The New Year has got us all working on our Sun Salutes, the Surya Namaskaras. For many yogis, the Surya Namaskara remains to be the single-most mainstay of their practice. For me, the Surya Namaskar, not only remained as a mainstay, it remained as a central point of assessment – a touchstone, a mantra, a pivot – a representation and expression of my practice and my being. At first, I approached it with awe, a few ‘days’ later, I experienced resentment. Weeks later, there was resignation, followed by accomplishment, pride, humility and once again, a renewed sense of awe – at its simplicity … and profound depth. If you’re wondering what the tribute is about, please read on, for a brief glimpse into what really goes into the working of the humble, yet mighty Surya Namaskara.
On a very primitive level, the sun salutation may be considered as a series of postures typical of yoga. However, a closer observation takes us deeper into the practice on various levels – physical, anatomical, physiological, energetic and eventually spiritual. The simplicity of the practice adds ground to the balance of seeking constant change in the face of repetitive movements as compared to the balanced calm that comes from the unrelenting repetitive nature of the posture cycles.
Surya Namaskaras are a complete exercise in themselves – the dynamic cycles encourage systemic circulation, detoxification, warmth and improved cardiovascular function. Coordinated left-right postural alignment brings to balance both hemispheres of the brain. The practice also replicates a form of physiological ‘pump’ of sorts through the various postures – the improved blood circulation to all the internal organs also improves endocrine functioning.
Coordination is not just a mental activity, it actively uses our nervous pathways and the sun salutations enhance the own nervous system in various ways depending on the structure of surya namaskara that is practiced.
Where the Shivananda style Surya Namaskars may be more steady in approach, the Ashtanga styles are more dynamic and include a larger aspect of the cardiovascular stimulating ‘vinyasa’ that creates a flow, builds strength and, for all practical purposes, increases the calorific expenditure by generating heat.
Spinal integrity is one element that is not compromised in whichever Surya Namaskara one practices. The flexion-extension alternation in all postures accompanied by the coordinated inhale-exhale are a beautiful duet of ancient wisdom blending with what we know today as contemporary science.
Better still is to witness how yoga has arrived today to our relevance. The current century is paced quite fast, you would agree, and even in the midst of all the chaos and imbalance, the very humble Surya Namaskara is able to present itself as an alternative to address many of our so-called ‘lifestyle’ disorders – stress, backache, diabetes, thyroid imbalances, fatigue, digestive disorders, menstrual complaints, infertility…. the list is endless. And if you’re thinking pregnancy, which is not a disorder, yes, Surya Namaskara is there for mothers-to-be too.
Luvena Rangel, RYT200, a1000yoga