Showing posts with label Sun Salutation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sun Salutation. Show all posts

The Yogic Aspect of the Sun Salutation

The Surya Namaskar or the salutation to Sun is considered to be that one single routine that encompasses important features of Hatha yoga, Mantra yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Yoga is a technique which allows Man to elevate and emancipate himself from animal man to divine man. In order to achieve this divine state, the ancient seers of yoga believed that the body must clean and healthy for, cleanliness is next to godliness. Hatha Yoga is the ancient text of yoga that is completely devoted to the physical culture of yoga.

The physical culture of yoga includes

-Asana- the physical culture of yogic postures
-Pranayama-the science of breath
-Bandhas- the science of postural locks
-Kriyas- cleansing techniques to purify the body and remove sloth
-Mudras- the technique of emotional culture
-The Surya Namaskar and Asana

Each of the 12 steps of the Surya Namaskar is a yogasana by itself.

The Salutation to the Sun commences with Dakshasana. ‘Daksha’ means to stand in attention. This meditative posture increases self confidence and improves concentration.

The salutation is initiated with yet another asana called Pranamasana. This posture has a therapeutic effect on the throat, it improves the voice and relaxes the mind.

The Second step of the Suryanamaskar is Hasta Uttanasana. This asana improves the functioning of the alimentary canal, eyesight and flexion of the shoulder muscles.

The third step-Padahastasana, is the hands to feet posture. This asana cures abdominal ailments, strengthens the chest, hands and body. In the fourth step- Ashwasanchalasana, particularly benefits the liver and intestines.

Bhoo naman Vajrasana is the fifth step which allows normal breathing and resumption of the breath to its normal pace. This is not only a rest state of the salute but also a respectful and grateful acknowledgement to Mother Earth for providing the seer a ground to salute and pay respect to the Sun. The physical benefits of this asana are similar to Vajrasana or the Thunderbolt posture. It increases the elasticity of the spine, cures constipation, strengthens the muscles of the abdomen and chest.

Ashtangapranipat, the sixth step, marks the culmination of the Surya Namaskar. This full body prostration along the ground is an obeisance to the Sun God which tames the ego and strengthens the arms.

The seventh step, Bhujangasana or the Cobra posture maintained for a few a few breaths stimulates blood circulation, improves the functioning of the urino-genital system and strengthens the muscles of the neck.

Parvatasana or the mountain posture, the eighth step of the salute, strengthens, knees, legs, reduces fat around waist and reduces abdominal disorders. Bandha or postural lock included in the Salutation - The Jalandhar Bandha is performed in the 8th step of the salutation. In the Jalandhar bandha air is trapped purposefully in the in the internal cavity between the throat and the anus. The purpose of the lock is to direct energy from the lower chakras towards the upper parts of the body without dissipation through the organs of excretion.

Kriyas- The Sun Salutation includes the trataka shuddhi kriya which is why the early morning routine is recommended. The practitioner of the Surya Namaskar can perform Sun gazing or Surya trataka until the point that the eyes just begin to well up with tears for improving vision.

Pranayama- Ashtangapranipat the 6th step of the Surya Namaskar requires Bahya Kumbhaka or the external retention of breath – a form of pranayam or breath control. Each of the steps of the Sun salute is rhythmically coordinated with Anuloma –Viloma Pranayama ( Inhale-Exhale).

The chanting of the 12 names of Lord Surya along with the bija mantras and gayatri mantra come under the realm of mantra yoga.

Mudra yog- The Namaskar mudra is performed in step one, six and twelve of the salute. In the namaskar mudra the two palms are placed together. It signifies the emotions of extending friendship, love and devotion in a humble way. It is a salutation or an act of worship. The spiritual meaning is even deeper. The life force, the divinity, the Self or the Lord in me is the same in all. Recognizing this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we salute with head bowed to the Divinity in the Sun God. With this significance, the greeting is not just a superficial gesture but is a way for a deeper communion in an atmosphere of love and respect.

This has direct connection to the teachings of Bhakti Yoga or the Yoga of Devotion, Love and Surrender. According to the principles of Bhakti Yoga, in the Surya Namaskar complete surrender is made to the Cosmic Sun of our Universe invoking him to lend his qualities of friendship, brilliance, unfailing warmth and sustenance, strength, and benevolence.

In accordance with Mantra yoga the bija mantras Hram, Hrim, Hroom, Hraim, Hroum, Hrah have an esoteric and exoteric effect on the gross physical body. An esoteric dimension of the mantra refers to the changes the mantra can induce on the mind, intellect and emotions. While an esoteric dimension gently massages and relaxes the physical body with vibrations.

The right intonation, pronunciation and the resonance of each of these bija mantras create waves that permeate through the entire body. These wave motions produce special effects on the mind, body, emotions and intellect as a whole.

Regular practice of the Surya namaskar initiates opening f the seven psychic energy centers in the body-the chakras. Re balancing of the distorted body energy endows health and balanced state of mind. Repeated asanas that bend the spine forwards and backwards at the waist keeps the spine healthy and pulverizes the food ingested thus expediting digestion. Regular anuloma viloma pranayam increases the lung capacity. This 12 step routine must be practiced in a clean open space, at sunrise or sun down, in odd number of repetitions with regularity to reap full benefits. Initial practice of the namaskar leads to dislodging toxins from the body and hence plenty of fluids should be consumed once the practice is begun.

Amongst some of the rich cultural legacies endowed by Ancient India, Surya Namaskar has a special place as the most scientific and complete religious and physical yogic routine.

The Religious Aspect of the Sun Salutation

We often hear of the practice of the Sun Salute or the Surya Namaskar in yoga and power yoga. This powerful physical routine is often confused to have a strong religious bearing to Hinduism. Ignorance can often lead to confusion and so this article attempts to throw more light on the religious bearing of the Surya Namaskar or the Sun Salutation.

The Sun Salutation or the Surya Namaskar is a common feature of all yogasana classes and a regular feature of power yoga. This physical ritual has been a traditional routine of Ancient India. Very few recognize the religious bearing of the Surya Namaskar and when introduced only in its physical form it creates unrest as it is thought to be ritual for reverence to the Hindu Sun God. In order to dispel the duality of the uninformed and ignoramus minds, explaining the religious aspect of the Surya Namaskar was felt necessary.

‘Surya Namaskar’ is the salutation made to the Sun for its quality of unbiased support of life and nourishment to Earth. Its practice dates as far back as the Vedas and reference of this salutation is also found in the Puranas and Ramayana. This ancient practice of obeisance was an Aryan tradition that was initiated in early childhood both as a physical exercise as well as a form of grateful reverence to the Sun God. It is a prayerful physical routine consisting of twelve steps or ten steps (depending onthe School of yoga) paying homage to the Sun deity marking the start of every morning for every Aryan, adult or child.

The Sun is saluted not once a year or month but every day recognizing its regular dispassionate brilliance and the power of its illumination to sustain life and dispel ignorance. The Sun is the primal source of warmth due to which this entire Universe subsists. The Surya Namaskar not only includes reverence to the Sun but also includes gratitude to Mother Earth in the physical routine. The salutation to the Sun is practiced usually at Sunrise or Sundown when the Sun can be visibly observed by the naked eye. The Salutation has two aspects - A religious and a yogic aspect.

Presently, only the religious feature of the Sun Salutation is discussed. A prayer is chanted prior to beginning the physical routine. The prayer invokes guidance from the Sun God to protect, guide and lead our paths towards progress. This prayer is the Gayatri Mantra. The Sun of the Universe is revered to guide us and illuminate our intellect with its effulgent brilliance.

Gayatri means 'that which saves, when repeated'! It is the torch of spiritual wisdom. The Gayatri mantra is the prayer addressed to the Sun.

The Gayatri mantra relates to the three aspects of time - past, present, and future: Bhur Bhuva Svaha .

Tat Savitur Varenyam, Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi, Dheeyo yo nah Prachodayaath - that light dispels darkness --without light, darkness will not leave.

Bhargo devasya, signifies that the Sun is the dispeller of darkness.

Thus , the ancients believed that there was a supreme power - The Sun, whom they looked upon as Godwho has the power to remove ignorance with its shining effulgent light.

Each of the twelve steps of the salutation is accompanied by chanting the twelve names of the Sun God.

1. Om Hram Mitraya Namaha
Salutations to the friend of All
2. Om Hrim Ravaye Namaha
Salutations to the Shining one
3. Om Hroom Suryaya Namaha
Salutations to the one who engages in activity of the universe
4. Om Hraim Bhanave Namaha
Salutations to the one who illuminates
5. Om Hroum Khagaya Namaha
Salutations to the one who moves swiftly across the sky.
6 Om Hrah Pushney Namaha
Salutations to the giver of Strength
7. Om Hram Hiranyagarbhaya Namaha
Salutations to the Cosmic Golden Self
8 Om Hrim Marichaye Namaha
Salutations to the Lord of the Dawn
9 Om Hroom Adityaya Namaha
Salutations to the son of Aditi
10 Om Hraim Savitre Namaha
Salutations to the benevolent mother
11 Om Hroum Arkaya Namaha
Salutations to the one worthy of praise
12 Om Hrah Bhaskaraya Namaha
Salutations to the one who leads us to enlightenment.

Hram, Hrim, Hroum, Hraim, Hroum, Hrah are bija mantras or seed mantras. Right pronunciation and resonance of the ‘bija’ mantra produce waves that permeate through the entire being. These waves in the presence of sunlight produce positive effects on the mind, body, emotions and intellect as a whole. Every chant has two dimensions, the esoteric and the exoteric dimension.

The exoteric dimension is the external gross dimension which massages, relaxes or stimulates the physical body, strengthens the vocal chords and cultures the voice with regular chanting. The esoteric dimension transforms from the gross level to the subtle level. The correct practice, chanting with the right intonation and regularity in practice initiates the opening of the seven psychic energy centers or chakras of the body. The working and energy is rebalanced thus eliminating ill-health.

Every sun salutation when accompanied by the chanting of the universal prayer-the gayatri mantra bears a religious significance, which every Aryan culture and civilization of the past has always revered to the Sun as God. The Surya namaskar encompasses all the four aspects of yoga viz-asana, mudra, kriya and pranayam. This discussion along with the yogic benefits of the salutation will be discussed separately.

In conclusion, a Surya namaskar without the Gayatri mantra or the chanting of the twelve names of the Sun God has no religious bearing- it is then just a physical routine.

Sun Salutation – Complete Workout for Your Mind and Body in Just Ten Minutes

Sun Salutation is the complete workout for your mind and body. Sun Salutation was perfected and filtered in thousands of years of humankind experience. Ten minutes in the morning will give you a low impact still efficient exercise that will benefit both your mind and body.

Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) is part of Hatha Yoga (the "physical" part of Yoga). Sun Salutation has multiple mental and physical benefits. In only ten minutes you can achieve a low impact workout that combines both Resistance Training (e.g. weight lifting) and Cardiovascular ("Cardio") Training.

The fitness community accepts the fact that cardiovascular exercise has reduced benefits (e.g. fat burning ends once the cardio exercise stops). It also has disadvantages like tear and wear of joints.

Resistance Training on the other hand, has multiple benefits: increases muscle mass hence more fat burning capability, increases bone density to mention just a few. The drawback: it is painful (I know I don't like the feeling of burning in my muscles, even though I know it is good for me). Resistance training is also time consuming and it may increase blood pressure momentarily if not done properly.

A good compromise is Interval Training that consists of hard alternated with light pace cardio exercise. And this is exactly where Sun Salutation comes in. It is similar with Interval Training by combining a low impact resistance training (push-ups, squats) with cardio exercise. Even better, the benefits of Sun Salutation don’t stop at the physical level: your mind benefits as well.

Regular practice of Sun Salutation benefits your body with:
  • Increased blood oxygenation by copious lung ventilation and this is great news for your heart.
  • Stretches and tones your muscles keeping them supple and flexible.
  • Clears your elimination channels helping your body rid itself of toxins. This is especially good in the morning after many hours of lack of movement during sleep (the lymphatic system eliminates toxins through movement).
  • Stimulates and tones your Endocrine system (especially the Thyroid, the master gland that controls all the other glands).
  • Tones up the internal abdominal organs by alternate stretching, compression cycles that results in better digestion and bowel movement.
  • Increases spine and waist flexibility.
The mental benefits of Sun Salutation are similar with meditation. You can look at Sun Salutation as meditation in movement. It is not random that Tai-Chi (Chinese) or Kata in Karate, have a similar focussed mind on movement approach at the core of their practice. Sun Salutation helps to:
  • Increase your mental focus and concentration.
  • Reduce depression, anxiety and stress by reducing key markers like Cortisol.
  • Increase the quantity of "good mood" neurotransmitters like Serotonin.
  • Increase mind to body coordination which is very good especially for older persons.
If done properly, twelve repetitions of Sun Salutation (six pairs of Sun Salutation starting with one leg and then the other), go a long way. It takes roughly 30-40 seconds for one complete cycle (twelve postures flowing from one to the other). Add two minutes of relaxation at the end, to allow your body implement the "reset" you just performed, and you are ready for the new day. Ten minutes all together in the morning will help you look at the unwinding life from a different perspective.

Among many Sun Salutation techniques, Sivananda Sun Salutation stands out as an graceful flow of twelve postures developed by Swami Sivananda, a practicing medical doctor (MD) before taking up monasticism, therefore developed by a person with knowledge of the human body.

Constantine George is an accomplished practitioner of meditation and yoga. Know the specific details about Sun Salutation and Better Mind.