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Surya Namaskara: The Significance and Benefits of Sun Salutations

Suryadev 2_4

Life is busy.

‘I sleep around 2.40 AM after putting the twins to sleep. But I have to wake up at 5AM to start my work day. I remain drowsy all day, but I must work. I can’t even take a nap after lunch. What should I do?’

My body simply rejects waking up with the sun. I remain groggy, irritated throughout the day. Do not even talk to me before I drink my coffee first.

Such snippets of conversation are not rare to hear. 

Also, every time someone young wakes up at 11 AM, the elders jocularly taunt: ‘Sleeping at the sunset, waking at the sunrise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’ but there isn’t much scientific data to prove that, is there? 

What has the sun got to do with us being healthy, wealthy, and wise? 

What does coffee (or tea) do?

  1.     Wake us up.
  2.     Yes, mostly the first one. 

How great would it be if there was a ‘subtle coffee’ that would wake us up more deeply, and more intrinsically than the physical coffee?We all constantly read about how harmful drinking too much coffee or tea is first thing in the morning. 

Then what should we do? ‘How to wake our body up in a non-harmful way?’ is the question.

The answer lies in Surya Namaskara – the ancient practice of sun worship. 

Surya Namaskara literally means salutation (namaskara) to the sun (surya). 

And that is the ‘subtle coffee’ or let’s say, the ‘pranic coffee’. Gradually, as this ‘pranic coffee’ kicks in, we realize why this ancient form of sun worship, which should ideally be done after bathing, has sustained throughout the ages. 

As we perform the 12 asanas (yoga postures) of Surya Namaskara, we literally feel ourselves waking up. Just like the sun gradually rises from the horizon, our consciousness rises from our inactive, sleepy state. This ‘pranic coffee’ not only wakes us up effectively, but gives the physical body a much-needed exercise. 

To start with, we can do the following at our own pace: 

☀️ Wake up a little early. Preferably before sunrise. 

☀️Avoid immediately lunging for the phone to check emails, messages, comments. It’s just pointless. Instead… 

☀️…. drink some water. Wash the mouth. 

☀️On any comfortable mat, facing east, do a minimum 3 rounds of  Surya Namaskara. 

The ‘what’ of it all

Human beings are composed of three bodies:

☀️The gross body (sthool shareer), which is the physical body.

☀️ The subtle body (sukshma shareer), or the body made up of emotions.

☀️The causal body (kaaran shareer), or the soul. 

The soul never sleeps. Yet, at times, it needs to be woken up. 

The physical body wakes up, along with the subtle body, which is ‘emotions’. Often, the emotions wake up first, and are hard to come under control. 

As soon as we wake up, thousands of emotions break in our minds like little soldiers at war entering an enemy zone. That is why it is considered ideal to meditate the first thing in the morning – so that the thoughts can be disciplined in the quietude of a still-sleepy body. But the body has its own psychology, so to say. So, more often than not, on waking up, the soul, the emotions and the body are going in different directions.

Simply put, the act of performing salutations to the sun does the job of synchronizing the energies of our three bodies, queuing them up before we start marching ahead for the day.

The ‘why’of Surya Namaskara A.K.A. 11 Benefits of Surya Namaskara

Of course, there are more than just 11 benefits of Surya Namaskara. But the following are the pivotal ones: 

☀️The Sun doesn’t charge membership fees: It is said that most beautiful things in life are free. Well, not really. But Nature always gives;  we need to learn how to respectfully partake from the abundance that it provides.This fantastic form of sun worship can be done with some training at home itself. All it needs is one mat, one pair of loose clothing, and our willpower. So, easy on the pocket.

☀️ Supple as a break dancer: Ever notice how a break dancer dances? Like he has no bones in the body? Regular Surya Namaskara practice opens the solar (pingala) and the lunar (idaa) circuits of our body, in the process, eliminating toxins deposited in joints and other immobile areas of our body. 

As a result of the above cleansing, with time and disciplined practice, Surya Namaskara makes the body more flexible, more supple – like a break dancer.

☀️Bye bye to back pains:  Regular practice of Surya Namaskara strengthens the spinal cord, and helps in healing back problems.

Note: Surya Namaskara should  be used only as a preventive measure for back problems, and not as a medicine. In fact, for many back/shoulder/spinal cord-related issues like sciatica and slipped disc etc., it’s better to consult a doctor before starting Surya Namaskara. 

☀️Muscular pahelwan (bodybuilder)with a twist: Surya Namaskara builds muscles, but not in a hypertrophied, overdeveloped, inflated way.  In fact, regular practice of sun salutation tones, stretches, and realigns the muscular structure of the body in such a way that it also gradually reinforces better posture and health.

☀️Breathing that can shake a mountain:  Breathing in and breathing out with every asana (yoga posture) is nothing less than a pranayama (yogic breathing technique that strengthens the body). Hence, the lungs acquire great strength with progressive practice. 

☀️Happy Hormones, Happy Us:  Owing to the combination of breathing techniques, physical exertion, and mindfulness, the increased blood flow helps the pituitary gland function better. The pituitary gland is the body’s master gland, which regulates the function of all the other hormonal glands in the body. The practice of Surya Namaskara has a direct effect on the vital centre of the body, and therefore, has a snowball effect on the effective functioning of every hormonal gland – be it the thyroid, pineal, adrenal, or reproductive glands. 

☀️Obesity killer:  The main reason everyone starts exercising initially is to lose weight – no matter if one is  morbidly overweight or not. 

The reason this benefit is in the 7th place here, and not the 1st, only shows how wholesome Surya Namaskara is as an exercise – weight loss is only ONE of  the many benefits of Surya Namaskara. A good benefit, nevertheless. 

☀️Shine like the Sun:  One of the most important benefits of a regular practice of Surya Namaskara is a taut, glowing skin.

With increase in oxygen levels of the body because of the 12 asanas, the skin gets enough oxygen to nourish itself. Regular practice of Surya Namaskara also is said to cure skin problems like vitiligo.

☀️No’ to drama, ‘Yes’ to composure:  Since Surya Namaskara must be done reverently, and mindfully, regular practice greatly improves the focus level of our minds. As a result, one develops a certain composure – of body, mind and soul.     Overreaction or too much drama takes an exit from such a person’s life, since the mind automatically learns to filter what’s good for it, and what’s not.  

☀️Sharp as a needle: If given a choice between swords and needles, we all like our minds to be sharp as swords. But what a needle can do, even a sword cannot. Because what a sword tears, a needle joins. 

Regular practice of Surya Namaskara tends to make our minds sharp  – as a needle. We do the smallest of jobs with the tiniest attention to detail. 

☀️Stomach like a cement mixture:   Anything that goes in, comes out solid and healthy. Digestive issues like diarrhoea or constipation are mainly the result of  skewed energies in the lunar-solar circuits. 

With  regular practice of Surya Namaskara, the body maintains a fabulously healthy temperature, making digestion very easy for the stomach. If the stomach is happy, so are we.


THE SECRET 12th BENEFIT of Surya Namaskara

☀️The Metamorphosis: Over a period of time, with the help of the magical sushumna naadi,(an invisible, emotional circuit of joy and bliss along the spinal column, starting from the base of the spine to the top of the head)  the pious practice of Surya Namaskara helps one gradually erase their self-destructive physical and mental habits, helping them to transform themselves into more awakened human beings.  

One notices a gradual change in their patience levels. They become more patient to their own faults, and then slowly and gradually, extend that patience to the faults of others, eventually making the world a better place.

Oh, and some other important points: 

When can one do it?

☀️ Before or during sunrise is the ideal time.

☀️ On an empty stomach. At least 3-4 hours after the last meal.

☀️Done on an empty stomach during sunset rekindles the digestive fire. 

Who can do it?

☀️Mentruating women? Yes. But it’s always better to check with a medical practitioner first. 

☀️Kids? Yes. 

☀️Older people? Yes. But the body should be listened to. No rushing in the practice of Surya Namaskar. Patience is pivotal. 

Who cannot do it?

☀️Pregnant women should consult their doctors before taking up Surya Namaskara. 

☀️High BP patients, heart patients, stroke patients, people going through ailments of the spinal cord -like sciatica or slipped disc etc., should ideally refrain from doing it. Kindly discuss with a medical practitioner first. 

☀️Patients of chronic digestive illnesses should also consult a doctor before undertaking the intensely fiery practice of Surya Namaskara. 

Surya Namaskara  is a powerful practice, and hence, should be done responsibly. It’s better to start with the asanas slowly, and then gradually build up a certain speed, but never to the point of exhaustion. 

No rushing is allowed. Stress in Surya Namaskara is a big no-no. 

As soon as one feels tired from any number of rounds, one should pause, rest and then continue, if necessary. If one is unable to do all the asanas together, the scriptures suggest that every asana be practiced separately one by one, until the body is supple enough to do all the 12 asanas together.

Surya Namaskara is not a race. It is more like a marathon. Slow and steady wins it. 

After all, it’s not only an exercise, it is also worship of the sun. 

Om Suryaya Namah

Author: Prarthi Dholakia

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