Surya Namaskar is a fundamental asana sequence within the yogic tradition dedicated to paying respect or showing gratitude for the sun for giving earth life. Surya Namaskar is often translated to Sun Salutation, but it really means much more than that! Named for the sun or solar deity, Surya, as its known in hinduism, combined with the Sanskrit word Namaskar, which stems from “namas” and means ‘to bow to’ or ‘to adore.’ You may recognize a similar word, Namaste, a familiar phrase often used at the end of yoga classes. Namaste literally means, “I bow to you.” Similarly, Surya Namaskar means bowing to the sun, but it is infused with devotion or spiritual expression, and the effects can be felt through frequent practice of Sun Salutations.
Aside from the history and meaning behind Surya Namaskar, Sun Salutations will introduce beginners to many important principles of yoga. It will teach you to let your breath lead the movement, and it will connect the body with the breath to determine your pace. You will also learn to quiet the mind while practicing this sequence, and perhaps you will even be able to connect to the divine, or your interpretation of it.
I recommend starting with Surya Namaskar A, one of the earliest known sun salutation sequences detailed in the Yoga Makaranda in 1934 by T. Krishnamacharya, the father of modern hatha yoga. Krishnamacharya taught the sequence to his students, some of which have become very well known and internationally recognized teachers of yoga: K. Pattabhi Jois (founder of Ashtanga Yoga), B.K.S. Iyengar (founder of Iyengar Yoga), and Indra Devi (the first Western woman to teach yoga around the world). These figures spread Krishnamacharya’s teachings (as well as their own) to inspire and influence the Western development of yoga, which makes Surya Namaskar A an integral part of the modern yoga tradition. It is practiced five times in the Ashtanga Primary series!- and it is also included within many vinyasa yoga classes, as well as within other yoga practices.
You can practice sun salutations at any time of the day, but Surya Namaskar is really the perfect morning practice. It helps awaken the body and focus the mind. The morning is also the perfect moment to set an intention for the day, to help deepen your meditation and to build a mood for the day. Surya Namaskar A increases your energy, so for this reason, if you need a pick me up mid-day, do a couple of salutations for the perfect remedy.
The following graphics detail this 12 posture sequence.