Surya Namaskar is a set of Yogasanas performed sequentially along with Pranayam. A series of twelve physical postures, these alternate backward and forward bending postures flex and stretch the spinal column through their maximum range giving a profound stretch to the whole body.
Synchronizing the breath with the movements of the body is important. The basic breathing principle is to inhale during backward bending postures and exhale during forward bending postures. The alternate breathing takes place along with the movement and not after or before it. The method of performing Surya Namaskar is as follows:
Stand erect with feet together. Join the palms together in front of the chest. Concentrate on standing straight and steady. This posture helps to induce a state of introversion, relaxation and calmness. It activates the anahata chakra. Exhale completely.
Inhale while you stretch both arms over the head, palms facing upward. Arch the back and stretch the whole body while maintaining balance. This posture stretches the chest and the abdomen and lifts the Prana (energy) upward to the upper parts of the body propelled by inhalation.
Exhale as you bend the body forward and down, keeping the spine straight. Avoid collapsing the chest or slacking the upper back. Keep the legs straight and perpendicular to the ground. The knees may be allowed to bend a little if needed. This posture works out the digestive system and helps increase body metabolism. The power of digestion increases and female disorders such as prolapse and menstrual irregularities are relieved. A healthy flow of blood is sent to the spinal nerves as they are stretched and toned. The hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh and calf muscles are stretched and toned. Inversion increases blood flow to the brain. The Prana is channeled to the lower regions of the body propelled by exhalation.
- Ashwa Sanchalanasana
Inhale and extend the left leg back and drop the knee to the ground. The right knee is bent and kept between the hands and the right foot placed flat on the ground. Lift the spine and open the chest. Concentrate at the eyebrow center.
Exhale and bring the right leg back to join with the left leg. Simultaneously raise the buttocks and lower the head between the arms making a mountain. Try to place the heels flat on the ground. This posture strengthens the nerves and muscles in the arms and legs, stretches the calf muscles and Achilles’ tendons and makes the spine straight and taut. It relieves varicose veins and tones spinal nerves.
- Ashtanga Namaskara
Exhale and gently drop both knees to the ground and slowly slide the body down at an angle as you bring the chest and chin to the ground. All eight limbs – toes, knees, chest, hands and chin – touch the floor. Hold the breath. This posture develops the chest and strengthens arms.
Inhale while pushing your body away from the ground using the strength of the arms and shoulders. Take a deep breath and stretch yourself up with the face, facing the sky. Lower the hips until the spine is fully arched and the head is facing up. The knees and lower abdomen remain above the floor. Focus the awareness at the base of spine and feel the tension from the forward pull. This pose gives dynamic expansion to the organs of the chest and abdomen, relieving many ailments such as asthma, constipation, indigestion, kidney and liver problems. It is very helpful in relieving tension in the back muscles and spinal nerves.
Exhale and get back to step 5.
- Ashwa Sanchalanasana
Inhale and swing the right leg forward between the hands. The left leg remains back. Resume step 4.
As you exhale, bring the left foot forward. Join both legs and resume step 3.
Inhale, raise the trunk up and bend backward. Resume step 2.
Straighten the body and bring the hands in front of the chest to reach back to the original position.
The stated 12 steps constitute half of a complete round of Surya namaskara. To complete the exercise, perform the movements (Step 1 to Step 12) except that the right leg is brought back in Step 4 and the left foot is brought forward in Step 9 in the second round. So a complete cycle comprises of the exercises done twice. It is advised to practice up to 6 rounds in the morning and 6 rounds in the evening. When the exercises are done a little quickly, the gain is the physical endurance and when taken forward gradually, person emphasises more upon the breath awareness for mental well-being.