Sun Salutations aka Surya Namaskar


Sun Salutations aka Surya Namaskar

Sun Salutation is one of the most popular yoga sequences. Did you know that its name in Sanskrit is Surya Namaskar?

There is one mantra for each of the positions of the Surya Namaskar sequence. 

  1. Tadasana – Standing mountain pose
  2. Urdhva Hastasana – Raised hands pose
  3. Padahastasana – Hands under feet pose
  4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Equestrian pose
  5. Parvatasana – Mountain pose
  6. Ashtanga Namaskara – Eight limb pose 
  7. Bhujangasana – Cobra pose
  8. Parvatasana – Mountain pose
  9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Equestrian pose
  10. Padahastasana – Hands under feet pose  
  11. Urdhva Hastasana – Raised hands pose
  12. Tadasana – Standing mountain pose

Surya Namaskar  or Sun salutation is an ancient practice that can be found in the Vedas. But, it was not well known until the 1930s when it became part of the Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga.  


What are Sun Salutations aka Surya Namaskar?

Surya Namaskar is a yoga practice used to worship the Sun. Surya Namaskar is a very complete practice that involves asana, pranayama, mantra chanting, and chakra balancing. Surya Namaskar is used to pay respect and gratitude to the Sun.  

Surya Namaskar became popular with the Vinyasa Ashtanga yoga teachings of Guru Krishnamacharya. Later on, in the 1970s a modern version that includes variations or other poses such as up dog, down dog, plank, and chaturanga was included in the teaching of Pattabhi Jois, a student of Guru Krishnamacharya.

You can attain physical flexibility and strength through the sequence of 12 asanas. You can quiet your mind, and be in a meditative state during your physical practice. 

Surya Namaskar consists of  12 postures that constitute one set. To complete a round of Sun Salutation, you need to do one set with the right side and one with the left side. Surya Namaskar should be practiced every day. 

Each of the postures has a mantra associated with it and it’s related to a chakra. This practice will enhance your Solar plexus chakra which is governed by the Sun. 


12 Steps of Sun Salutation

There are a few variations of the Sun salutation. The basic Surya Namaskar includes the following 12 poses. 

1. Tadasana – Standing mountain pose.

Bring your palms together to the middle of the chest in prayer position. Keep your legs straight, chin slightly in. 

2. Urdhva Hastasana – Raised hands pose.

Inhale slowly and raise your hands over your head and bend backward, look at your thumbs.

3. Padahastasana – Hands under feet pose.

Exhale as you bend forward bringing the hands to the side of the feet. Palms are flat on the ground. Head bent forward, touching the knees if possible. Bend your knees slightly if you struggle to remain in this position. 

4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Equestrian pose.

Inhale deeply, move your right leg to the front to do a lunge. Keep both hands and your left foot firm on the ground. Raise your head and look forward. 

5. Parvatasana – Grounded mountain pose.

Hold your breath. Hands firm on the ground. Bring the right leg back. Both arms stretched out. Raise your buttocks to the sky. Put your weight on your heels and fingers spread out. You can do 5 breaths of inhalation and exhalation, or do one breath of inhaling and exhaling, and move to the next pose. 

6. Ashtanga Namaskara – Eight limb pose.

Exhale as you lower your body and let your toes, knees, hands, chest, and forehead touching the ground. Keep the abdomen raised. 

7. Bhujangasana – Cobra pose.

Inhale and raise your head while you bend your spine backward. Don’t strain your back, put your lower arms and elbows on the ground and lift your head up. 

8. Parvatasana – Mountain pose.

Exhale and raise your body while bringing your head down. Rest your hands and toes on the floor. 

9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Equestrian pose.

Inhale and bring your left leg forward towards your left hand. Your right foot and knee touch the ground, then look forward. 

10. Padahastasana – Hands under feet pose.

Exhale and bring both legs together. Keep both hands by the side of the feet. Palms are flat on the ground. Your head is bent forward, touching the knees if possible. Bend your knees slightly if you struggle to remain in this position. 

11. Urdhva Hastasana – Raised hands pose.

Inhale as you come all the way up with your hands raised above your head. 

12. Tadasana – Standing mountain pose.

Exhale as you bring your hands to your chest, palms together, do a little bow forward, and start your next round of Surya Namaskar. 

You can do 12 repetitions of Sun Salutations. 

At the end of your practice, you can lie down on your mat in Savasana or Corpse Pose for a few minutes to integrate all the work you have done.


How many Mantra are in Sun Salutation?

There are 12 mantras in Surya Namaskar, one mantra for each pose. Each mantra is linked to the Sun or Surya the Hindu God. The Surya God has 12 names and those twelve names are called with the Surya Namaskar mantras. 

Each mantra in Surya Namaskar is formed by Om followed by the name of the Sun deity, plus Namaha. 

Aum refers to the primordial sound of the origin of the Universe. The Aum mantra can purify your mind and your energy bodies to bring them in harmony with the vibration of the universe. 

Namaha is the reminder that you are part of the cosmos, that you are not alone, and that things are not just about you. 

  1. Tadasana – Om Mitraya Namaha
  2. Urdhva Hastasana – Om Ravaye Namaha.
  3. Padahastasana – Om Suryaya Namaha.
  4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Om Bhanave Namaha.
  5. Parvatasana – Om Khagaya Namaha.
  6. Ashtanga Namaskara – Om Pushne Namaha.
  7. Bhujangasana – Om Hiranya Garbhaya Namaha.
  8. Parvatasana – Om Maricaye Namaha.
  9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Om Adityaya Namaha.
  10. Padahastasana – Om Savitre Namaha.
  11. Urdhva Hastasana – Om Arkaya Namaha.
  12. Tadasana – Om Bhaskaraya Namaha.

Each of the 12 Surya mantras has a meaning:

  1. Om Mitraya Namaha – The one affectionate to all.
  2. Om Ravaye Namaha – The cause of all change.
  3. Om Suryaya Namaha – The inducer of all activity.
  4. Om Bhanave Namaha – The diffuser of light.
  5. Om Khagaya Namaha – The one that moves the sky.
  6. Om Pushne Namaha – The nourisher of all.
  7. Om Hiranya Garbhaya Namaha – The one that contains everything.
  8. Om Maricaye Namaha – the one that radiates.
  9. Om Adityaya Namaha – The God of Gods.
  10. Om Savitre Namaha – The one who produces everything.
  11. Om Arkaya Namaha – The one to be worshipped.
  12. Om Bhaskaraya Namaha – The one that shines.

A sequence of Surya Namaskar is made of the 12 asanas. You should do one round with the right side, and one round with the left side. You can choose to do 12 rounds, chant a mantra for each round, or chant one mantra at each step. 


Sun Salutation and the chakras

Each of the yoga poses of the Sun Salutation works with the chakras. 

This is one set of repetitions and its chakras that are activated and balanced as you do Surya Namaskar.

  1. Tadasana – Anahata (heart chakra)
  2. Urdhva Hastasana – Vishuddhi (throat chakra).
  3. Padahastasana – Swadhisthana (sacral chakra).
  4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Ajna (third eye chakra).
  5. Parvatasana – Vishuddhi (throat chakra).
  6. Ashtanga Namaskara – Manipura (solar plexus chakra).
  7. Bhujangasana – Swadhisthana (sacral chakra).
  8. Parvatasana – Vishuddhi (throat chakra).
  9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Ajna (throat chakra).
  10. Padahastasana – Swadhisthana (sacral chakra).
  11. Urdhva Hastasana – Vishuddhi (throat chakra).
  12. Tadasana – Anahata (heart chakra).

The Sun salutation is a practice to help you bring balance to your life. Doing a couple of repetitions at the beginning and at the end of your day will help you be more centered. You will be in harmony with yourself and with others. 

If you are new to yoga, learning this sequence of asanas can help you to develop your practice.

You will be able to integrate other poses with ease. As you become more flexible, you will be able to include other poses and create a routine. 


What is 108 Sun Salutation?

108 Sun Salutations are done during the Equinox or Solstice as a celebration to receive the energy of the Sun. The number 108 is present in ancient traditions and numerology and it relates to our Solar system. 108 is a sacred number in yoga. 

You can get the diameter of the Sun if you multiply the distance between the Sun and the Earth by 108.

You can also get the diameter of the moon if you multiply the distance between Earth and Moon by 108. Doing 108 repetitions of Surya Namaskar while chanting mantras for the Sun will bring you in harmony with the vibration of our Solar System and the Universe.

Let me tell you a little about my experience doing 108 Sun salutations The first time I did 108 Sun salutations I knew nothing about its history, its power, or the mantras involved. I saw Surya Namaskar only as a sequence of asanas. All I knew was that I had to do 108 repetitions, to bring energy to my body and life. I started without any music and after a couple of repetitions. Soon, I realised it was going to be hard to keep up with 108 repetitions. 

Particularly because the most I’ve ever done were 20 sun salutations in one go. So, I search youtube for Surya Namaskar chanting to help me go through the experience. I found a beautiful video that contained the mantras. Even though I did not chant them, listening to them, created the right ambiance. It put me in the right frame of mind to complete 108 repetitions. I finished exhausted but at the same time, I was so energised. I was happy for completing the challenge. 

At that time, I was so desperate to find answers in my life. I needed to have a change in my life and find the direction to turn my life around. Well, I must tell you, that I did not find the answers to any of those questions. But, I felt so good with myself, and so grateful to my body for being there for me to complete the challenge. That somehow my prayer was answered by giving me the trust in myself and my body. 


Sun Salutation Benefits

Sun Salutation has lots of benefits for your health. It is beneficial for your nerves, as well as for toning your muscles. It can help you with anxiety and depression.  It will make you feel calm and improve your memory. 

You can lose weight, as your blood circulation improves with the sequence flow, which is like cardio.  Your whole body and skin will receive more oxygen and get rid of waste, improving your overall health. Your blood circulation will improve.

The 12 positions of Sun salutations if done in a flow involving the breath cycle of inhalation and exhalation at each pose, can help you lose weight as it becomes a cardiovascular exercise. You will get a nicer, healthier-looking skin with the practice of Sun salutations. 

The regular practice of Sun salutation will regulate women’s hormones, improving irregularities or pain during the menstrual cycle. 


Conclusion

Surya Namaskar aka Sun Salutation is one of those sequences that sets a basic ground for your yoga practice. Regardless of which type of yoga you do, you will encounter most of the poses at some point even if not in a sequence. Learning the 12 asanas in Surya Namaskar will give you a solid ground to develop your practice. 

This is one of the best routines to practice at home. Make sure you go to a yoga class or have a yoga teacher who can check your alignment. Don’t try to do poses you are not ready for. The most important thing is to keep safe in your practice, so don’t push yourself too hard, or you can injure yourself. 

Listen to your body, it’s ok to challenge yourself but, listen to your body. Check if you are ready for a pose or a sequence. Doing 108 Surya Namaskar is a real challenge, your legs will hurt and your body will ache if you are not ready for it. 

But for me doing 108 Sun salutations was totally worth it. It gave me the will power to start doing yoga every day. 


Frequently Asked Questions

When should we chant the Surya mantra?

Surya Namaskar can be practiced every day. There are specific occasions when you can do 108 repetitions of Surya Namaskar to worship the Sun, such as in the Equinox and Solstice. Learn more

What is one set of Sun Salutation?

One set of Surya Namaskar is formed by one repetition of the 12 positions. You should do one set using the left side and one set using the right side. Learn more

Can we chant the Surya mantra at night?

As a practice, you can use Surya Namaskar as a warm-up in the morning or at the end of your day in the evening. There are no specific times but, it’s best before sunrise and before sunset, if possible. Learn more

How to remember Surya Namaskar mantra?

The best way to remember the mantras is to chant it as much as you can. Chant Surya Namaskar while reading the lyrics with the time you will start remembering. Learn more

Maria Mendoza

Hi. I'm Maria. I am a Biologist and a Yoga instructor. I've created this blog to share my knowledge and experience with people interested in yoga and those who want to make yoga a part of their lives. Besides I promote and encourage an environmentally responsible yoga practice. Through my articles, you can learn how to begin Yoga and discover the meaning of Yoga. Learn about Asanas, Pranayamas, Mudras, Mantras and Bandhas. Start your Yoga practice today.

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