
Benefits: Stretches arm, back, and abdominal muscles. It also helps in curing certain problems of the spinal column and cord. Increases blood flow to the brain and head region.
Mantra/Chanting: ॐ मरीचये नमः Oṃ Marīcaye Namaḥ. (one who possesses raga)
Pose 9 is similar to Pose 4 except you are alternating the legs.
Ashwa Sanchalanasana (High Lunge Pose)
Mantra is a different thought: ॐ आदित्याय नमः Oṃ Ādityāya Namaḥ. God of Gods
Pose 10 is similar to Pose 3
Hasta Padasana (Standing Forward Bend)
The mantra/chanting is: ॐ सवित्रे नमः Oṃ Savitre Namaḥ. (one who produces everything)
Pose 11 is the same as Pose 2
Hasta Uttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)
Mantra/Chanting is: ॐ अर्काय नमः Oṃ Arkāya Namaḥ. (fit to be worshipped)
Pose 12 is the same as Pose 1
Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)
This is the last step. Breathe out and stand straight in a relaxed manner. Lower the arms and hold your palms in front of your chest. This marks the end of the first set of Surya Namaskar.
Mantra/Chanting: ॐ भास्कराय नमः Oṃ Bhāskarāya Namaḥ. (cause of luster)
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.
Sun Salutation followed by some breath work and meditation is a complete package for your everyday wellness. Now that you have learned how to do Sun Salutation, what are you waiting on? Hop on that yoga mat and start your wellness and spiritual journey as soon as you finish reading the post.