I’m sharing some of the deeper aspects of Sun Salutations known in Sanskrit as Surya Namaskar.
I owe much of my deeper knowledge of this practice to Richard Rosen, so let’s start with a few quotes from him.
“It might seem strange to us that the yogis place the seat of wisdom in the heart, which we typically associate with our emotions, and not the brain. But in yoga, the brain is actually symbolized by the moon, which reflects the sun’s light but generates none of its own. This kind of knowledge is worthwhile for dealing with mundane affairs, and is even necessary to a certain extent for the lower stages of spiritual practice. But in the end, the brain is inherently limited in what it can know and is prone to what Patanjali calls misconception (viparyaya) or false knowledge of the self.”
“Since the sequence is, in essence, a humble adoration of the light and insight of the self, it’s essential to practice Sun Salutation in a spirit of devotion and with your awareness turned always inward toward the heart. Make each movement as mindful and precise as possible, especially as you near the end of your rounds, when fatigue can lead to sloppiness.”
“Success with Sun Salutation, as with all aspects of yoga practice, depends on commitment and regularity. An everyday practice would be best, but you might at first aim for four times a week. If possible, don’t skip more than a couple of days in a row, or you might end up back at square one.”
“As you move through the sequence, watch your breath closely. Slow your pace or stop and rest entirely if your breathing becomes labored or shuts down altogether. Always breathe through your nose, not your mouth: Nasal breathing filters and warms incoming air and slows your breathing down, thereby lending the sequence a meditative quality and reducing the risk of hyperventilation.”
MIND-BODY BENEFITS OF SUN SALUTES
Regular practice of Sun Salutation benefits your body with:
-Increased blood oxygenation by copious lung ventilation and this is great news for your heart.
-Stretches and tones your muscles keeping them supple and flexible.
-Clears your elimination channels helping your body rid itself of toxins. -This is especially good in the morning after many hours of lack of movement during sleep (the lymphatic system eliminates toxins through movement).
-Stimulates and tones your Endocrine system (especially the Thyroid, the master gland that controls all the other glands).
-Tones up the internal abdominal organs by alternate stretching, compression cycles that results in better digestion and bowel movement.
Increases spine and waist flexibility.
The mental benefits of Sun Salutation are similar with meditation. You can look at Sun Salutation as meditation in movement. It is not random that Tai-Chi (Chinese) or Kata in Karate, have a similar focussed mind on movement approach at the core of their practice.
Sun Salutation helps to:
-Increase your mental focus and concentration.
-Reduce depression, anxiety and stress by reducing key markers like Cortisol.
-Increase the quantity of “good mood” neurotransmitters like Serotonin.
-Increase mind to body coordination which is very good especially for older persons.