Surya means ‘SUN’ and Namaskar means ‘SALUTATION’. So the exact translation of Surya Namaskar is ‘Sun Salutation’. It is the act of bowing down to the sun with utmost gratitude and endurance. In ancient Indian traditions, Sun Salutations were performed at dawn with the rising sun. The sun being vital source of energy was worshipped in most traditions.
Among all the elements of nature and the divine energies, the solar energy is the most powerful and has remained untouched by any impurities. Mankind activities in recent times have adversely affected other elements like air and water causing a lot of pollution. However, the solar power is the one which cannot be contaminated. Hence for more than one reason, it is always advisable to salute the sun and be receptive for a transformation.
The sun is the main source of energy for all life on the planet, hence ‘Surya Namaskar’ cannot be considered as just another form of exercise or combination of asanas. Only with this realisation, there is a possibility of maximum benefit from the ‘SUN’ element.
The solar cycle is at about twelve and a quarter years. The 12 postures of Sun Salutations are not by accident but by intent to keep up the individual cycle in sync with the solar cycle. By being in sync with the solar cycle one can be balanced and receptive.
For most Yoga practices, the Sun Salutations have just become the practice to warm up the body and is done at the beginning of each class. It is always done in auto-pilot mode without being present with it. If the bowing down to the sun is done consciously with surrender, it can bring a certain level of devotion, meditativeness and compassion within oneself. This is when actual transformation is possible with a certain level chemistry being changed within the body.
Some of the physical benefits of Surya Namaskar are as below:
- Warms up the body, loosens the joints
- Stretches the spine in different directions
- Stretches and tones the major muscles, e.g. hamstrings, abdominal
- Improves overall flexibility
- Increases blood circulation and flow of prana
- Increase lymphatic circulation hence speeds up the removal of toxins
- Exercises cardiovascular system
- Massages the internal organs, e.g. digestive organs, reproductive organs
- Regulates the pingala nadi which is the solar energy channel in the body
- Enhances memory and concentration
- Invigorates the nervous system as spine is stretched
- Promotes good sleep and calms anxiety