How to salute the sun

Surya namaskara is a sequence of yoga asanas, better known as the salute to the sun (or sun salutation). In virtually any yoga class you attend you can be assured you will practise surya namaskara or at least some of its core postures.

The salute to the sun has many benefits. It mobilises the entire body and gets the joints loose and the blood flowing. It’s no wonder that surya namaskara makes a great warm up exercise.

Surya namaskara can be performed quickly – one round in about 10-15 seconds – to achieve a more physical workout. Or it can be performed slowly – 40 to 50 seconds per round – to allow you to achieve some of the deeper benefits of yoga.

Traditionally, the sun salutation sequence consists of a series of  8 postures (some of which are repeated). However, there are a number of variations that can be incorporated into the sequence to make the practice more challenging (For instance adding chaturanga and warrior one and two). Regardless, in all surya namaskara sequences, movement should be correlated with the breath.

Here is a 10 step sequence of the traditional salute to the sun.

  1. Namaskara – hands in prayer at sternum. Inhale and raise the arms over the head and go into a gentle back bend
  2. Exhale into uttanasana, forward bend
  3. Inhale, lunge – step the right foot back, with the knee and toes on the floor. The left knee should be bent and directly above the left ankle. Hands placed on the floor under the shoulders.
  4. Hold the breath going into plank – step the left foot back next to the right. Bring your shoulders forward so they are above the wrists.
  5. Exhale, ashtanga – eight limbed pose. In this, eight parts of the body – chin, two hands, chest, 2 knees and 2 feet should be touching the floor.
  6. Inhale, cobra. Scoop the chest up and straighten the arms.
  7. Hold the breath going into downward dog. Lift the knees up and bring the heels so they come towards the mat. Your body should look like an inverted letter ‘V’
  8. Exhale, lunge forward with the right leg.
  9. Inhale, step the left foot next to the right and go into uttanasana
  10. Exhale, bringing the hands over the head and then coming back into namaskara

Surya namaskara has ancient origins and is traditionally performed facing the sun. Fourteen rounds are performed following the above sequence, accompanied with mantras as a prayer to the sun god, Surya. The mantras are chanted in Sanskrit and as you can see from the English translation below, the purpose is to literally honor and give salutations to the sun:

OM RHAM MITRAYA NAMAHA (Rham is the Beeja Mantra, Salute to the friend of all
OM RHIM RAVAYE NAMAHA (to the shining one)
OM RHUM SURYAYA NAMAHA (to one who induces activity)
OM RHAIM BHANAVE NAMAHA (to one who illumines)
OM RHOUM KHAGAYA NAMAHA (to one who moves quickly in the sky)
OM RHAH PUSHNE NAMAHA (to the imparter of strength)
OM RHAM HIRANYAGARBHAYA NAMAHA (to the golden cosmic self)
OM RHIM MARICHAYE NAMAHA  (To the lord of the dawn)
OM RHUM ADITYAYA NAMAHA (to the son of Aditi, the cosmic mother)
OM RHAIM SAVITRE NAMAHA (to the Lord of creations)
OM RHOUM ARKAYA NAMAHA (to the one who is fit to be praised)
OM RHAH BHASKARAYA NAMAHA (to the one who leads to enlightenment)
OM SHRI SAVITRE SURYANARAYANAYA NAMAH

The complete Mantra:

OM RHAM RHIM RHUM RHAIM RHOUM RHAH, MITRA RAVI SURYA BHANU KHAGA PUSHAN HIRANYAGARBHA MARICHI ADITYA SAVITRU ARKA BHASKAREBHYO NAMO NAMAHA.

So now that you know what surya namaskara is all about, why not give it a go? Do it as fast or as slow as you want or maybe give it a traditional or modern spin. The choice is yours!

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Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph is an accredited yoga teacher who loves to share her yogic journey from travels in India, cleansing techniques, her favourite poses and their benefits and tips to remember when practising.

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