Surya = ‘sun’
Namaskar = ‘Salutation’ from the word namas, meaning ‘to bow’
If you’re new to yoga, the sun salutation sequence is likely to be one of the first sequences you’ll learn – depending upon the style of yoga you choose to practice of course. If you’ve already been practicing for a long time, surya namaskar is likely to be one of the sequences you most take for granted, because you’ll be moving through it a lot…. Sun salutations A and B are the starting point of many vinyasa flow classes, and are always the first part of an Ashtanga class. Usually, the practitioner would move through 5 rounds of surya namaskar A and 5 surya namaskar B, although this varies according to how experienced / hot / active / time restricted the class is. If you’re feeling up for a challenge, the tradition of 108 sun salutations salutes the sacred number 108, which in yogic tradition links to the 108 mala beads often used to recite mantras, 108 marma points or sacred points on the body, and 108 sacred sites in India. You can join the 108 sun salutations challenge HERE if you’re in the UK. (I will soon be co-organising a 108 sun salutations for charity event at the local studio where I teach, so look out for that!)
Traditionally performed at sunrise, these sequences are literally about saluting the sun, that big ball of energy that keeps the planet going and rises and sets every day no matter what. The symbol of light often links to ‘self illumination’ or ‘enlightenment’, we’re always seemingly working between the oppositions of the light and darkness within our lives. The Hindu deity ‘Surya’ or Sun God is revered as the creator of life, and it’s that sun energy that gives life to that energy we might recognise as ‘prana’ or ‘life force’ within and around us.
Sun salutations are usually used to warm and prepare the body for your yoga practice, but they can also be used as an entire practice, as they include many of the important aspects of opening and strengthening the body, such as forwards folds (uttanasana), upper body and core strengthening (plank pose), back bending (bhujangasana), and a combination of strength and length through the body with our downward facing dog. If you’re short for time, getting up and saluting the morning sun with just a few rounds of sun salutations can make a noticeable difference to your body and mind, setting you up for a more positive day ahead!
Below is a video of Surya Namaskar A, and a few different variations gradually building up in intensity, starting with ashtangasana (or eight limbed pose) and cobra pose, and moving on to chatturanga and upward facing dog. When you feel strong in the upper body and have the hang of your sun salutations, maybe add in jumping back and forward for a more dynamic practice.
You could also print this diagram and follow along with the pictures if needed.
As the mornings get lighter throughout the Summer, try connecting to that energy of the sun by saluting it upon waking up, and see how it transforms your day!