On Saturday, April 2, 2016, the Hindu Temple (HSNC – Hindu Society of North Carolina) organized a yoga event dubbed as "Surya Namaskar Yogathon" wherein we practiced 108 rounds of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations).
If you have attended a yoga class, be that at a yoga studio, a health club, gym, or online, chances are that Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) was a part of the routine. Surya Namaskar has now become an integral part of most yoga styles that are practiced. As expected, each style of yoga introduces its own variations into the Surya Namaskar routine.
Traditionally, Surya Namaskar consists of 12 movements which are woven together in a nice, flowing, dance-like sequence, with each move synchronized with the appropriate breathing pattern. Practice of Surya Namaskar impacts all aspects of the body – physical, physiological, mental, emotional and even deeper.
Historically speaking, Surya Namaskar has been practiced as a religious ritual to honor the "Sun God" in many parts of India for thousands of years. However, Surya Namaskar as we know today, was not a part of the yoga practice as given in the ancient texts of Hatha Yoga. It was less than two hundred years ago that the practice of Surya Namaskar was integrated as a part of the yoga routine.
Surya Namaskar Yogathon is now offered at the Hindu Temple as an annual fund-raising event for a very nominal suggested donation amount. The participants are encouraged to donate generously to the temple which offers a large number of educational programs, and cultural and social events throughout the year. Most of these programs are offered free to the community. The temple was gracious enough to offer freshly cooked, delicious vegetarian lunch as part of the event.
This year’s event attracted over one hundred participants. The event was held in the main hall (the cultural hall) of the temple.
For the practice of Surya Namaskar we used the chanting of the traditional Surya Namaskar mantras. The mantras represent the twelve names of the Sun god. The mantras provide a beautifully flowing, rhythmic sequence which is used to guide each of the twelve moves in one Surya Namaskar round. Each move of Surya Namaskar is also synchronized with the appropriate breathing pattern. For the practice, we used a recording of the mantras chanted beautifully by professional chanters from India. The recording itself contains 12 rounds of Surya Namaskar. After each round of 12, we took a short, two to three minute break. During each of these short breaks, Subhash Mittal read excerpts from the book "Surya Namaskar", a publication of the Bihar School of Yoga. These readings pertained to the meaning and significance of the Surya Namaskar mantras, and benefits of the practice at various levels.
To complete 108 rounds we repeated the 12 rounds nine times. Each segment of 12 rounds is approximately 22 minutes long. With a few minutes of gap between the rounds, it took us almost four hours to finish the full set of 108 rounds. At the end we practiced about 10-12 minutes of Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation) followed by about 10 minutes of Pranayama (breathing techniques).
Everyone was strongly urged to keep the practice within their own limits of physical strength and endurance. They were encouraged to take short breaks as and when needed. Of course, a good percentage of the participants were able to complete the full set of 108 rounds without taking a break.
The program was followed by delicious, vegetarian lunch, lovingly provided by one of the devotees of the temple.
From the feedback received from the various participants during lunch and through emails and other communications, it is clear that the program was extremely well received by the participants. Many of them suggested that we should have these sessions at least twice a year.
If you attended the program, we would love to hear back from you about your experience during and after the program.