Surya Namaskar: A step by step guide to perform a Sun Salutation
Surya namaskars or sun salutations are an ancient yoga ritual consisting of 12 steps that help warm up the body before the practice of various yoga asanas by stretching and opening up the body. Surya namaskars also stimulate life force or prana in the body and regulate mental and physical faculties.
Here we are going to discuss a step-by-step guide to a Surya Namaskar. There are many variations of Surya namaskars followed by different schools of yoga. None are incorrect but to get the maximum benefit from your practice, it is advised to follow one version of Surya namaskar that works for you and practice that regularly. So, let’s begin:
Step 1: Prayer Pose (or Pranamasana)
You start by standing at the edge of your mat. Keep your feet together and balance your weight on both feet. Breathe in, lift both arms from the sides, and then when you exhale, bring both your palms together in front of the chest in a prayer position.
Step 2: Raised Arms Pose (or Hasta Uttanasana)
While breathing in, lift your arms up and back, keeping your biceps close to your ears. The effort in this pose is to stretch the whole body up from the heels to the tips of your fingers.
Step 3: Standing Forward Bend (or Hastapadasana)
Exhale and bend forward from your hips, bringing your chest to your thighs. Keep your legs strong by drawing your knees toward your hips. Relax your neck and your shoulders. If needed, your hands can rest on your shins, ankles, or yoga blocks.
Step 4: Equestrian Pose (or Ashwa Sanchalanasana)
While taking a deep breath in, push your right leg as far back as possible. Then bring your right knee to the floor and look up while expanding your chest.
Step 5: Stick Pose (or Dandasana)
Exhale and step your left foot back into a plank position. Align your body so that your shoulders are directly over your wrists, your palms are flat on the mat, and your feet are hip distance apart. Look down and slightly forward while keeping the back of your neck long.
Step 6: Knees-Chest-Chin Pose (or Ashtanga Namaskara)
Gently bring your knees down to the floor and exhale. Take the hips back slightly, slide forward, rest your chest and chin on the floor. Raise your posterior a little. The two hands, two feet, two knees, chest, and chin; i.e., the eight parts of the body, should be touching the floor.
Step 7: Cobra Pose (or Bhujangasana)
Slowly slide forward and raise the chest up into the Cobra pose. You can keep your elbows bent in this pose with the shoulders away from the ears. Gaze up at the ceiling.
Step 8: Downward-facing Dog Pose (or Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Exhale as you lift your hips up and back, coming into Downward Facing Dog Pose. Press down through your knuckles, lengthen through your back, and release your heels toward the mat. Stay here for several breaths.
Step 9 : Equestrian Pose (or Ashwa Sanchalanasana)
Breathing in, bring the right foot forward in between the two hands. The left knee goes down on the floor. Press the hips down and lookup.
Step 10 : Standing forward bend (or Hastapadasana)
Now breathe out, bring the left foot forward near your right foot. Keep the palms on the floor. If needed you can bend your knees.
Step 11: Raised Arms Pose (or Hasta Uttanasana)
Breathing in, roll the spine up. Raise the hands and bend backward a little bit, pushing the hips slightly outward.
Step 12: Tree Pose (or Tadasana)
Exhale and return to Tadasana with your hands in prayer in front of your chest or at your sides. Continue with the other half of the sun salutation or remain here for a few breaths.
This is one-half of a complete Surya namaskar. You can complete one round by repeating the same steps in the same sequence. But this time, in step number 4, you will take your left foot behind and bring your right foot ahead in step number 10. When you go through all 12 steps again, then your one round of Surya namaskar or sun salutation is complete.
It is generally advised to practice Surya namaskars early in the morning when the sun is rising. Also, don’t get intimidated by all the poses and the sequence of Surya namaskar. If you are finding something difficult to do, you can always find an easier way to do it online or you can ask a yoga practitioner. Sometimes using props such as yoga blocks and cushions can also help in your practice. Remember to focus on your breath and get into each position slowly, with awareness. Also, always start with smaller numbers. Start with 5 Surya namaskars a day, then move to 7 and then 12 and then 21. The more consistent you are, the easier they will get for you. And once you start realizing how they benefit you, you will not want to stop practicing yoga.
If you are looking for more motivation to begin, check out our article on how to start your yoga journey here. You can also look at our yoga props such as yoga mats and yoga blocks here, which can help you in your journey towards physical and mental well-being.
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