Surya Namaskara

From Conversations on the Science of Yoga – Hatha Yoga Book 4, Asana

What is surya namaskara?

Swami Satyananda: Surya namaskara is a series of twelve physical postures. These alternating backward and forward bending asanas flex and stretch the spinal column and limbs through their maximum range. The series gives such a profound stretch to the whole of the body that few other forms of exercise can be compared with it.

What is the meaning and significance of surya namaskara?

Swami Satyananda: The Sanskrit name surya here refers to the sun and namaskara means ‘salutations’. Surya namaskara has been handed down from the enlightened sages of the vedic age. The sun symbolizes spiritual consciousness and in ancient times was worshipped on a daily basis. Worship of the outer and inner sun was a religio-social ritual which attempted to placate those forces of nature beyond human control. In yoga the sun is represented by pingala or surya nadi, the pranic channel which carries the vital, life-giving force. Surya namaskara is composed of three elements: form, energy and rhythm. The twelve postures create the physical matrix around which the form of the practice is woven. These postures generate prana, the subtle energy which activates the psychic body. Their performance, in a steady, rhythmic sequence, reflects the rhythms of the universe: the twenty-four hours of the day, the twelve zodiac phases of the year and the biorhythms of the body. The application of this form and rhythm to the body-mind complex generates the transforming force which produces a fuller and more dynamic life, and a greater appreciation of the world we live in.

What are the origins of surya namaskara?

Swami Satyananda: This dynamic group of asanas is not a traditional part of hatha yoga practices as it was added to the original asana group at a later time. However, the origins of surya namaskara date far back to the earliest epochs of history, when human beings first became aware of a spiritual power within themselves that is also reflected in the material universe. This awareness is the foundation of yoga. Surya namaskara can be seen as a form of worship of the sun and all that it represents in the micro and macrocosmic levels. In yogic terms this indicates that surya namaskara awakens the solar aspects of an individual’s nature and releases this vital energy for the development of higher awareness. This can be realized by the practice of surya namaskara each morning, as well as being a fine way to pay tribute to the source of creation and life, thereby carrying on the solar tradition.

What is the purpose of surya namaskara?

Swami Satyananda: Surya namaskara is an effective way of loosening up, stretching, massaging and toning all the joints, muscles and internal organs of the body. It is an excellent group of asanas with which to start morning practice. Its versatility and application make it one of the most useful methods of inducing a healthy, vigorous and active life, while at the same time preparing for spiritual awakening and the resulting expansion of awareness.