SUN SALUTATION (SURYA NAMAASKAR)
The Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskaar (surya = sun, namaskaar = salutation), is a series of 12 movements synchronized with the breath that allow
to prepare the body to the postures. Traditionally, Sun Salutation is performed before the postures but it can also be practiced separately if one does not have much time. This exercise brings flexibility and strength to more than a hundred muscles in the body and is excellent for the back and the spine.
Standing in front of your mat, feet together, arms along the body. Inhale.
- Exhale. Palms together in front of the chest.
- Inhale. Lift up your arms straight above the head. Slightly arch the upper back to open the chest, without moving the pelvis. Look up.
- Exhale. Bend forward. Bring your hands flat on the floor, aligning your toes and fingers. The forehead touches the knees. You can slightly bend the knee if needed.
- Inhale. Bring the right leg backward. Right knee on the ground. Look up. The shinbone should make a right angle with the floor and the fingers are still aligned with the toes.
- Hold your breath and step back with the other leg into the plank. Body straight. Look down.
- Exhale. Bring both knees to the floor, then your chest and the forehead. Squeeze the elbows. Hips are raised.
- Inhale. Lower your hips, stretch out your legs and feet. Lift up your head and shoulders and open the chest into the cobra.
- Exhale. Tuck your toes under. Lift up your hips, straighten your arms and come in the inverted V.
- Inhale. Step forward with the right leg. Fingers aligned with the toes. Right knee on the floor. Shinbone makes a right angle with the ground. Look up.
- Exhale. Bring back the other leg. Hands flat on the floor aligned with the toes. Forehead touching the knees.
- Inhale. Stretch your arms in front of you and slowly come back all the way up keeping the back straight. Slightly arch back. Bend the knees if necessary.
- Exhale. Lower your arms next to your body and continue with the other leg.
A full round is composed of the right leg + the left leg. Breath is always done through the nose and the abdomen. You can do between 5 and 12 rounds. Progressively, try to add some fluidity to the movements. Also, make sure that each breath goes until the end of each movement, without interruption.
When synchronized with the breath and performed slowly and with fluidity, this complete exercise activates more than a hundred muscles throughout the body. An intense heat is generated. All muscles are strengthened and stretched out, joints are lubricated, ligaments are stretched and relaxed. This dynamic warm-up also has some deep effects on the internal organs, the glands and the entire organism through its action on the main systems of the body. Here is a non exhaustive list of the physiological benefits of the Sun Salutation.
- Reinforces and stretches core muscles throughout the entire body.
- Lubricates joints, hence reducing the risk of injury at that level.
- Stretches and relaxes ligaments which then become much more resistant to effort.
- Tones up and soothes the nervous system, through the action of deep breathing on sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
- Activates the digestive system through a mild massage of the internal organs (liver, stomach, spleen, intestines…)
- Helps in case of constipation and dyspepsia (difficult digestion, heartburn)
- Strengthen the core abdominal muscles, contributing to maintain the organs in place.
- Removes blood circulation blockages in the visceral organs.
- Ventilates the lungs in depth and increases respiratory capacity.
- Optimizes cells oxygenation and carbon dioxide elimination.
- Regulates cardiac activity and stimulates blood irrigation.
- Reduces hypertension, pounding and brings heat to the extremities in case of bad blood circulation.
- Stimulates and balances endocrine glands activity.
- Increases immune system resistance against disease.
- Contributes to a restorative sleep through its soothing action on the nervous system (parasympathetic).
- Improves memory through its action on brain oxygenation.
- In women, regulates the uterus and ovaries activity, avoids irregular and painful menstruation, facilitates labour.
On a more subtle level, the Sun Salutation activates the circulation of prana (vital energy) in the entire body, especially in the chakras (energy centers) located along the spine, which corresponds to the main nervous plexuses in the physical body. It somehow explains why a series of rather mild movements, in appearance, can generate so much heat and energy in a very short time. Besides, practicing a few rounds of Sun Salutation at home, preferably in the morning, constitutes an important step for who aspires to a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. Beyond the numerous physiological benefits brought by this exercise, the practitioner will also find in this practice the necessary inner strength and balanced state of mind to deal with his daily activities in a relaxed and joyful way.