The term Surya Namaskaara means ‘salutation to Sun’. Surya Namaskaara is an exercise sequence, which has both the physical and the spiritual aspects. On the physical side, it involves a series of aasanas or yogic postures, which provide the body with a most complete exercise. Virtually all the parts of the body, including the thoracic and abdominal organs, are exercised and rejuvenated with vitality. Spiritually, the Surya Namaskaara is method of propitiating the Sun-god and enjoying his blessings. These include faster progress in meditation, a sharp intellect, a sound health, and acquisition of spiritual wisdom. Surya Namaskaara consists of three important elements each of which needs to be carefully attended to for maximum possible benefits. If proper attention is not given to detail, the results may not be attained in full.
1. Aasanas or bodily postures: Surya Namaskaara is an exercise sequence involving twelve different body postures, as if to signify the twelve signs of the zodiac through which passage of the Sun results in the formation of twelve months of a year. This exercise involves six postures, which proceed in one direction, and another six, which mark the return to the original position. It is virtually equivalent to the Sun traversing six signs of the zodiac to give rise to one ‘ayana’ of six months and returning through another six signs to give rise to another ayana, thus constituting the Uttaraayana (the northerly course ) and the Dakshinaayana ( the southerly course). The completion of a cycle of Uttaraayana and Dakshinaayana brings the Sun back to its original position from where the next solar cycle starts. Even as the apparent movement of the Sun through the zodiac is of importance to astrologers, so also is the practice of the Surya Namaskaara to them.
2. Breathing: Yogic practices lay great stress on regulation of breathing which helps the yogi to gain control over the life force within the body as well as outside. Synchronization of breathing with physical postures is thus an important constituent of the practice of Hatha yoga. In Surya Namaskaara the different postures when correctly practiced appear rhythmical, one naturally leading to the other. The sequence of breathing, consisting of inhalation, exhalation or retention, has also been advocated as it would most naturally be during the various postures. It requires some extra attention in the beginning to be able to synchronies the breathing with the physical posture. With practice, the sequence of posture and breathing would get integrated and appear natural. Obviously, the best results from the practice of Surya Namaskaara can only be expected when the posture and the breath proceed in harmony.
3. Incantations or Mantras: Surya Namaskaara is not undertaken merely as a physical exercise though it is eminently qualified to be leveled as the most effective bodily exercise. It is practiced with a religio-spiritual intent as well. The propitiation of the Sun is one intent, and the consequent spiritual benefit accruing from a benevolent Sun the other. Each of the twelve postures of this exercise sequence is associated with a mantra or potentiated incantation. A specific mantra has to be chanted as a specific posture in the sequence is attained. It is thus a synchronization of posture, breath and mantra, all together proceeding in a sequence. Each of the mantras literally is an affirmation salutation to the Sun. But those who know about the mantras are also aware that the literal meaning of a mantra is of little consequence. It is the energy hidden in the structure of the mantra that is of significance. It produces a tremendous impact, often in a highly subtle manner, when uttered in the prescribed manner and sequence. Since the mantras here involve a form of worship of the Sun, the element of devotion becomes important. The Surya Namaskaara is thus a physical exercise (body postures) integrated with praanaayaama (controlled breathing) and devotional worship (chanting of mantra).
Mantras for Surya Namaskara are
Om Mitraaya Namah
Om Ravaye Namah
Om Sooryaya Namah
Om Bhaanave Namah
Om Khagaaya Namah
Om Pooshne Namah
Om Hiranya Garbhaaya Namah
Om Mareechaye Namah
Om Aadityaaya Namah
Om Savitre Namah
Om Arkaaya Namah
Om Bhaaskaraya Namah
Om Sri Savitra Soorya Narayanaaya Namah
The benefits of surya namaskara:
- Surya namaskar energizes the entire neuroglandular and neuromuscular system of the body and its regular practice ensures a balanced supply of oxygenated blood and perfect harmony to all the systems of the body thus involves the entire psychosomatic system of human constitution.
- Surya-namaskar is a complete exercise to all the muscles and joints of the body.
- Tones all the muscles of the body and reduces fat thereby helping to control obesity and metabolism of the body.
- It strengthens the spine and abdominal muscle to control nervous system and activity of the internal organs.
- Expands the rib-caze, increases the capacity of lungs making the breath smooth and easy.
- Activates the glands and regulates the hormone.
- Encourage the lymph drainage thereby increasing the immunity and resistance of the body.
- It increases the circulation of whole body thereby acting as an excellent cardiac workout to enhance the blood circulation and warming up the body.
- It increases concentration, memory, learning and focusing ability and vigilance.
- It is relaxing and rejuvenating, and tension, stress and anxiety melt away as you perform Surya Namaskar.
- Surya Namaskar practice stimulates and conditions virtually every system in the body. It is good for the heart and stimulates the cardiovascular system. It oxygenates the blood and helps strengthen the heart. Surya Namaskar is good for the digestive system and the nervous system. It stimulates the lymphatic system and supports respiratory system health, as well.
- Surya Namaskar is an excellent alternative to caffeine and other stimulants. If you suffer from insomnia or sleep disturbances, you will find practicing Surya Namaskar aids in helping you fall asleep without the need for depressants.