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Surya Namaskar: India's tribute to the World

Posted by : Priyanka Asati

On : 04 June 2014

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Views : 4764

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Suryanamaskar can do to your body what months of dieting cannot. And it can do to your mind what no spiritual discourse can.

Not surprising, the world is going crackers over this ancient yogic tradition of worshipping the rising sun. What with the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham and Kareena Kapoor endorsing it over gym workouts and bizarre diets.In many cultures, light has long been a symbol of consciousness and self-illumination. "The world begins with the coming of light," wrote Jungian analyst Erich Neumann in The Origins and History of Consciousness. "Opposition between light and darkness has informed the spiritual world of all peoples and molded it into shape."


One of the means of honoring the sun is through the dynamic asana sequence Surya Namaskar (better known as Sun Salutation). The Sanskrit word namaskar stems from namas, which means "to bow to" or "to adore." (The familiar phrase we use to close our yoga classes, namaste—te means "you"—also comes from this root.) Each Sun Salutation begins and ends with the joined-hands mudra (gesture) touched to the heart. This placement is no accident; only the heart can know the truth.


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.

Practice

However old Sun Salutation is, and whatever it may originally have looked like, many variations have evolved over the years. Janita Stenhouse, in Sun Yoga: The Book of Surya Namaskar, illustrates two dozen or so adaptations (though several are quite similar). Our sequence here consists of 12 "stations" composed of eight different postures, the last four being the same as the first four but performed in reverse order. In this sequence, we'll start and end in Tadasana.

The eight basic postures, in order of performance, are:

  1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
  2. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
  3. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
  4. Lunge
  5. Plank Pose
  6. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
  7. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)
  8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

 

The transition from posture to posture is facilitated by either an inhalation or an exhalation. 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.

To perform the sequence, start in Tadasana, with your hands together at your heart. Inhale and lift your arms overhead to Urdhva Hastasana, then exhale while lowering the arms down and fold your torso into Uttanasana. Then inhale, arch your torso into a slight backbend with the fingertips or palms pressed to the floor or blocks, and exhale while bringing your left foot back into a lunge. Inhale forward to Plank, then exhale and lower yourself into Chaturanga Dandasana. On an inhalation, arch your torso up as you straighten your arms into Upward Dog. Exhale back to Downward Dog; step the left foot forward on an inhalation into Lunge. Swing the right leg forward to Uttanasana on an exhalation, then lift your torso and reach your arms overhead on an inhalation to Urdhva Hastasana. Finally, lower your arms on an exhalation and return to your starting point, Tadasana.

Remember, this is only a half-round; you'll need to repeat the sequence, switching left to right and right to left to complete a full round. If you're just starting out, it might help to work on the poses individually before you put them together.

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.

 

Click on the link below to learn the steps of Surya Namaskar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t29WWYVb7Fc&hd=1

Source:

The Art of Living Foundation

YogaJournal.com

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