What Are Sun Salutations And Their Significance In Yoga Practice?
Sun Salutations, or Salutes To The Sun are also known as Surya Namaskar, it is a sequence of yoga postures that are often practiced at the beginning of a yoga class or as part of a daily yoga routine. The name Surya Namaskar is derived from the Sanskrit words “surya” meaning “sun” and “namaskar” meaning “to bow” or “to salute.”
There are different accounts of the origin of Sun Salutations. Some traditionalists trace their roots back to Namaskars, which were rituals performed over 3,500 years ago. These ancient Namaskars were a form of prostration that included physical movements and chanting, and were performed as a way of honouring the sun as the source of energy and light for the world. However, according to Mark Singleton’s book, “The Yoga Body,” Sun Salutations may have modern origins.
Why do Sun Salutations?
Whether ancient or modern, Sun Salutations have become an integral part of yoga practice, and are often used as a warm-up for the body and mind. The sequence of postures in Sun Salutations is designed to stretch and strengthen the entire body, improve flexibility, and increase the flow of prana or energy throughout the body. Practicing Sun Salutations is also said to have mental and spiritual benefits, helping to calm the mind and connect with one’s inner self.
What does a Sun Salutation comprise of?
They are a sequence of yoga postures traditionally performed in the morning to greet the rising sun. Sun Salutations are often used as a warm-up before a yoga practice, as they help to improve flexibility, strength, and focus.
The sequence typically consists of 12 postures that are performed in a specific order, each synchronised with the breath. The postures include a combination of forward bends, backbends, and inversions, and are designed to activate and energise the entire body.
Sun Salutations are said to have many benefits, including:
Improving circulation and digestion
Increasing strength and flexibility
Reducing stress and anxiety
Calming the mind and improving focus
Stimulating the nervous system and boosting energy levels
Sun Salutations can be modified to suit different levels of ability and can be practiced at any time of day. They are a great way to start your day with a mindful movement practice or to incorporate into your yoga routine for a full-body workout.
Step by step guide on how to do a Sun Salutation
- Begin in Mountain Pose at the top of your mat with your feet hip-distance apart, palms together in prayer position at your heart centre.
- Inhale, raise your arms overhead and arch your back slightly to come into Upward Salute.
- Exhale, hinge forward at the hips and come into Standing Forward Fold. Keep your spine straight and extend your arms down to the ground.
- Inhale, lift halfway up into Halfway Lift, with your hands either on the ground or on your shins.
- Exhale, step or jump back into Plank. Keep your elbows hugged into your sides and lower down until your arms form a 90-degree angle.
- Inhale, push up into Upward-Facing Dog by straightening your arms and lifting your chest off the ground. Keep your shoulders down and back.
- Exhale, push back into Downward-Facing Dog. Spread your fingers wide and press your palms into the ground. Lift your hips up and back, straightening your legs and lengthening your spine.
- Inhale, step or jump your feet forward and come back into Standing Forward Fold.
- Exhale, fold deeper into Standing Forward Fold.
- Inhale, come all the way up to Upward Salute.
- Exhale, return to Mountain Pose with your palms together in prayer position at your heart centre.
That’s one complete round of Sun Salutation. Repeat several times, synchronising your movements with your breath.
Advice for those new to yoga
If you are new to yoga or just starting a sun salutation practice, here are some tips to help you get started:
Start slow: Don’t worry about getting through the entire sequence at first. Start with a few rounds and gradually increase the number of rounds as you become more comfortable with the postures.
Focus on your breath: The breath is an essential part of the practice. Try to synchronise each movement with your breath, inhaling as you lift your arms and exhaling as you fold forward.
Practice regularly: Consistency is key. Try to practice sun salutations a few times a week to build strength and flexibility.
Take a class or work with a teacher: Consider taking a class of yoga near me or working with a teacher to learn proper alignment and get feedback on your practice. Contact Emily at Mount Martha Yoga, as an experienced private yoga teacher near me she can take you through each step at your own pace.
Have fun: Remember that yoga is a practice, not a performance. Enjoy the process and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get everything right the first time. With regular practice, you will improve and deepen your practice over time.