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Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation)

sn sequence

In Hindu mythology, the sun god is worshipped as a symbol of health and immortal life. The Rig Veda declares that "Surya is the Soul, both of the moving and unmoving beings". The Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara – सूर्य नमस्कार) originated as a series of prostrations to the sun. Traditionally, it is performed at dawn, facing the rising sun.

The Sun Salutation is a graceful sequence of twelve positions performed as one continuous flow. Each position counteracts the one before, stretching the body in a different way and alternately expanding and contracting the chest to regulate the breathing. The sequence also flexes and stretches the spinal column through their maximum range giving profound stretch to the whole body. Practiced daily it will bring great flexibility to your spine and joints and trim your waist. It limbers up the whole body in preparation for the other Asanas (postures) that are practiced as part of a regular yoga routine.


While practicing the sequence, keep your hands in one place from positions 3 to 10 and try to co-ordinate your movements with your breathing. Start by practicing three rounds and gradually build up to twelve rounds. Take it easy during the first two rounds. As the body limbers up, you may deepen each stretch in the sequence. Please use the picture above as a guide to the postures. The step numbers below correspond to the figures in the pictures from left to right. A chart showing the steps in the sequence, along with the associated mantra and chakra awareness is available here.

Step-by-Step

  1. 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 out and up and arch back from the waist, pushing the hips out, legs straight. Relax your neck.
  3. Exhaling, fold forward, and press your palms down, fingertips in line with toes. Try to keep the knees straight, bending slightly 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 chest and chin.
  5. Exhaling, bring the other leg back, curl your toes under, raise your hips and pivot into an inverted "V" shape (Adhomukha Shvanasana or Downward Facing Dog). Try to push your heels and forehead down, tailbone lifted up and keep your shoulders back.
  6. Exhaling, lower your knees, then your chest and then your chin to the floor, keeping your hips up.
  7. Inhaling, lower your hips to the floor, point your toes and stretch the chin out. Slowly lift your head, neck and chest (Bhujangasana or Cobra pose). Keep legs together and shoulder blades pulled back. Look up and back.
  8. Exhaling, curl your toes under, raise your hips and pivot into an inverted "V" shape. Try to push your heels and forehead down and keep your shoulders back (same as position 5).
  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. Relax for a few breaths before proceeding with the next round.

Benefits

  • The abdominal organs and the stomach are stretched and compressed. This gives a wonderful massage to the internal organs
  • Stimulates the peristalsis of the intestines, which helps to remove constipation. It gently massages the kidneys and increases the blood flow through the whole body. It helps to eliminate toxins from the body.
  • The lungs are emptied of impurities and stale air, and the body is revitalized by the extra supply of oxygen that it receives. The whole body and brain function much better as a consequence. One can almost feel the extra supercharge of energy. It harmonizes the whole endocrinal system of glands, and helps to remove any irregularities by directly massaging and increasing the blood flow to them.
  • The spinal column is bent and stretched in a systematic manner to the maximum extent, thus stimulating the circulation of blood in the whole spinal cord and all the nerve centers. As a consequence, it brings health and vitality to the entire nervous systems.
  • All the main muscles and joints in the body are exercised, stretched and squeezed.
  • Induces peace of mind, reduces emotional conflicts, neurosis and stress. It is an excellent routine to practice when you get up in the morning as it will prepare you in all ways to face the oncoming day with physical strength and mental poise.

Contraindications

Surya Namaskara is generally safe for people of all age groups as long as one keeps each of the stretches and moves within one’s individual capability. However, if you have any of the conditions given below, please consult your physician or an expert yoga teacher before practicing Surya Namaskara:
Fever, acute inflammation, boils or rashes, High blood pressure (uncontrolled even with medication), Coronary artery diseases, Hernia, Intestinal tuberculosis, Severe back problems, slipped disc, Sciatica, Menstruation, 2nd or 3rd trimester of pregnancy.

27 comments to Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation)

  • Ray

    There is a great Sun Salutation poster from IYT offered by Yoga Life Style at http://www.yogalifestyle.com/PLIYTSunSalute.htm It is very cool.

  • LarryE

    I get a “page not found” error when I click on “[Read full article here]”

  • Subhash Mittal

    Larry,
    Thank you so much for your feedback. I have fixed the problem. Please check it out again. I apologize for the inconvenience. I would appreciate your comments on the article. Thanks.

    Subhash

  • i do Yoga everyday for the purpose of relaxation. Yoga really helps me in getting a very relaxed mind and body

  • Beth Earp

    Is it possible to get a copy of the picture of the sun salutation anywhere? I think it may have come from the Himylayan Institute? Info would be appreciated. Thanks, and Namaste, Beth

    • admin

      Dear Beth,
      not sure which picture you are referring to. If it is one of the piectures on my website, you should be able to download it. If not, please let me know which picture and I’ll try to find it and send it to you.
      – Subhash

  • Sethumadhavan

    Can I get this beautiful rendition of all the Surya Namaskar mantras to have it while doing the Surya Namaskar? IS it possible to download it?

    • Subhash

      Dear Sethumadhavan, I’m glad that you liked the SN mantras. I have sent you the download link in a separate email. Thanks for visiting my site.

  • Sethumadhavan

    Dear Sir,

    Received and It’s excellent. Thank you very much for SN Mantra.

  • Cme

    I have been doing some research regarding retroverted uterus position. I have read that surya namaskara is very helpful in correcting the position of the uterus. How true is that? I would appreciate your comments on this as I am suffering from this.

    • admin

      I have also read (reference this article by Sw Satyananda – http://www.yogamag.net/archives/1982/joct82/yoglad.shtml) that the practice of Surya Namaskara can help with retroverted uterus. Unfortunately I don’t have any direct experience with this condition and am not in a position to guide you any further. All I can say is that the practice of Surya Namaskar can do no harm if done under the guidance of a teacher and also will bring several other benefits to you. I wish you all the best.

  • […] step-by-step instructions, list of benefits and contraindications, please visit my blog here. This blog post also includes a video clip of the Surya Namaskar […]

  • Sumathy

    An Excellent demonstration wish to have along with mantra chants. Please send the same Sir!!

    • Thanks, Sumathy, for your feedback. I am so glad that you enjoyed the post and the demonstration. I am sending you the link to the mantras in an email. I hope you will enjoy practicing the Surya Namaskara sequence with the mantras. I would appreciate your feedback.

  • ISHWAR

    Dear Subhashji,
    Can I get this beautiful rendition of all the Surya Namaskar mantras to have it while doing the Surya Namaskar? IS it possible to download it?

    If possible kindly mail me the link.
    Thankyou.

    ISHWAR

  • Shoba

    I have hypertension controlled by drugs. Is Surya Namaskar contraindicated for me?i have been yoga for 9 years but discontinued surya namaskar after I developed hypertension . Kindly advise

    • Hello Shoba,
      No, SN is not contraindicated for BP. If anything, the practice of SN, especially when you follow the proper breath guidelines, might actually help with the BP situation. So, my recommendation is not to stop SN but continue with its daily practice.

  • Dear Sir,

    I do 20 min Surya Namaskar in the morning after waking up as it helps me consistently wake up at 4 am by energizing the body and mind irrespective of how well the sleep was.

    I have very mild cervical spondylosis. I feel some neckache/headache after doing Surya Namaskar. I try to mitigate it by not stretching neck much and that helps.

    Can you let me know whether there is anything else I can do to avoid neckache/headache?

    Thanks,
    Gopal

    • Dear Gopal, your headache may be connected with some strain in your neck while doing SN. I suggest doing a few simple neck and shoulder exercises before you begin SN.

  • suman

    i removed uterus 1 year ago so please help me can i do suryanamskar or not

    • Hi Suman,
      Much will depend upon how you feel one year after uterus removal. Also, it is important to check with your doctor if it is OK to do these exercises. In general, I think it should be OK to do surya namaskar now as long as you are feeling fine.

  • Shreyas

    Hello Sir,

    There is an ancient technique where a person can draw energy from Sun and survive only on the sun rays without eating food of any kind,
    do you know how to implement the technique

  • Well, I am very impressed, its good article thanks for this post. I got very useful information from your blog, in this blog having more interesting articles and good thoughts they very help us, Sure it will be fantastic to everyone, and we love it

  • deepa

    Hello sir ,

    my name is deepa.Reached this page while searching for surya namaskar mantras mp3.I practise satyananda yoga.I do surya namaskar with focus on breath and body parts.wanted to enhance my practise so thought of playing the surya namaskar mantras with each asana in the surya namaskar.The link that you shared has the mantras in perfect timing for practise.where can i download it.? please help.

    Just going through all the articles in your blog.they are great.Thankyou.