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Suryanamaskar

People worshiped Sun in the ancient time, as Sun is a powerful source of vitality on the Earth. Suryanamaskar consists of the words Surya (sun) + Namaskar (salutation).

Traditional Suryanamaskar comprises of a series of 12 definite physical postures. The beauty of these postures is that they take the body through a plethora of movements, which activates and allows the practitioner to stretch and contract each and every part of the body.  The alternating backward and forward movements, combined with rhythmic breathing, flex and stretch the spinal column and the limbs to the optimal.  If combined with chanting of the Suryanamaskar Mantras, Suryanamaskar takes one on a journey of self-awareness along with, the imbibing superabundant qualities of the Sun.
The first seven postures of Suryanamaskar (as the last five postures are a repeat in the reverse order) are independent postures each, and carry multiple benefits individually.


Timing: 
It is ideal to perform Suryanamaskar in the morning at the dawn. It can also be ideally performed in the evening at the dusk. If not possible to perform during specified time, one can perform it anytime provided his or her stomach is light or empty.

 

 Suryanamaskar Posture 1: Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

Step 1: Stand with your feet together or a foot apart as per your comfort; keep your heels fixed on the floor and raise the rest of your foot off the floor, stretch the arch of the foot and place the big toe mount on the floor; stretch all your toes out, hold for few seconds and then softly place your toes on the floor (toes remain in a contracted state for a longer period of time especially among those who wear closed shoes regularly).

Step 2: Tighten your thigh muscles by slightly pushing your thighs at the back and then raising it up to the groin along with the kneecaps, engage your hips and contract it. Simultaneously tuck your stomach in too. Maintain the alignment of your pelvis (visualize the situation when you tuck your navel into your spine while trying to fit into your tight jeans).

Step 3: Inhale, puff up your chest as if you are raising it to the ceiling; raise your shoulders up towards your earlobes, push it at the back and allow your shoulder blades (checking for scapula balance) alone (not shoulders) to slide down (this will take care of the thoracic region and will keep it relaxed and tension free). Make sure you do not create extra curve at the back during this process.

Step 4: Your head is standing on your neck and your neck is standing on your spine. Keep your chin parallel to the floor; ear lobes are almost in line with the shoulders (this will take care of your cervical area and keep it aligned & relaxed).

Step 5: Maintain the alignment of your body as mentioned above. Your arms are by the side of your body. Raise your arms and bring your palms together in front of your chest. Your thumbs are resting in the middle of the chest and your elbows are parallel to the floor.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 2: Hasta Uttanasana: (Raised Arm Pose)

Step 1: Maintaining the right tension in the body, inhale and stretch both the arms in front of your chest. Make sure the upper part of the body does not lean forward as you stretch your arms in front. You may, in fact, push it slightly at the back to maintain the stretch.

Step 2: Start raising your arms upward towards your ears. This should be a slow movement. Your right biceps should be touching your right ear and left biceps should be touching left ear. Mentally check the involvement of your muscles and lengthen your whole body while pressing the middle of the heels and big toe mount and small toe mount on the floor.

Step 3: Take your whole body into backward bending by squeezing your hips inward. This bend should involve each and every part of your body from toes to the fingertips. The stretch should be felt throughout especially in the frontal side of the body.

Step 4: Your head is upright and in alignment with the rest of the vertebrae.  Knees are almost locked. Thighs are very much in line with the rest of the legs.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 3: Pada Hastanasa (Hand to foot pose)

Step 1: From position no. 2, inhale and move your arms and head back to a straight standing position (tadasana) with both the hands stretched above your head in the Namaste Mudra. Press your feet firmly on the floor and stretch your arms straight up; stretch your body up, the stretch should be felt from your toes to the fingers tips; exhale; tuck your tummy in and bend forward from the hips (bending from the hips is desirable though many people bend from the waist). Hence, the first part which protrudes out is your hips which slowly glides to the back; your arms and head are in one line; you are looking at the ceiling and bending forward. Half way to bending, stretch your hips further out and at the same time, push upper part of the body in front using your mid section and pelvis as stabilizers (which are fully stretched). Lengthen your mid section and use abdominal region to bend forward and down so that, first, your chest rests against the thighs, then comes your chin and finally your forehead against your legs. Chest should be tightly pressed against your thighs. Basically you are using your core to bend down completely.

Step 2: Try to keep your legs straight by pushing your thighs at the back and at the same time lifting your hips up to the ceiling. Do not bend at the knee.

Step 3: If possible, rest right palm at the outer side of the right leg and left palm at the outer side of the left leg. If you are comfortable in this position, move the palms further back towards your heels and rest your chin between the knees. Your front torso, chest, chin and forehead are firmly and tightly resting against your legs.

Step 4: Keeping your tummy tucked in; you are trying to slide your chest towards the ankle. Make sure the back is straight and tall and there is no convex curvature on your upper back.

Step 5: Maintain the position with normal breathing for 30 seconds to a minute.


Tips: 
Try to keep the back straight, focusing your awareness on the pelvis, the pivoting point for the stretch of the back and leg muscles.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 4: Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equastrian Pose / Riding Pose)

Step 1: Inhale and move your right leg at the back as much as possible.

Step 2: Your left knee is bent and is standing above your left ankle.

Step 3: Your palms are placed on the floor (palms are in line with your shoulders) with your arms tall and shoulders lifted up.

Step 4: Your left knee is in line with the second left toe.

Step 5: Left thigh is parallel to the floor. In order to optimize the quadriceps stretch in this position, mentally push your left bent knee forward and at the same time push your left thigh into your left groin and then your left groin down towards the floor. Also keep your right heel stretched down towards the floor. There will not be much of visible movement during this adjustment. However, visualizing and trying to do so will enhance the stretch quality of your quadriceps.

Step 6: Move your attention to your abdomen. Push your navel into your spine and start stretching your front torso starting from your navel, stretch your chest, upper back and head up.

Step 7: Chest should not be resting on the left thigh but should be separated from that.

Step 8: This is the final position of the Ashwa Sanchalanasana.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 5: Adhomukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Step 1: Exhale and move your left leg at the back. Left leg should be placed parallel to the right leg. The distance between both the legs should be 6 inches.

Step 2: Push the end of the palms on the floor; stretch your arms and lengthen it as much as possible; lengthen your armpit; press your chest in towards your thighs, tuck your tummy in towards your pelvic, thighs are rolling in; keep raising your hips up pointed to the ceiling. By now, you will feel the engagement of your hamstrings as well.

Step 3: Each and every part of your body is stretched; hold the posture with normal breathing and look at your toes.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 6: Ashtanga Suryanamaskar (Eight Body Part Contact)

Step 1: Move your body parallel to the floor in plank position first, move your body weight forward and place your knees on the floor.

Step 2: Roll your elbows in so that the folding of the elbow faces the front and your elbows are close to your body; exhale and place your chest and chin on the floor.

Step 3: Eight parts of your body – toes (2), knees (2), palms (2) , chest & chin are on the floor hence the name.

Step 4: Maintain the posture for 30 seconds with normal breathing.

Tips: While in plank position, keep pushing your palms firmly on the floor and lift your chest up as much as possible.


While bending down, keep your elbows as close as possible to your body and if possible, pressed against the body.

So called becasue eight parts of your body are in contact with the floor. This posture works on strengthening your core and arms. A strong core is a must for a strong back.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 7: Bhujangasana (Cobra)

A classical yoga posture practiced to release tension in the lower back. Bhujangasana stretches the frontal part of the body completely, improves your breathing and strengthens your back. Improved breathing, for a runner, means running without exhaustion for a longer stretch of time.


Step 1:
 Stretch your toes out on the floor, your legs are together, stretch the legs on the floor.

Step 2: Contract your hips.

Step 3: Press your thighs /pelvic area firmly on the floor.

Step 4: Press your palms on the floor.

Step 5: Inhale and while inhaling, raise upper part of your body up.

Step 6: Your hands may bend at the elbow or may become completely straight. Try and be in your comfort zone or go slightly beyond your comfort.

Step 7: With each inhalation, press the pelvic region against the floor and keep moving your chest up. Your chest is facing the sky and head is stretched at the back and very much in line with the rest of the spine.

Step 8: Shoulders along with your chest are stretched out at the back.

Step 9: Hold the posture for 30 seconds with normal breathing.


Tips: 
While moving from position 6 to position 7, keep your elbows as close as possible to your body. This will strengthen your biceps and triceps.


Mentally focus on the areas between your navel region and the chest and lift that area as up as possible while pressing your pelvic region down.

Now some of the postures from the top will be repeated in the reverse order.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 8: Adhomukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Step 1: Exhale and move your left leg at the back. Left leg should be placed parallel to the right leg. The distance between both the legs should be 6 inches.

Step 2: Push the end of the palms on the floor; stretch your arms and lengthen it as much as possible; lengthen your armpit; press your chest in towards your thighs, tuck your tummy in towards your pelvic, thighs are rolling in; keep raising your hips up pointed to the ceiling. By now, you will feel the engagement of your hamstrings as well.

Step 3: Each and every part of your body is stretched; hold the posture with normal breathing and look at your toes.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 9: Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equastrian Pose / Riding Pose)

Step 1: Inhale and move your right leg at the back as much as possible.

Step 2: Your left knee is bent and is standing above your left ankle.

Step 3: Your palms are placed on the floor (palms are in line with your shoulders) with your arms tall and shoulders lifted up.

Step 4: Your left knee is in line with the second left toe.

Step 5: Left thigh is parallel to the floor. In order to optimize the quadriceps stretch in this position, mentally push your left bent knee forward and at the same time push your left thigh into your left groin and then your left groin down towards the floor. Also keep your right heel stretched down towards the floor. There will not be much of visible movement during this adjustment. However, visualizing and trying to do so will enhance the stretch quality of your quadriceps.

Step 6: Move your attention to your abdomen. Push your navel into your spine and start stretching your front torso starting from your navel, stretch your chest, upper back and head up.

Step 7: Chest should not be resting on the left thigh but should be separated from that.

Step 8: This is the final position of the Ashwa Sanchalanasana.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 10: Pada Hastanasa (Hand to foot pose)

Step 1: From position no. 2, inhale and move your arms and head back to a straight standing position (tadasana) with both the hands stretched above your head in the Namaste Mudra. Press your feet firmly on the floor and stretch your arms straight up; stretch your body up, the stretch should be felt from your toes to the fingers tips; exhale; tuck your tummy in and bend forward from the hips (bending from the hips is desirable though many people bend from the waist). Hence, the first part which protrudes out is your hips which slowly glides to the back; your arms and head are in one line; you are looking at the ceiling and bending forward. Half way to bending, stretch your hips further out and at the same time, push upper part of the body in front using your mid section and pelvis as stabilizers (which are fully stretched). Lengthen your mid section and use abdominal region to bend forward and down so that, first, your chest rests against the thighs, then comes your chin and finally your forehead against your legs. Chest should be tightly pressed against your thighs. Basically you are using your core to bend down completely.

Step 2: Try to keep your legs straight by pushing your thighs at the back and at the same time lifting your hips up to the ceiling. Do not bend at the knee.

Step 3: If possible, rest right palm at the outer side of the right leg and left palm at the outer side of the left leg. If you are comfortable in this position, move the palms further back towards your heels and rest your chin between the knees. Your front torso, chest, chin and forehead are firmly and tightly resting against your legs.

Step 4: Keeping your tummy tucked in; you are trying to slide your chest towards the ankle. Make sure the back is straight and tall and there is no convex curvature on your upper back.

Step 5: Maintain the position with normal breathing for 30 seconds to a minute.
Tips: Try to keep the back straight, focusing your awareness on the pelvis, the pivoting point for the stretch of the back and leg muscles.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 11: Hasta Uttanasana: (Raised Arm Pose)

Step 1: Maintaining the right tension in the body, inhale and stretch both the arms in front of your chest. Make sure the upper part of the body does not lean forward as you stretch your arms in front. You may, in fact, push it slightly at the back to maintain the stretch.

Step 2: Start raising your arms upward towards your ears. This should be a slow movement. Your right biceps should be touching your right ear and left biceps should be touching left ear. Mentally check the involvement of your muscles and lengthen your whole body while pressing the middle of the heels and big toe mount and small toe mount on the floor.

Step 3: Take your whole body into backward bending by squeezing your hips inward. This bend should involve each and every part of your body from toes to the fingertips. The stretch should be felt throughout especially in the frontal side of the body.

Step 4: Your head is upright and in alignment with the rest of the vertebrae.  Knees are almost locked. Thighs are very much in line with the rest of the legs.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 12: Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

Step 1: Stand with your feet together or a foot apart as per your comfort; keep your heels fixed on the floor and raise the rest of your foot off the floor, stretch the arch of the foot and place the big toe mount on the floor; stretch all your toes out, hold for few seconds and then softly place your toes on the floor (toes remain in a contracted state for a longer period of time especially among those who wear closed shoes regularly).

Step 2: Tighten your thigh muscles by slightly pushing your thighs at the back and then raising it up to the groin along with the kneecaps, engage your hips and contract it. Simultaneously tuck your stomach in too. Maintain the alignment of your pelvis (visualize the situation when you tuck your navel into your spine while trying to fit into your tight jeans).

Step 3: Inhale, puff up your chest as if you are raising it to the ceiling; raise your shoulders up towards your earlobes, push it at the back and allow your shoulder blades (checking for scapula balance) alone (not shoulders) to slide down (this will take care of the thoracic region and will keep it relaxed and tension free). Make sure you do not create extra curve at the back during this process.

Step 4: Your head is standing on your neck and your neck is standing on your spine. Keep your chin parallel to the floor; ear lobes are almost in line with the shoulders (this will take care of your cervical area and keep it aligned & relaxed).

Step 5: Maintain the alignment of your body as mentioned above. Your arms are by the side of your body. Raise your arms and bring your palms together in front of your chest. Your thumbs are resting in the middle of the chest and your elbows are parallel to the floor.

Benefits

Suryanamaskar Posture 1: Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

  • Learn to stand correctly: Teaches you the art of standing upright. This might sound funny, as we are on our feet most of our life. Unknowingly, we get into postural misalignment, which leads to back pain, knee pain, neck pain etc. This simple, yet powerful, posture charges up our whole body.
  • Height Improvement: Improves height especially if performed from childhood
  • Back Strengthening: Pelvic alignment helps engage & strengthen back & core muscles

Suryanamaskar Posture 2: Hasta Uttanasana (Raised Arm Pose)

  • This posture stretches the frontal part of your body completely. Constant forward bending during our daily activities and lack of backward bending compresses the front of the spine. This posture gives a good counter stretch and releases the tension from that area.
  • Strong Back: The lengthening process of the spine helps engage the lower back thereby, strengthening your back and allowing smooth flow of your functional activities.
  • Thyroid & Parathyroid Glands: The posture brings an effective stretch to thyroid and parathyroid glands. Upward stretch of head from bottom of the throat gives excellent benefits to thyroid and parathyroid glands.
  • Tight Shoulders: Research shows shoulder stiffness with the aging. This stretch releases the tightness in the shoulders.
  • Lung Capacity: Improves lung capacity
  • Athletes/Runners/Cyclists: Athletes, Runners, Cyclists etc. do complain of back pain. However, more prominent in the list of complaint is tight hip flexor & tight groin (this restricts their movements especially external rotation). These areas are the support pillars which assist the body to get into backward /back bend in a rhythmic order. At the same time, backward bend practice stretches the hip flexors thereby, releasing tightness in those areas. Apart from the above, this posture also develops power and strength in the legs, core and back. It allows you to lengthen your back releasing it of the constant compression created during running.


Suryanamaskar Posture 3: Pada Hastanasa (Hand to foot pose)

  • Spine: This posture stretches your spinal column and thereby improves the flexibility of your spine. Regular practice makes the whole back very strong. It helps stimulate the digestive system thereby improving digestion. Also, stimulates the nervous and the endocrinal systems.
  • Runners: Longer holds of the posture (30-60 seconds) helps counteract some of the tightness in the hamstrings runners face on a regular basis, thereby, helps prevent many injuries. The posture strengthens the legs and at the same time improves the balance of the body.
  • Blood Circulation to head: It aids in the circulation of blood to the head.


Suryanamaskar Posture 4: Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equastrian Pose / Riding Pose)

  • In general, as we can see that this particular posture has the strength building as well as flexibility elements. So when one leg is getting stretched the other leg is getting strengthened and vice a versa.
  • Groin & Hips: This posture stretches deep iliosoas muscle and thereby stretches the groin and the hips making them more flexible.
  • Spinal stretch: Lengthens the spine, strengthens the muscles of the chest and improves lung capacity.
  • Abdominal Region: Tones and stimulates all abdominal organs (kidney, liver etc).
  • Runners:This type of lunge position will help create balance between your quadriceps and hip flexors as well as stretch them.  The bent knee is in the strengthening mode and works exclusively on the thighs, whereas, the stretched leg is in an extended mode working on stretching the back of the leg especially the calf. Legs become firmer and make a runner a better runner.

 

Suryanamaskar Posture 5: Adhomukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

  • With regular practice, downward facing dog rejuvenates your whole body.  As an inverted posture, it allows for the reversed flow of gravity and increases the flow of blood to the head and heart.
  • Arms: This posture strengthens your arms and stretches your armpit. As you start stretching and lengthening your arms, you can feel involvement of different muscles of the arms. Regular practice is bound to get strong and toned arms.
  • Upper Back: Upper back that is mostly rounded due to our day-to-day forward bending or hours of sitting feels great relief.
  • Heels & Ankles: Relieves pain in the heels; and ankles.
  • Core: As you start lengthening your arms, tuck your abdomen in and create a vacuum in your abdominal region keeping it sucked in. Also contract your anus to feel greater control in the mid section while at the same time preparing yourself for moolabandha. This will help not only toning up your core but also improve digestion.
  • Runners can look for
    • In case, you are not able to rest your heels on the floor, perform this posture with your heels against the wall and start sliding your heels down with the support of the wall. Eventually, as the flexibility of your hamstrings, calves, and shoulders improves, you`ll be able to get your heelsandyour head to the floor.
    • Adhomukha Svanasana relieves pain and stiffness in the legs, which are caused due to sciatica; relieves pain in the heels; strengthens arms and ankles.
    • With this posture, we see the lengthening effect on diaphragm, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus and gluteus maximus. Latissimus dorsi is also lengthened

Contraindications

Who should not do Suryanamsakr?

  • Pregnant women in general should not do Suryanamaskar. However, they can do modified Suryanamaskar under expert guidance.
  • Anyone suffering from back ache, neck ache or any kind of spinal problem should avoid Suryanamaskar.
  • Patient of Hernia and High Blood Pressure should avoid Suryanamaskar.
    Pada Hastanasa (Hand to foot pose)
  • People with any kind of back problem should not attempt to do this posture at all. They may end up damaging their back more.
  • Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equastrian Pose / Riding Pose): Be careful in case of any kind of knee injury or knee pain. The bent position of the knee, if not aligned well, will aggravate the pain.
  • Bhujangasana (Cobra): In case of back pain, keep the elbows a little bent;
    Stretch the upper part of the body at the back only upto  the point you feel comfortable. Don’t go beyond your limit.
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