Sun salutations – a short but the most effective practice
Sun salutation or Surya namaskar is a series of poses tied together as a sequence. It is a short yet the most effective and most familiar practice. There are many variations in the poses to add or reduce difficulty level. As far as you are maintaining the right form in each pose, it is fine to follow any variation.
Spiritually light is considered as the beginning of everything. Sun being the closest star is an important source of light and energy in our life. This sequence is a way to pray and drive energy from the sun.
Practice slowly with 3 to 5 salutations first if you are a beginner. With consistent practice gradually increase this number to 10 or 12 and so on. Traditionally 108 sun salutations are performed, however, it is not compulsory to reach that number.
A fast-paced sequence will put you in the cardio heart zone and generate heat, resulting in weight loss. A moderate pace is a good pace for better stretching and moving meditation. An extremely slow pace of the same sequence where each pose is held for 2-5 breaths can be used as a deeper stretch routine. It is important to start with a warm-up sequence allowing muscles to be ready for the full-body workout. Since the sun salutations sequence raises the heart rate level, it is equally important to cool-down safely.
Here is a complete routine to follow :
Benefits Of Sun Salutations
There are many benefits of sun salutations as it is a great combination of 7 – 10 various poses (depending on the variations). Here are a few benefits of this sequence as a whole apart from the benefits of individual poses mentioned later in this article.
- Weight loss – Sun salutation is a sequence of poses that makes you move from one pose to another relatively quickly. This results in elevated heart rate which can put you in the fat burn zone.
- Increased blood circulation – This sequence stretches muscles from head to toe, improving blood circulation.
- Energy boost – Improved blood circulation increases overall energy levels. Hence it is a recommended sequence to be done in the morning.
- Improves focus – moving from one pose to others and keeping the track of left and right side improves focus.
- Improves lung capacity – When done along with the suggested breathing patterns, this sequence helps in improving lung capacity.
- Moving meditation – Meditation is a state where you are 100% mindful or present at the moment. Sun salutation takes you easily into a trance. Hence gives you also peace of mind.
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose) –
Improves postures and sets a well-balanced starting point for the sequence. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed on both legs. Roll your thighs in to get strength through your legs. Keep your gaze in front or up towards the sky. Raised hands above help to engage abdominal muscles.
- Uttanasana (Forehead to knee/ forward bend) –
Stimulates the liver and kidneys, stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips, and strengthens the thighs and knees. Feel free to keep your knees bent here. Also do not worry if you can’t touch the ground, it is absolutely fine to place hands on your thighs or below knees.
- Ardha Uttanasana (Straight back half forward bend) –
Stretches the back. Keep your shoulders away from your ears, and extend the back. Many variations don’t have this pose included. However, I recommend this strongly for reducing the chances of any back injury.
- Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) –
Stretches the front of the thigh. Try to keep your hind leg in a way that the knee is behind your hip as much as possible to deepen the stretch.
- Kumbhakasana (Plank Pose) –
Engage abdominal muscles as well as hips. Keep your body straight like a plank of wood. Keep your body weight forward towards your hands. This pose works mainly on the core.
- Ashtanga Namaskar (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) –
This is like a tricep push up. Release knees to the ground and keeping your elbows close to your body and slowly go to the mat, touching only your chin and chest. This works great on arm strength.
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) –
Cobra is a backbend. Keep elbows bent as you lift your upper body from the belly button. Legs r firm and together on the mat. Open the chest and maintain your gaze forward or up.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)-
Downward facing dog pose is a full-body stretch. Hands are stretched, palms are spread on the mat. Raise the tail bone up towards the sky, engage abdominal muscles. If your hamstrings are flexible enough, try to straighten your legs and press heels into the mat. You can take a full breath and pause in this pose if required.
- Eka pada adho mukha svanasana (Three-legged dog Pose) –
Raise the leg up going into a half split kind of pose. This challenges your leg’s strength and balance. It also simultaneously works on your core muscles.
- Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) – another side – same as step #4
- Ardha Uttanasana (Straight back half forward bend) – same as step #3
- Uttanasana (Forehead to knee/ forward bend) – same as step #2
- Breath in and out through your nose during the entire sequence, do not hold your breath.
- Being rigorous in nature it is not recommended for pregnant ladies unless they are expert practitioners and doing it under proper guidance.
- Avoid steps 2 & 12 if you have back pain or injury.
- If you are suffering from hypertension / high blood pressure, do not go for a fast-paced sun salutation, stick to a slow pace.
- Take it slow if you are a beginner. Start with just one or two rounds and build up stamina with practice
- You are in for a good sweaty workout here, so make sure you are well hydrated. It is fine to sip on water if you need even in the middle of the practice.