Sun Salutation (Classic)

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is a sequence of 12 poses that have a wide range of benefits for the body and the mind as well. The poses stretch the body both forward and backward, giving it a really good stretch. Surya Namaskar also includes poses that strengthen the muscles and thus balance flexibility with strength. Why are the poses 12? Because they relate to the 12 months of the year. The earthly months are related to the moon and the earthly year is related to the sun. The Sun Salutation, just like all asanas of Hatha Yoga aim at balancing the energies of the sun and the moon in the body, Chitta Shakti (mental energy that represents the moon) and Prana Shakti (vital energy that represents the sun) that flow through Ida and Pingala Nadis (the left and right energy channels).

The 12 poses of the classical Sun Salutation are:

  1. Pranamasana (Salutation pose) | exhale |
  2. Hastha Uthanasana (Raised arms pose) | inhale |
  3. Pada Hastasana (Hand to Foot pose) | exhale |
  4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Rider’s pose) | inhale |
  5. Parvatasana (Mountain pose) | exhale |
  6. Ashtanga Namaskara (8 points salutation pose) | holding the breath |
  7. Bhunjangasana (Cobra pose) | inhale |
  8. Parvatasana (Mountain pose) | exhale |
  9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Rider’s pose) | inhale |
  10. Pada Hastasana (Hand to Foot pose) | exhale |
  11. Hastha Uthanasana (Raised arms pose) | inhale |
  12. Pranamasana (Salutation pose) | exhale |

(Update with photos and Youtube video coming up soon).

The Sun Salutation can be practiced by shifting the awareness to the three basic yogic layers of the body.

  1. The first one is the Annamaya Kosha or the physical body. Beginners start practicing the Sun Salutation by concentrating on deepening into each pose (asana) trying to perfect and learn the technique.
  2. The second one is Pranamaya Kosha or the body of energy (Prana or Chi). In this stage, the physical poses have been mastered and one does not need to concentrate fully on performing them, instead the focus now is on the breath that becomes aligned and synchronized with the poses (asanas).
  3. The third one is the Manomaya Kosha or the body of the mind (the mental/causal principle). Swami Vivekananda, a famous Indian yogi and philosopher once said that when the mind realizes its source, it becomes enlightened. Tantra is the original philosophical/yogic system that focuses on mental techniques such as mantra. For each pose of the Sun Salutation there is a corresponding beeja (seed) mantra and also a  normal mantra. These are practiced with simultaneous concentration on specific chakras for each pose.

 

Stimulating the Nadis

Surya Namaskar is practiced by first extending the right leg back in pose 4. This stimulates the Pingala Nadi, the right channel of energy in the body that is responsible for physical energy and vitality (prana shakti). If practiced by extending the left leg back first, then the exercise affects the Ida Nadi, the left channel of energy in the body that is responsible for the mental energy (chitta shakti). Generally it is recommended to always start with the right leg. This is an advice given to us also when practicing Yoga Nidra, a relaxation technique where we start by shifting the awareness to the right part of the body first. I assume that the reason to that is that the left side makes one more introverted and closed. As we are living in a society prone to mental illnesses, depressions, anxieties etc, fortifying chitta shakti may worsen these problems. That’s my personal conclusion from the books I’ve read and the seminars I’ve attended.

 

Differences between the Sivananda and Satyananda Sun Salutation

Two of the oldest systems that use the Classical Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) are the Satyananda school and the Sivananda school. Satyananda was a disciple of Sivananda, so he must have been very influenced by his yoga. The two salutations have only few minor differences:

  • In Sivananda Yoga, Pose 5 is practiced as the plank pose and not as the mountain pose (Parvatasana).
  • In Sivananda Yoga, the toes in poses 4, 9 and 7 remain pointed, with the top of the foot touching the floor. While in Satyananda yoga the ball of the foot remains on the floor. However, there are sources, like the Divine Life Society, where the toes are placed like in Satyananda Yoga.
  • In Sivananda Yoga the right leg goes back into the riders pose while descending but then the left leg remains back in riders pose while ascending. Both Sivananda and Satyananda techniques start with the right leg back, that stimulates the Pingala Nadi. The difference is that in the Satyananda technique exactly the same pose (with the right leg back) is repeated while ascending. In the Sivananda variation the left leg stays back while ascending.

 

Surya Beeja Mantras and Chakras for concentration

The beeja mantras and the chakras for each pose are:

  1. Om Hraam | Anahat
  2. Om Hreem | Vishuddhi
  3. Om Hroom | Swadisthan
  4. Om Hraim | Agya
  5. Om Hraum | Vishuddhi
  6. Om Hraha | Manipur
  7. Om Hraam | Swadisthan
  8. Om Hreem | Vishuddhi
  9. Om Hroom | Agya
  10. Om Hraim | Swadisthan
  11. Om Hraum | Vishuddhi
  12. Om Hraha | Anahat

 

The 12 Surya Mantras

Here are the “normal” (vedic?) mantras:

  1. Om Mitraya namah (The friend of all)
  2. Om Ravaye namah (The radiant one)
  3. Om Suryaya namah (The one who brings activity)
  4. Om Bhanave namah (The one who illuminates)
  5. Om Khagaya namah (The one who moves through the sky)
  6. Om Pushne namah (The nourisher of all)
  7. Om Hiranyagarbhaya namah (The creative golden cosmic self)
  8. Om Marichaye namah (The one who possesses rays)
  9. Om Adityaya namah (The son of Aditi)
  10. Om Savitre namah (The one who produces everything)
  11. Om Arkaya namah (The one who deserves praise)
  12. Om Bhaskaraya namah (The one who is the cause of lustre)

 

There are various websites that suggest these mantras can be practiced by adding the corresponding beeja mantra to them for example: Om Hraam Mitraya namaha etc. This would probably increase the potency of the mantra.

Disclaimer: It is not recommended to practice any form of yoga without a teacher. Even with a teacher, there is always a possibility of an injury or something going wrong. The content of this website is for informational and reference purposes only. If you decide to practice any of its practices with or without a teacher, you do so at your own risk.