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Surya Namaskar - For the mind, body and soul

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Written by Neha Chandna - Dietician, Nutrition Educator, Exercise Counselor with an M.Sc. in Dietetics and Food Service Management from SVT. She has worked with corporates such as HDFC and Standard Chartered as well as BPOs and MNCs on the Right ways of eating and living!

Surya Namaskar or sun salutation is one of the most highly spoken of forms of exercise today because this ancient yogic ritual can do wonders for your body, mind and soul that no other exercise, spiritual course or meditation can. No wonder it's so highly endorsed by all the leading celebrities.

Surya Namaskar is usually done in the morning to express gratitude towards the sun. Sun is the source of life for planet earth. Everything we eat, drink or breathe has an element of the sun. Apart from being a great form of exercise, it also helps to build dimensions within us where physical cycles are in sync with the sun cycles.

Benefits of Surya Namaskar

  • Tones up abdominal muscles.
  • Improves digestive system and helps get rid of constipation.
  • Ventilates the lungs and oxygenates the blood.
  • Regularizes the function of all glands.
  • Stimulates the nervous system and improves focus, concentration and memory.
  • Helps you sleep better.
  • Improves skin and hair texture.
  • Prevents menstrual irregularities and menopausal symptoms.
  • Helps lose weight.
  • Improves muscle, spine and waist flexibility.
  • Helps you feel energetic and adds to the spirit of youthfulness.
  • Helps relax the organs and muscles through deep oxygenation.
  • Helps protect the heart, tone the body and calm the mind.

    How to go about it?

    Surya Namaskar is a repetition of 12 postures that need good strength and stamina. So jumpstarting a schedule is definitely not a good idea especially if you haven't exercised or stretched your muscles in ages. You need to give your body time to open up by doing some basic exercises, stretches, yoga asana, and flexibility exercises.

    Once you've reached a basic level of fitness you can start with 3-5 suryanamaskar and then gradually increase it to 10 and 20. The idea is to get each posture right, as the essence of doing this ritual lies in perfection. But one thing everyone needs to remember is that warm is extremely important before starting the postures.

  • Neck: start with moving your neck to the left while breathing in and bring it back to the centre as you breathe out. Repeat on the right and do this 3 times. Rotate the neck clockwise and anti-clockwise 5 times each.
  • Arms and Shoulders: stretch you arms in front of your chest and move your palms up and down. Close your fist and rotate them clockwise and anti-clockwise 10 times each. Place your fingers on your shoulders and rotate your arms clockwise and anti-clockwise 10 times.
  • Knees and Back: Bend your knees slightly with palms on your thighs, join the knees and move them forward and backward 5 times, then rotate the knees clock and anti-clockwise 5 times each. Now stay in that position and arch your back, hold for 5 seconds and then round the back for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times each.
  • Stomach: Stand straight with fingers interlocked and hands stretched above the head. Now raise your calves and bring them down, repeat 5 times.
  • Legs: stand with legs wide and knees straight, bend down and touch the floor, now turn your waist to your right and hold the ankle of the right leg for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.

    Now once your body is suitably warmed up, you can start with the 12-posture course on bare floor or green grass.

    1. Pranamasana (Prayer pose): Stand erect at the edge of your mat with feet together. Expand your chest and relax your shoulders. Now bring both your arms in front of the chest and join them in a prayer position. This posture induces a state of relaxation and calmness.
    2. Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms pose): Inhale, lift the joint hands up and back pushing the pelvis forwards so that the biceps are close to your ears and the back is arched, stretching the whole body. This posture stretches the chest, abdomen and spine and lifts the prana (energy) upwards to the upper parts of the body.
    3. Hasta Padasana (Hand to Foot pose): Exhale and bend forwards from the waist, keeping the spine erect. Now place both the hands on the floor beside the feet. This helps massage the abdominal organs like liver, kidneys, pancreas, uterus, ovaries and cause a good flow of blood to the brain.
    4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose): Inhale, push the left leg back as far as possible and drop it to the ground. The right knee is bent in between both the hands. Lift the spine, open the chest and look up.
    5. Parvatasana (Mountain pose): Exhale and bring your left leg back to the right, parallel to the ground and simultaneously push your hips up, keeping the arms and legs straight. Lower your head between the arms forming a mountain-like pose and try touching the heel to the floor. This pose helps strengthen the arms , calves, legs and nerves. Take a deep breath while in the posture.
    6. Ashtanga Namaskara (Salute With Eight Parts/Points): Exhale and gently drop both knees to the ground, slowly slide the body down. Bring the chest and chin to the ground. All toes, knees, chest, hands and chin should touch the floor. The butts should be up. Hold your breath. This posture develops the chest and strengthens arms.
    7. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose): On inhalation, lower the hips while pushing the chest forward and upward, elbows are bent so that the spine is arched and head is facing up. This posture helps relieve tension in the back muscles and spinal nerves.
    8. Parvatasana (Mountain pose): Exhale and resume to posture 5.
    9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian posture): Inhale and bring the right leg in front between the hands. Left leg remains back like posture 4.
    10. Padahastasana (Hand to Foot pose): Exhale, bring the left foot forward, join both the legs and resume posture 3.
    11. Hastauttanasana (Raised Arm pose): Inhale, raise the arms up and resume posture 2.
    12. Pranamasana (Salutation pose): Straighten the body, join arms in front of the chest and resume posture 1.

    Things to remember

  • Try doing Suryanamaskar in the morning on empty stomach or in the evening 2 hours after a meal.
  • After the whole workout, lie down in Shravasana on the back, with arms and legs relaxed on both the sides. Breathe deeply to feel the calm in the entire body.
  • Pregnant women should avoid doing Suryanamaskar.
  • People with arthritis, osteoporosis, slip disc, knee or back pain should consult a doctor before doing it.
  • Make sure you warm up well before doing the routine to avoid injuries.
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