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What's the Deal with Surya Namaskar? (Sun Salutations)☀️

June 21, 2023

With the solstice finally here, I found myself wondering about Surya Namaskar...

When was it invented?

Are there traditions involved in India that we've ignored or changed in the Western World?

Why do people practice it so many times on the Summer Solstice?

What are the known benefits of the sun salutation?

If you've ever wondered about any of these questions, then keep reading and you'll get some clarification! And if you have no idea what Surya Namaskar is, scroll down to see a video demonstration.

Lineage of Concept

Surya Namaskar was first introduced by Raja of Aundh in the 1920s. It was later popularized by a number of people, including T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda, and Swami Satyananda.

Though these asanas (yoga poses) weren't used traditionally in India, there are ancient practices for worshipping the Sun God. One tradition that continues to this day is chanting the Aditya Hridayam, a hymn for the Sun God, in all his forms. In present times, this chant is sung while practicing the modern Surya Namaskar. Aditya Hridayam describes the Sun God in his twelve forms, by twelve names, which symbolically can relate to the twelve months of the year, and today each verse is broken up with a Sun Salutation in between.

*If you are reading this and are from South Asian decent, please feel free to leave any comments about your experience, knowledge, or any misinterpretations I have made during my research!

Applicability in Life

Surya Namaskar is the most researched asana sequence to date. The physical, physiological, and psychological benefits are endless and miraculous! Many doctors now prescribe yoga, and specifically Surya Namaskar to patience because there are so many benefits for both the healthy and unhealthy.

Below are some of the benefits found in my research from patients who practice Surya Namaskar regularly (daily, or a few times a week):

  • Circulatory System:

    • moving muscles that are too often unworked, helps to pump stagnant blood back to the kidneys for cleaning and the lungs for oxygen

    • significant decrease in heart rate, body fat, cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL levels, blood glucose, insulin, and lipid levels

    • improved cardio-respiratory efficiency both in healthy and cardiac patients

  • Respiratory System:

    • enhances gaseous exchange in alveoli

    • improves the rate of respiration

  • Immune System:

    • increases production of antibodies, improving the body's immune system

  • Muscular/Skeletal System:

    • increases mobility of all joints involved

    • increase in muscle strength and endurance

    • decrease in body fat and BMI

    • significant decrease in BMR

  • Endocrine System:

    • balances circulatory, respiratory, and endocrine systems

    • massages and tones kidneys to help remove more waste and toxins from the blood and body

    • all major glands and organs are toned and massaged (increasing function)

    • stimulates brain centres and associated nerves throughout body (improving body-mind connection)

    • improves hormone production, which helps to regulate mental well-being

    • improves metabolic functioning (directly affects the mind)

Personal Experiences

I can't pretend like I've noticed the plethora of benefits listed above, but I have definitely noticed a few!

I usually do a meditation and yoga practice each morning to start my day. I definitely notice improvements in my posture, mobility of joints and muscles, and mood. Even from the first Sun Salutation to the second, I can feel my body waking up and becoming more mobile for the day. In fact, when I filmed this sample, I ended up filming a few rounds because the first round I could feel how inflexible and clunky I felt compared to the following ones. Give it a try for yourself and see if you notice a difference in your body from round one to round three!

In terms of mental well-being, I do find that regular meditation and yoga helps me to feel more grounded and in control. This doesn't mean I'm happy every day, but it means that by checking in with myself each morning, I know where I'm at when I begin the day. It helps me to keep my cool throughout a busy day because I already know if I'm feeling impatient and know I need to take extra time to breath throughout the day. For those who don't enjoy meditation, Surya Namaskar is wonderful because it works as a moving meditation, connecting body and mind.

More Resources

To learn more about yoga from South-Asian teachers follow:

Check out Susanna's commentary on International Yoga Day:

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What a beautiful way to start the day! Thank you, Element Yoga! ❤️

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