Surya Namaskar (Sanskrit: सूर्यनमस्कार IAST: Sūrya Namaskāra), Salute to the Sun or Sun Salutation, is a practice in yoga as exercise incorporating a flow sequence of some twelve gracefully linked asanas. The asana sequence was first recorded as yoga in the early 20th century, though similar exercises were in use in India before that, for example among wrestlers. The basic sequence involves moving from a standing position into Downward and Upward Dog poses and then back to the standing position, but many variations are possible. The set of 12 asanas is dedicated to the solar deity Surya. In some Indian traditions, the positions are each associated with a different mantra.
The precise origins of Surya Namaskar are uncertain, but the sequence was made popular in the early 20th century by Bhawanrao Shriniwasrao Pant Pratinidhi, the Rajah of Aundh, and adopted into yoga by Krishnamacharya in the Mysore Palace, where the Surya Namaskar classes, not then considered to be yoga, were held next door to his yogasala. Pioneering yoga teachers taught by Krishnamacharya, including Pattabhi Jois and B. K. S. Iyengar, taught transitions between asanas derived from Surya Namaskar to their pupils worldwide. Variant yoga sequences such as those called Chandra Namaskar (Moon Salutation) have been created based on the original sequence taught by Pant Pratinidhi.
Etymology and origins
The name Surya Namaskar is from the Sanskrit सूर्य Sūrya, "Sun" and नमस्कार Namaskāra, "Greeting" or "Salute". Surya is the Hindu god of the sun. This identifies the Sun as the soul and source of all life. Chandra Namaskar is similarly from Sanskrit चन्द्र Chandra, "Moon".
The origins of Surya Namaskar are vague; Indian tradition connects the 17th century saint Samarth Ramdas with Surya Namaskar exercises, without defining what movements were involved. In the 1920s, Bhawanrao Shriniwasrao Pant Pratinidhi, the Rajah of Aundh, popularized and named the practice, describing it in his 1928 book The Ten-Point Way to Health: Surya Namaskars. It has been asserted that Pant Pratinidhi invented it, but Pant stated that it was already a commonplace Marathi tradition.
Ancient but simpler Sun salutations such as Aditya Hridayam, described in the "Yuddha Kaanda" Canto 107 of the Ramayana, are not related to the modern sequence. The anthropologist Joseph Alter states that Surya Namaskar was not recorded in any Haṭha yoga text before the 19th century. At that time, Surya Namaskar was not considered to be yoga, and its postures were not considered asanas; the pioneer of yoga as exercise, Yogendra, wrote criticising the "indiscriminate" mixing of sun salutation with yoga as the "ill-informed" were doing.
The yoga scholar-practitioner Norman Sjoman suggested that Krishnamacharya, "the father of modern yoga", used the traditional and "very old" Indian wrestlers' exercises called dands (Sanskrit: दण्ड daṇḍ, a staff), described in the 1896 Vyayama Dipika, as the basis for the sequence and for his transitioning vinyasas. Different dands closely resemble the Surya Namaskar asanas Tadasana, Padahastasana, Caturanga Dandasana, and Bhujangasana. Krishnamacharya was aware of Surya Namaskar, since regular classes were held in the hall adjacent to his Yogasala in the Rajah of Mysore's palace. The yoga scholar Mark Singleton states that "Krishnamacharya was to make the flowing movements of sūryanamaskār the basis of his Mysore yoga style". His students, K. Pattabhi Jois, who created modern day Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, and B. K. S. Iyengar, who created Iyengar Yoga, both learnt Surya Namaskar and flowing vinyasa movements between asanas from Krishnamacharya and used them in their styles of yoga.
The historian of modern yoga Elliott Goldberg writes that Vishnudevananda's 1960 book The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga "proclaimed in print" a "new utilitarian conception of Surya Namaskar" which his guru Sivananda had originally promoted as a health cure through sunlight. Goldberg notes that Vishnudevananda modelled the positions of Surya Namaskar for photographs in the book, and that he recognised the sequence "for what it mainly is: not treatment for a host of diseases but fitness exercise."
Surya Namaskar is a sequence of around twelve yoga asanas connected by jumping or stretching movements, varying somewhat between schools. In Iyengar Yoga, the basic sequence is Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana, Uttanasana with head up, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, and then reversing the sequence to return to Tadasana; other poses can be inserted into the sequence.
In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, there are two Surya Namaskar sequences, types A and B. The type A sequence of asanas is Pranamasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana, Phalakasana (high plank), Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Uttanasana and back to Pranamasana. The type B sequence of asanas (differences marked in italics) is Pranamasana, Utkatasana, Uttanasana, Ardha Uttanasana, Phalakasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Virabhadrasana I, repeat from Phalakasana onwards with Virabhadrasana I on the other side, then repeat Phalakasana through to Adho Mukha Svanasana (a third time), Ardha Uttanasana, Uttanasana, Utkatasana, and back to Pranamasana.
A typical[b] Surya Namaskar cycle is:
2: Hasta Uttanasana
12: Back to 1
11. Hasta Uttanasana
5. Adho Mukha Svanasana
6. Ashtanga Namaskara
8. Adho Mukha
|Step (Asana)||Mantra (name of Surya)||Translation|
|Tadasana||ॐ मित्राय नमः Oṃ Mitrāya Namaḥ||affectionate to all|
|Urdhva Hastasana||ॐ रवये नमः Oṃ Ravaye Namaḥ||cause of all changes|
|Padahastasana||ॐ सूर्याय नमः Oṃ Sūryāya Namaḥ||who induces all activity|
|Ashwa Sanchalanasana||ॐ भानवे नमः Oṃ Bhānave Namaḥ||who diffuses light|
|Parvatasana||ॐ खगाय नमः Oṃ Khagāya Namaḥ||who moves in the sky|
|Ashtanga Namaskara||ॐ पूष्णे नमः Oṃ Pūṣṇe Namaḥ||who nourishes all|
|Bhujangasana||ॐ हिरण्यगर्भाय नमः Oṃ Hiraṇya Garbhāya Namaḥ||who contains everything|
|Parvatasana||ॐ मरीचये नमः Oṃ Marīcaye Namaḥ||who possesses raga|
|Ashwa Sanchalanasana||ॐ आदित्याय नमः Oṃ Ādityāya Namaḥ||God of Gods|
|Padahastasana||ॐ सवित्रे नमः Oṃ Savitre Namaḥ||who produces everything|
|Urdhva Hastasana||ॐ अर्काय नमः Oṃ Arkāya Namaḥ||fit to be worshipped|
|Tadasana||ॐ भास्कराय नमः Oṃ Bhāskarāya Namaḥ||cause of lustre|
|Step (Asana)||Bījā mantra[c]||Chakra||Breathing|
|Tadasana||ॐ ह्रां Oṃ Hrāṁ||Anahata (heart)||exhale|
|Urdhva Hastasana||ॐ ह्रीं Oṃ Hrīṁ||Vishuddhi (throat)||inhale|
|Padahastasana||ॐ ह्रूं Oṃ Hrūṁ||Swadhisthana (sacrum)||exhale|
|Ashwa Sanchalanasana||ॐ ह्रैं Oṃ Hraiṁ||Ajna (third eye)||inhale|
|Parvatasana||ॐ ह्रौं Om Hrauṁ||Vishuddhi (throat)||exhale|
|Ashtanga Namaskara||ॐ ह्रः Oṃ Hraḥ||Manipura (solar plexus)||suspend|
|Bhujangasana||ॐ ह्रां Oṃ Hrāṁ||Swadhisthana (sacrum)||inhale|
|Parvatasana||ॐ ह्रीं Oṃ Hrīṁ||Vishuddhi (throat)||exhale|
|Ashwa Sanchalanasana||ॐ ह्रूं Oṃ Hrūṁ||Ajna (third eye)||inhale|
|Padahastasana||ॐ ह्रैं Oṃ Hraiṁ||Swadhisthana (sacrum)||exhale|
|Urdhva Hastasana||ॐ ह्रौं Oṃ Hrauṁ||Vishuddhi (throat)||inhale|
|Tadasana||ॐ ह्रः Oṃ Hraḥ||Anahata (heart)||exhale|
Inserting other asanas
Many variations are possible. For example, in Iyengar Yoga the sequence may intentionally be varied to run asanas Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Lolasana, Janusirsasana (one side, then the other), and reversing the sequence from Adho Mukha Svanasana to return to Tadasana. Other asanas that may be inserted into the sequence include Navasana (or Ardha Navasana), Paschimottanasana and its variations, and Marichyasana I.
Variant sequences named Chandra Namaskar, the Moon Salutation, are sometimes practised; these were created late in the 20th century. One such sequence consists of the asanas Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Anjaneyasana (sometimes called Half Moon Pose), a kneeling lunge, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Bitilasana, Balasana, kneeling with thighs, body, and arms pointing straight up, Balasana with elbows on ground, hands together in Anjali Mudra behind the head, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Uttanasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Pranamasana, and Tadasana. Other Moon Salutations with different asanas have been published. But unlike Surya Namaskar, the Chandra Namaskar is performed during the night.
The energy cost of exercise is measured in units of metabolic equivalent of task (MET). Less than 3 METs counts as light exercise; 3 to 6 METs is moderate; 6 or over is vigorous. American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association guidelines count periods of at least 10 minutes of moderate MET level activity towards their recommended daily amounts of exercise. For healthy adults aged 18 to 65, the guidelines recommend moderate exercise for 30 minutes five days a week, or vigorous aerobic exercise for 20 minutes three days a week.
Surya Namaskar's energy cost ranges widely according to how energetically it is practised, from a light 2.9 to a vigorous 7.4 METs. The higher end of the range requires transition jumps between the poses.[d]
A 2014 study indicated that the muscle groups activated by specific asanas varied with the skill of the practitioners, from beginner to instructor. The eleven asanas in the Surya Namaskar sequences A and B of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga were performed by beginners, advanced practitioners and instructors. The activation of 14 groups of muscles was measured with electrode on the skin over the muscles. Among the findings, beginners used pectoral muscles more than instructors, whereas instructors used deltoid muscles more than other practitioners, as well as the vastus medialis (which stabilises the knee). The yoga instructor Grace Bullock writes that such patterns of activation suggest that asana practice increases awareness of the body and the patterns in which muscles are engaged, making exercise more beneficial and safer.
- Incorporating Ashtanga Namaskara in place of Caturanga Dandasana
- As shown in the Indira Gandhi Airport sculpture, above.
- The Bījā mantras are sounds, not translatable words.
- Haskell, curious about the wide range of METs in Surya Namaskar, repeated the study (Mody) which gave the highest value; using "transition jumps, and full pushups", he obtained "agreement" with 6.4 METs.
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The ten positions of a Namaskar are repeated here and may be detached without damaging the book. The pages are perforated for easy removal.
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ŚAKTI AS MANTRA intoned in the proper way, according to both sound (Varṇ a) and rhythm (Svara). For these reasons, a Mantra when translated ceases to be such, and becomes a mere word or sentence. By Mantra, the sought-for (Sādhya) Devatb appears, and by Siddhi therein it had vision of the three worlds. As the Mantra is in fact Devatā, by practice thereof this is known. Not merely do the rhythmical vibrations of its sounds regulate the unsteady vibrations of the sheaths of the worshipper, but therefrom the image of the Devatā, appears. As the Bṛ had-Gandharva Tantra says (Ch. V):— Śrinu devi pravakṣ yāmi bījānām deva-rūpatām Mantroccāranamātrena deva-rūpam prajāyate.
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