In Hindu mythology, the sun God is worshiped as a symbol of health and immortal life. The Rig Veda (ancient Hindu scripture) declares that “Surya (sun) is the Soul, both of the moving and unmoving beings”.
Surya Namaskar means to bow down to the sun in the morning. The sun is the life source for this planet. In everything that we eat, drink and breathe, there is an element of the sun. It is this energy that we honour during Surya Namaskar.
In this article I am not going to talk about the 12 asanas that make the surya namaskar because they are easily and widely available, instead, I am going to give some deep insight into this ancient practice.
On the physical level, the benefits of sun salutations are manifold. It strengthens the back and helps balance metabolism. It stimulates and balances the reproductive, circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems. It is a quick work out solution for losing weight. It alleviates depression and anxiety is reduced. Functioning of the endocrine glands, including thyroid, pituitary, adrenal gland, parathyroid, testes and ovaries is improved. It also works as the perfect warm up before commencing onto deeper asana practice as it is an effective way of loosening up, stretching, massaging and toning all body parts. I can go on and on about it’s physical benefits, but if we do not know the deeper meaning of this practice, we will not know what makes it so special.
Surya Namaskar is a complete sadhana, spiritual practice, in itself for it includes asana (yogic postures), pranayama (regulated breathing), and meditation techniques. Each of the 12 poses also have the practice of breathing attached to them. We inhale and exhale one after the other during transition from one pose to the next. This when done with complete attention on the breath has a meditative effect on the body and calms us down. In fact it is said that to reap all the benefits of yoga, we only need a 20 mins surya namaskar session every morning.
Now, we all know that our body has solar and lunar energy. As per ancient Hindu texts, there are 3 energy channels in our body. The Ida – for lunar energy, the Pingala- for solar energy and the sushumna – through which the kundalini rises when the other two energy channels are balanced. Don’t worry if all this is new to you and you haven’t understood a thing. Just remember there is an energy channel for solar energy to flow in our body.
Surya namaskar has a direct vitalising effect on the solar energy of the body which flows through pingala nadi. Regular practice of surya namaskar regulates pingala nadi, whether it is underactive or over active. Regulation of pingala nadi leads to a balanced energy system at both mental and physical levels.
It has been said that the different parts of the body are governed by different Devas (divine impulses or divine light). The solar plexus (located behind the navel, which is the central point of the human body) is said to be connected with the Sun. The regular practice of this technique enhances the solar plexus, which increases one’s creativity and intuitive abilities.
With a regular practice of Surya Namaskar and meditation, the size of the solar plexus increases. In various cultures, the solar plexus is also referred to as the second brain. This expansion of the solar plexus, develops our intuitive ability and makes us more clear and focused. The contraction of the solar plexus, on the other hand, leads to depression and other negative tendencies.
All our emotions get stored in the solar plexus, and it is also the point from where one’s gut feelings arise. The size of the solar plexus is said to be the size of a small gooseberry. However, for those who do yoga and meditation, it becomes much bigger – almost three to four times bigger than the normal size. The more expanded your solar plexus, the greater is your mental stability and your intuition.
– Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
If Surya Namaskar is more than a physical practice, then it needs to be practised in a manner that’s more than just physical movements. To get the most out of this practice, I suggest the following,
- Practise with the rising sun or immediately after. There is something very divine about the early morning hours and you will derive maximum benefits at this time.
- As you start your practice, stand in tadasana facing east, feet firmly grounded on the mat, and with your eyes closed, imagine a red dot or the rising sun between your two eyebrows at the third eye. This will leave you feeling centred as you begin your practice.
- And my absolute favourite, practice with your eyes closed. Synchronise your movements with the breath and your attention completely on what you are doing. Flow from one pose into the other and enjoy every movement and feel your soul dancing.
- As you lie in savasana afterwards, scan your body and feel the difference, and as you wait for your breath to calm down, watch the quietness of the mind and feel a sense of gratitude towards this powerful energy that you just tried to tame.
I hope you found this useful and learned more about Surya Namaskar and its benefits. If you have any tips or facts that could help the readers please do share with us in the comments below.
To your mats!
sources - www.artofliving.org asana pranayama mudra bandha - Bihar School of Yoga and loads of personal experience