The Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)

In Hindu mythology, the sun god, Surya,  is worshipped as a symbol of health and immortal life. The Rig Veda declares that “Surya is the Soul, both of the moving and unmoving beings”. The Sun Salutation originated as a series of prostrations to the sun. Traditionally, it is performed at dawn, facing the rising sun. In time, each of the twelve positions came to have its own mantra, each celebrating an aspect of the sun’s divinity.

The Sun Salutation is a graceful sequence of twelve positions performed as one continuous exercise. Each position counteracts the one before, stretching the body in a different way and alternately expanding and contracting the chest to regulate the breathing. Practised daily, it brings great flexibility to spine and joints and keeps the waist trim. It limbers up the whole body in preparation for the asanas (postures) as taught by Swami Vishnudevananda.

One round of Sun Salutation consists of two sequences, the first leading with the right foot in positions 4 and 9, the second leading with the left. Keep your hands in one place from positions 3 to 10 and coordinate your movements with your breathing. Start by practising four rounds and gradually build up to twelve rounds.

Step 1: Stand erect with feet together and hands in prayer position in front of your chest. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed. Exhale.

Step 2: Inhaling, stretch your arms up and arch back from the waist, pushing the hips out, legs straight. Relax your neck.

Step 3: Exhaling, fold forward, and press your palms down, fingertips in line with toes – bend your knees if necessary.

Step 4: Inhaling, bring the left (or right) leg back and place the knee on the floor. Arch back and look up, lifting your chin.

Step 5: Retaining the breath, bring the other leg back and support your weight on hands and toes.

Step 6: Exhaling, lower your knees, then your chest and then your forehead, keeping your hips up and your toes curled under.