The first ever International Yoga day was in June 2015. Millions of people around the world woke up to do their Surya Namaskara (sun salutation), from whichever blend of yoga they love.
How can you make the most of Surya Namaskara – (as opposed to doing the ‘best’ sun salutation)?
What is a Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara)?
Sun salutations are the yoga all-in-one. Even if you do no other yoga, you will be a better person for this practice.
The sun salutation is a sequence of 12 yoga asanas (poses)—each with a different meaning— done in the direction of the sun, preferably everyday and best in the morning. There is a pranayama (breathing pattern) that gives them more oomph. If you want to access the spiritual as well as physical benefits, mantras are chanted for each of the asanas.
For most of us, getting up in the morning and doing the 12 poses will be our most significant challenge.
What can I look forward to doing?
As you can see from the above diagram, it is a sequence designed to make you strong, centred and confident. Uses every single muscle group, revs the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems in only 12 poses. Starts and ends with a Pranamasana (standing with hands in prayer position in front of your chest), a combination of forward and backward bends and lunges to get the heart started.
People often say that I appear to glow from the inside. It’s the sun salutations, I promise. They are that powerful. All my yoga students do the sun salutation at least twice. Responses at the time vary (from groans to smiles), but after they all comment on how peaceful they feel for the rest of the day.
Tips for Sun Salutation
TIP 1: WAKE UP – REALLY
Wait at least ½ hour after you get out of bed for your body to warm up. And then do some gentle stretching, but you won’t need much, Surya Namaskara will do it all for you.
TIP 2: ADD THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
Smile as you go through each asana, smile at the end when you come back to hands in front of chest and standing (Pranamasana). That smile can keep the energy going. Be thankful for the day, for your health, for your brand new shoes you just bought – (well probably not, but you get the drift).
TIP 3: STEADY AS SHE GOES
Think flow. Don’t push yourself and try not to hold your breath as you move from one pose to another. This becomes mission critical when you start to aim for more Surya Namaskara rounds (108 sun salutations is a major achievement for many yogis). Even when you pick up pace, try not to jerk or force a pose.
TIP 4: ALIVE AND AWARE
When the going gets tough, it becomes really easy for our mind to wander. Surya Namaskara forces us to connect our mind, body and spirit. At some point, you become aware of the way energy moves through you with each asana.
For example, in Bhujangasana (Cobra pose), the 7th asana in the series, you are stretching the back, opening the heart chakra, and activating the navel chakra.
The navel Chakra is the passion center of the body and the mind; when the energy flows, it channels your “joie de vivre”, libido, creativity and the ability to connect to others. When this chakra is blocked, we experience feelings of shame, jealousy, fear, remorse and disgust. When the excess negative energy pushes up to the heart, you can sometimes feel nauseous or ill, even faint in Cobra Pose. I’ve had people burst into tears in this asana.
Observe, but not judge, any strong feelings (positive or negative) in the asanas, and after your practice, go ask your yoga teacher or another wise soul what this might all mean (or you can contact Wandering Yogi, we’d love to help you out).
TIP 5: BREATHE
Most of us don’t notice our breath except when it gets short. Then we pant, in and out of our mouth. In yoga, you breathe in and out through the nose. It cools you down and slows the heart rate. Even in, even out. As you breathe in, think “I am here” and as you breathe out, think, “I am well”. Being with your breath connects you to your body and feelings. No funny yoga breathing in Sun Salutations – like ujjayi, kumbhaka.
And have fun!