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Yoga Wisdom Teachings: The Sacredness of the Sun Salutation



SURYA NAMASKAR

What is it?

Surya means, “Sun” in Sanskrit. Surya is the Hindu god of the sun, the source of all life.

The Sanskrit word “Namaskar” stems from namas, which means "to bow" and “kar” which has been derived from the verb “kri” means “to do.” As such, “namaskar” means, “I do the act of saluting or bowing with respect.”

Together, Surya Namaskar means by practicing “I am bowing with respect to the sun, the source of all life, that resides within me".

Where does it come from?

The two oldest documented books with clear depictions of asanas are The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the oldest known hatha yoga text, and Sritattvanidhi. Although neither mentions “Surya Namaskar” in their texts, The Pradipika does mention sun-piercing breath and Sritattvanidhi does have many of the asanas done in tandem, similar to Surya Namaskara.

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The 12 Poses in Sun Salutation A with Breath

Tadasana (Mountain)

INHALE           Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)

EXHALE          Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

INHALE           Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend)

(Step back/jump back EXHALE)

INHALE           Plank Pose

EXHALE          Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

INHALE           Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)

EXHALE          Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

(Step forward/jump forward – HOLD THE BREATH)

INHALE           Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend)

EXHALE          Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) 

INHALE           Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)

EXHALE          Tadasana (Mountain)

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4 ways to Bring in the Sacred

The Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar A, is composed of 12 poses, ignited by breath and was intended to do in sequence together.

The breath during Surya namaskar is very important, as it not only guides the rate of movement, it also helps to ensure that the pose is performed fully bringing together all aspects of our Whole Being: Body, Breath, Mind, Ritual, and Presence of Spirit.

1. Begin the practice as the name intends, with a bowing and a reverence

Tadasana is the first starting pose. It is place to ground and meet yourself where you are. Just the mere act of closing your eyes and bowing your head to your heart signals to the brain to let go of thinking and move into the feeling heart space of the heart.

2. Honor the cycle of each breath

If you notice the first poses that begin the cycle end the cycle in reverse order, signaling that there’s a beginning, middle and end to this sacred cycle. To bring in more sacredness is to recognize the beginning, middle and end of every breath cycle. It slows down the mind and brings you into presence.

Ex. Inhale; beg, middle, end. Exhale; beg, middle end

3. Honor the spaces in between

Once you have created the structure and found your slow steady rhythm, for a cycle, focus on the spaces in between. Notice how different they may feel depending on the pose. Honoring the spaces in between your breath and movements will help to train you to slow down the transitions in your everyday life.

4. Imagine doing your practice with millions of others

As you begin in Tadasana, let your mind expand to think about how many people are practicing yoga at the very moment that you are. Think about where you live, your family, community, town, city, all the cities in your country, all the cities in every country, all the countries in the world and beyond. When I went to India, in the early morning, I would find people on the edges of the Ganga River, practicing in unison, honoring the day ahead, honoring the sun, bowing to the Ganga, to the gods, and to spirit. Even if you are not religious or spiritual, you can tap into that light, that energy, the unique star within you that shines brighter with more awareness, love, and attention you give to it.