Surya Namaskara , known in English as Sun Salutation (lit. “salute to the sun”), is a common sequence of Hatha yoga asanas. Its origins lie in a worship of Surya, the Hindu solar deity. This sequence of movements and poses can be practised on varying levels of awareness, ranging from that of physical exercise in various styles, to a complete sadhana which incorporates asana, pranayama, mantra and chakra meditation.
The physical base of the practice links together twelve asanas in a dynamically performed series. These asanas are ordered so that they alternately stretch the spine backwards and forwards. When performed in the usual way, each asana is moved into with alternate inhalation and exhalation(except for the sixth asana where the breath is held in external suspension). A full round of Surya namaskara is considered to be two sets of the twelve poses with a change in the second set to moving the opposite leg first through the series.
Some proponents of the use of Surya namaskara as part of the modern yoga tradition prefer to perform it at sunrise, which the orthodox consider to be the most ‘spiritually favorable’ time of the day.
Surya Namaskar Origin From Veda
There are numerous references to praising the Sun to enhance good health and prosperity, in the Vedas. Some of these Vedic hymns were incorporated into Nitya Vidhi (Daily mandatory routine for a Hindu). These daily procedures were termed Surya Namaskara (literally translates as “sun salutations”). The forms of Surya Namaskar practiced vary from region to region. Two such popular practices are Trucha Kapla Namaskarah and Aditya Prasna.
Aditya Hridayam is another ancient practice which involves surya namaskar. It is a procedure of saluting The Sun, taught to Sri Rama by Sage Agastya, before his fight with Ravana. It is described in the “Yuddha Kaanda” Canto 107 of Ramayana.
Old English manusripts
Early English publications record some of the ancient ways of sun salutation. In “A Catalogue raisonnée of oriental manuscripts”, noted that a short book with 71 leaves with “Tricha calpa vidhi” from “Aditya Puranam” was preserved. He describes the vidhi as “Modes of rendering homage to Sun, with praise and spells; the object being health or delivery from disease”. He further notes the presence of Arghya Pradana, Surya Stotaram, Aditya dvadasa namam – 12 names of the Sun according to the monthly signs of zodiac, Surya Narayana cavacham, Saurashtacshari mantram, and many other elaborate rituals as the part of the vidhi. In Page 148 of the same book he describes a shorter version called “Laghu tricha kalpa vidhi”.
Practice Surya Namaskara
- Surya Namaskara, like most yogasanas must be performed only on an empty stomach. Therefore there must be a gap of at least two hours after eating and before performing the namaskara. It is generally practiced in the morning before breakfast or in evening.
- Surya Namaskaras are performed on a mat, not on the floor.
- In some traditions, 12 Surya Namaskaras are performed at one practice. If starting that practice for the first time, it is generally started with fewer (3 to 6) Namaskaras per day, and then gradually increased to 12 Namaskaras per session by the time a week is over.
- Shavasana is practiced at the end of practice for rest.
- Breathing (pranayamas) is synchronized with asanas.
- Mantras are pronounced at start of each Surya namaskara.
- There are a total of 8 different postures in the sequence of 12 posture changes of Surya namaskara. Some asanas are repeated twice in the same cycle of a Surya Namaskara.
- Practice of yoga postures (asanas) generally follows a surya namaskara practice.
- In a traditional Hindu context, Surya Namaskara is always performed facing in the direction of the rising (east) or setting (west) sun.
- As per the scriptures one who performs the Surya Namaskaras daily does not get poor in a thousand births.
Mantras to pronounce and chakras
The following mantra is pronounced at the beginning of Surya Namaskara practice:
om dhyeyaḥ sadā savitra maṇḍala madhyavartī nārāyaṇa sarasijā sanasanni viṣṭaḥ
keyūravāna makarakuṇḍalavāna kirīṭī hārī hiraṇmaya vapura dhṛtaśaṁkha cakraḥ
ॐ ध्येयः सदा सवित्र मण्डल मध्यवर्ती नारायण सरसिजा सनसन्नि विष्टः
केयूरवान मकरकुण्डलवान किरीटी हारी हिरण्मय वपुर धृतशंख चक्रः
There are certain chakras corresponding to each asana. Attention is being brought to them when performing Surya Namaskara. It’s recommended to synchronize postures, breath, mantras and bring attention to certain chakras when performing Surya Namaskara. It needs complete devotion.
Twelve Part of Surya Namaskara
|4||Aekpaadprasarnaasana (then head and trunk up, hands up or down)||inhale|
|5||Adho Mukha Svanasana||exhale|
|8||Adho Mukha Svanasana||exhale|
|9||Ashwa Sanchalanasana (other leg forward than in 4, then up as in 4)||inhale|
The following mantras are pronounced in each posture,
|1||om hrām (ॐ ह्रां)||om mitrāya namaḥ (ॐ मित्राय नमः)||Anahata||Pranamasana|
|2||om hrīm (ॐ ह्रीं)||om ravaye namaḥ (ॐ रवये नमः)||Vishuddhi||Hasta Uttanasana|
|3||om hrūm (ॐ ह्रूं)||om sūryāya namaḥ (ॐ सूर्याय नमः)||Swadhisthana||Hastapaadasana|
|4||om hraim (ॐ ह्रैं)||om bhānave namaḥ (ॐ भानवे नमः)||Ajna||Aekpaadprasarnaasana|
|5||om hraum (ॐ ह्रौं)||om khagāya namaḥ (ॐ खगाय नमः)||Vishuddhi||Dandasana|
|6||om hraḥ (ॐ ह्रः)||om puṣṇe namaḥ (ॐ पूष्णे नमः)||Manipura||Ashtanga Namaskara|
|7||om hrām (ॐ ह्रां)||om hiraṇya garbhāya namaḥ (ॐ हिरण्यगर्भाय नमः)||Swadhisthana||Bhujangasana|
|8||om hrīm (ॐ ह्रीं)||om marīcaye namaḥ (ॐ मरीचये नमः)||Vishuddhi||Adho Mukha Svanasana|
|9||om hrūm (ॐ ह्रूं)||om ādityāya namaḥ (ॐ आदित्याय नमः)||Ajna||Ashwa Sanchalanasana|
|10||om hraim (ॐ ह्रैं)||om savitre namaḥ (ॐ सवित्रे नमः)||Swadhisthana||Uttanasana|
|11||om hraum (hj ह्रौं)||om arkāya namaḥ (ॐ अर्काय नमः)||Vishuddhi||Hasta Uttanasana|
|12||om hraḥ (ॐ ह्रः)||om bhāskarāya namaḥ (ॐ भास्कराय नमः)||Anahata||Pranamasana|
The following mantra is pronounced at the end of Surya Namaskara practice:
ādityasya namaskāran ye kurvanti dine dine
āyuḥ prajñā balam vīryam tejasteśān ca jāyate
आदित्यस्य नमस्कारन् ये कुर्वन्ति दिने दिने
आयुः प्रज्ञा बलम् वीर्यम् तेजस्तेशान् च जायते
Translations: By performing Sun Salutation day by day your age, conscious, strength, essence of humanity and glow would never fade away.