The wisdom of Sun Salution (Surya Namaskar)

(as taught by Swami Wishnu-devananda)

The Sun Salutation originated as a series of prostrations to the sun. Each of the twelve positions came to have its own mantra, celebrating aspects of the sun’s divinity. Read more about mantras.

The Sun Salutation is a graceful sequence of twelve positions performed as one continuous exercise.

A set of 12 powerful yoga asanas (postures) that provide a good cardiovascular workout in the form of Surya Namaskar. Literally translated to sun salutation, these postures are a good way to keep the body in shape and the mind calm and healthy.
Each position counteracts the one before, stretching the body in a different way, provides a good cardiovascular workout and alternately expanding and contracting the chest to regulate the breathing. There exist a few versions of Sun salutation but it is advisable to stick to one version and develop its practice.
Practised regularly it will bring flexibility to your spine and joints and keep the body in shape and the mind calm and healthy. It also helps to prepare the whole body for the practice of Asanas (postures).

sun salutation

One round of Sun Salutation consists of two sequences.
The first leading with the right foot in positions 4 and 9, the second leading with the left. Keep your hands in one place from positions 3 to 10 and try to coordinate your movements with your breathing.

  1. Inhaling, stand erect with feet together and hands in the prayer position in front of your chest. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed. Exhale.
  2. Inhaling, stretch your arms up and arch back from the waist, pushing the hips out, legs straight. Relax your neck.
  3. Exhaling, fold forward from your hips with a straight back, and press your palms down, fingertips in line with toes – bend your knees if necessary.
  4. Inhaling, bring the left (or right) leg back and place the knee on the floor. Arch back and look up, lifting your chin.
  5. Retaining the breath, bring the other leg back and support your weight on hands and toes – like a ‘Plank’ position.
  6. Exhaling, lower your knees, then your chest and then your forehead, keeping your hips up and your toes curled under – looking a bit like a caterpillar.
  7. Inhaling, lower your hips, point your toes and bend back. Keep legs together and shoulders down. Look up and back – like a ‘Cobra’ position.
  8. Exhaling, curl your toes under, raise your hips and pivot into an inverted “V” shape. Try to push your heels and head down and keep your shoulders back – like a ‘Downward facing dog’ position.
  9. Inhaling, step forward and place the left (or right) foot between your hands. Rest the other knee on the floor and look up, as in position 4.
  10. Exhaling, bring the other leg forward and bend down from the waist, keeping your palms as in position 3.
  11. Inhaling, stretch your arms forward, then up and back over your head and bend back slowly from the waist, as in position 1.
  12. Exhaling, gently come back to an upright position and bring your arms down by your sides.