It can be quite easy to neglect workouts when life gets busier. Everyone dreams of being fit and getting a flatter belly, but seldom they’ve time for extended workouts. Even active individuals who are otherwise pretty disciplined when it comes to workout, fail to maintain the schedule when travelling or any other commitment comes in the way. Also, there are a lot of people who long for that peace of mind but often find it hard to meditate. Like the old saying goes, “Where there is a will, there’s a way”, you don’t need extended hours at the gym or longer minutes of silence to attain that physical and mental goals, you can still achieve these goals despite being fairly busy with a simple form of exercise – Surya Namaskars !
Surya Namaskars, also known as sun salutations, were practiced thousands of years ago by saints who used to worship the Sun. Surya means sun, the creator of all things and Nama means to bow or to worship. There are about 12 mantras to be chanted (seen in picture below) to offer our prayers and gratitude to the Sun (which many people across the word worship because of its powers. In fact, it is believed that the Sun is critical for our existence. Apart from offering a prayer and gratitude, it is also a wonderful exercise. It involves all the parts of the body and helps to increase stamina, strength and endurance with regular practice.
Surya Namaskar, is also known as ‘The Ultimate Asana’. It has physical, emotional and spiritual benefits. Surya Namaskars help to improve flexibility and strength (physical benefit); helps to calm the mind and activate blocked chakras of the body (emotional and mental benefit) and also helps to calm the soul when mantra chanting is involved (spiritual benefit).
Surya Namaskar is a combination of 8 asanas and 4 of them are repeated (so total is 12 asanas) to complete one set of Surya Namaskar. It engages almost 92% of the body’s muscles from head to toe thus it helps to strengthen our back, lower body, upper body as well as core muscles. It also improves metabolism and helps to lose belly fat. It also improves blood circulation which in turn imparts a glow on your face and even releases toxins out of the body. It helps in spine strengthening which is literally the backbone of the body as most nerves of the body pass through the spine. Furthermore, it helps in boosting the performance of sluggish glands and improves irregular menstrual cycles. In a nutshell, it is a comprehensive workout that benefits the entire body – when done at a slower pace, helps to improve flexibility; when done at a moderate pace helps to improve the muscular tone and when done at a fast pace it helps to lose weight.
Let’s understand the stepwise benefits of Surya Namaskar:
- Pranamasana: Also called the Prayer pose, it is the step 1 and step 12 of Surya Namaskar. It is the simplest one. This helps to calm the mind, nervous system and the body as you begin your exercise. It helps to balance the Heart Chakra.
- Hastottanasana: Also called The Raised Arms pose, it is the step 2 and step 11 of Surya Namaskar. This asana helps to improve flexibility, reduces back pain and strengthens the spinal cord. It also releases the tension around the neck muscles. It expands the lungs and thus oxygen carrying capacity of the body increases. This is beneficial for those having chronic throat problems. It helps to balance the throat Chakra.
- Hasta Padasana: Also called as Standing Forward Bend, it is the step 3 and step 10 of Surya Namaskar. This posture helps strengthen the back, abdominal muscles, and nervous system. It also stretches the calves and glutes muscles. This asana increases the blood flow to the brain which helps in improving memory and focus. Also, it increases blood flow to the abdominal area thereby improving the digestive system. It helps to balance solar plexus chakra.
- Ashwa Sanchalanasana: Also known as Equestrian pose, it is the step 4 and step 9 of the Surya Namaskar. It helps in increasing the flexibility of the legs. This asana stretches your spine further along with quadriceps and iliopsoas (hip) muscles. It also stimulates your abdominal organs. It helps to balance the heart chakra and third eye chakra and solar plexus chakra.
- Chaturanga Dandasana: The shoulder plank pose, it is the step 5 of Surya Namaskar. It will tone your wrists, legs, and build arm muscles. It puts pressure on the core muscles and it’s an excellent asana for reducing belly fat. The dandasana improves body posture and aligns your back muscles and spine in one straight line. It activates solar plexus chakra.
- Ashtanga Namaskar: Also known as the 8 limbed poses, it is the step 6 of Surya Namaskar. This asana strengthens the chest, arms and legs. It is beneficial on lower abdominal organs and it balances the whole body. It balances the sacral chakra, root chakra and solar plexus chakra
- Bhujangasana: Also called as Cobra pose, it is the step 7 of Surya Namaskar. It helps to reduce headache and backache. It relieves tension from the neck, back and spine. It promotes flexibility of the spine, improves posture, thereby helping to prevent slipped discs. It helps in balancing the Sacral Chakra.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana: Also known as Downward facing dog pose, it is the step 8 of Surya Namaskar. It has multiple benefits such as relief from stress, improved circulation, enhanced respiration, better posture, etc. It makes your arms and legs stronger and relieves varicose veins. It also stretches calf and spine muscles. It activates the Sacral chakra.
As you start practising Surya Namaskars on a daily basis, you should aim to focus on your posture at every step. Do not be in a rush to do more rounds without mastering each step. It’s important to be consistent with the practice and then aim to take your practice to the next level. In the next level, you can start focusing on breathing which involves rhythmic inhalations and exhalations as demonstrated in the image below. In the further advanced level, you can focus on building your spiritual connection as you practice Surya Namaskar, you can chant one Mantra at a time in the ascending order and aim to do at least 12 rounds of surya namaskar.
The ideal time to perform Surya Namaskar is during sunrise while facing towards the sun. But it may not be possible to do it in this fast-paced life and hence instead of missing it, doing it whenever it suits your schedule is preferred as ultimately, it’s a workout that has both meditative and physiological benefits. Just make sure you do it with an empty stomach or at least a gap of 2-3 hours after a meal. Also, it’s best to begin your practice in the presence of a trained professional if you’re a beginner. It’s not advisable for people with very high blood pressure, recent surgery, severe back pain etc and it’s best to practice Shawasana for a couple of minutes as you end your Surya Namaskars.