Surya Namaskar or salutations to the Sun is essentially the worship of the Sun God. The Sun is the source of all energy and a prayer to him every day, early in the morning is believed to bestow one with unlimited energy. We find mention of this practice in ancient Indian texts like the Rigveda, in the Chapter “Trucha – Kalpa – Namaskarah – Rugvediya Nityavidhi”, as also in the Puranas. Nityavidhi means tasks to be performed daily.
The Surya Namaskar accompanied by Aumkar (articulating the ‘Aum’) is an all round exercise which is believed to keep the body and mind in a state of well being.
Modern Sports and Medical Sciences relating to Health and Sports analyse benefits of exercises by calculating Strength, Endurance, Core stability, Elasticity, Flexibility of the body and Power of the mind. The Surya Namaskar exercises done with Aumkar are supposed to meet these Norms.
The human body has a network of various systems, which are interlinked and controlled by the brain. Everything is fine while the systems run smoothly. A healthy body is prepared to fight back in the case of an attack on its systems. Extensive research on the subject has proven that the Surya Namaskar effectively strengthens the efficient working of human body systems.
Sound frequencies generated by Aumkar are soothing for the body, vocal cords vibrate and speech quality improves. Done with full devotion, the Surya Namaskar exercise helps the body to withstand stress and strain of daily work with ease.
If we trace the tradition of the Surya Namaskar in India during last four hundred years, clear references are available in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Kerala and Bengal.
Yoga experts have published books on the Surya Namaskar. Ramadasa Swami travelled all over Maharashtra, built Hanuman temples and motivated young people to practise salutations to the Sun as a daily form of exercise. Pandit Satavalekar (Pardi), Kakasaheb Masurkar, Pantapratinidhi Raja of Aundh propagated this exercise on a large scale. Swami Vivekanand also regularly performed the Surya Namaskar.
His followers – volunteers working in the Swami Vivekanand Kendra, Kanya Kumari’s centres all over India – actively promote the Surya Namaskar, even today. Dr Dean Ornish, in his book ‘Reversing the heart attack’, has underlined the importance and usefulness of the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) for the human heart. Swami Sivanand has written a book, ‘Companion to Yoga’, in which he has stressed the utility of the Surya Namaskar for the human body. The Surya Namaskar is performed regularly in his Ashrams.
Many Non-Governmental Organisations in India and abroad are dynamically working for the awareness of the Surya Namaskar. The Defense Department of India has taken up a Research Programme on the Surya Namaskar and the first report with positive results was published in April 2004. The Singapore Sports Council, where candidates come for training from all over the world, has accepted this exercise as a warm-up and cool down exercise after carrying out scientific measurements in May 2005.
It is believed that 20 minutes daily of Surya Namaskar can gain 20 more years of Healthy life.
What makes the Surya Namaskar an ideal exercise?
- It can be performed in a small space and at a convenient time.
- No partner is needed. No special outfit is needed.
- Anyone from age 6 to 76 and more can perform it.
- The number of Surya Namaskaras to be performed can be decided as per one’s capacity. Today there are people performing 100 to 300 namaskars every day.
- Ten poses of one Surya Namaskar link seven Yoga asanas.
- The deep breathing helps increase breathing capacity.
- Helps reduce abdominal fat and weight, strengthens vertebral column and back muscles.
- All muscles remain supple and active.
- Keeps joints (ankle, knee, hip, wrist, elbow, shoulder, neck) free and active.
- Exercises all limbs of the body, uniformly and simultaneously.
- Builds up body resistance to fight diseases (Immunology)
- Mantra-pathan (recitation) keeps mind fresh, includes the habit of concentration increasing intellectual grasping power.
- Best hour to perform the Surya Namaskar exercise is at Sunrise.
- It should be done on an empty stomach.
- Some warm up exercises like skipping, jogging on the spot and waving hands etc. should be done for few minutes before starting the Surya Namaskaras.
- It is important to wear loose-fitting clothes.
- The place should be well ventilated.
- Do not perform Surya Namaskaras without proper guidance. There are more than thirty types of Surya Namaskaras with little variations in India. However, the fundamentals remain the same.
Writer- Bhau Joglekar Copy Edited by- Ankita Badoni, Alice Agarwal