Surya Namaskar is a graceful sequence of twelve asanas, poses performed as one continuous exercise.
Components of Surya Namaskar
Surya Namaskar is composed of three main elements – asana form (alignment), energy and rhythm (breath) and manthras (japa/bija). Chakras, energy centers and bandhas, locks, are not addressed in this post.
This version begins and ends with Samastithihi – translated as Even Standing. Stand lifted from the base of your spine with your feet hip-width apart. Arms are resting on either side with palms facing forward – open and ready to receive from the practice. This position is in addition to the twelve asanas of the original sequence.
One full round of Surya Namaskar consists of two sets of the twelve asanas is listed below. You may practice the Samskritham pronunciation of each asana by listening to the audio clips.
|2.||Hasta Uttanasana||Raised Hand||Inhale|
|3.||Pada Uttanasana||Forward Bend||Exhale|
|4.||Ashva Sanchalasana||Equestrian Pose||Inhale|
|6.||Ashtanga Namaskar||Eight-Point Pose||Suspend|
|9.||Ashva Sanchalasana||Equestrian Pose||Inhale|
|10.||Pada Uttanasana||Forward Bend||Exhale|
|11.||Hasta Uttanasana||Raised Hand||Inhale|
Differences in Traditional Version
- Asana #3 Variation – this asana is sometimes reffered to as Pada Hastasna (Foot to Hand) or Hasta Padasana (Hand to Foot) pose. In Pada Hastana, your hands are placed under your feet and hence considered different from this version.
- Asana #4 Variations:
- Hands placed in prayer position
- Hands placed beside the feet
- Asana replaced by Anjaneyasana – where the arms are raised upward, palms interlaced with index fingers pointed. (Bihar School of Yoga Version)
- Asana #5 is sometimes substituted with Adho Mukha Shvanasana, Downward Facing Dog. In Parvatasana, the body weight is centered and may be used as a resting pose. Adho Mukha Shvanasana the body weight is over the legs and is a very active and dynamic pose.
“Think of your body as a wind instrument. Your breath is the wind through the instrument. For asana practice, your body is the instrument through which the breath, the carrier of prana – life force flows” says Eric Schiffman. The right flow of the breath produces the right music. Similarly your breath, ignites the prana and initiates movment through exhales and inhales. This provides a steady rhythm for stretch and release.
In the begining, coordinating the movement with the breath can be a challenge. Many times I have been asked ‘how fast should sun salutations be performed?’ It is the breath that dictates the pace and rhythm of every Surya Namaskar. If you are concentrating on how quickly you are coming in and out of each pose, then you are not working with the breath.
Check colunm #4 in the above table. Do you notice a pattern for inhales and exhales? Each time the body opens up and out, the chest cavity expands and you will inhale. Each time the body folds and closes in, the chest cavity narrows and you exhale.
Start with regular breath. Once you become familar with the asanas and comfortable with the sequence, Ujjaiyi breathing may be introduced. This breath is both energizing and calming. It must be practiced separately in a seated pranayama, breathing practice before adapting it into movement. It takes a qualified teacher, mastery in transitions and disciplined practice to introduce Ujjaiyi breath in Surya Namaskar. In time you will become skillful at making breath and movement inseparably entwined. With repeated practice – Abhyasa, your concentration is refined in preparation for meditation.
Surya Namaskar Manthras
There are two sets of manthras for the traditonal Surya Namaskar – bija or seed manthra. and Japa Manthra, which is essentially a longer version of the bija mantra. You may practice the Samskritham pronunciation of each Japa manthra by listening to the audio clips.
|#||Asana||Japa manthra (Sanskrit)||Japa Manthra (English)||
Salutations to the One Who
|1.||Pranamasana||ॐ मित्राय नमः||AUM Mitraya Namaha||Befriends all|
|2.||Hasta Uttanasana||ॐ रवये नमः||AUM Ravaye Namaha||Causes change|
|3.||Pada Uttanasana||ॐ सूयार्य नमः||AUM Suryaya Namaha||Source of Creation|
|4.||Ashva Sanchalasana||ॐ भानवे नमः||AUM Bhanavay Namaha||Illuminates|
|5.||Parvatasana||ॐ खगाय नमः||AUM Khagaya Namaha||Moves in the sky|
|6.||Ashtanga Namaskar||ॐ पूष्णे नमः||AUM Pushnay Namaha||Giver of strength and nourishment|
|7.||Bhujangasana||ॐ हिरण्यगर्भाय नमः||AUM Hiranyagarbhaya Namaha||Golden Cosmic womb|
|8.||Parvatasna||ॐ मरीचये नमः||AUM Marichaye Namaha||Powerful rays of the Sun|
|9.||Ashva Sanchalasna||ॐ आदित्याय नमः||AUM Adityaya Namaha||Son of Cosmic Mother, Adithi|
|10.||Pada Uttanasana||ॐ सवित्रे नमः||AUM Savitray Namaha||Beneficial to all|
|11.||Hasta Uttanasana||ॐ अर्काय नमः||AUM Arkaaya Namaha||Source of Life Energy|
|12.||Pranamasana||ॐ भास्कराय नमः||AUM Bhaskaraya Namaha||Guides to Enlightenment|
|#||Asana||Poses||Breath||Bija Manthra Sanskrit||
Bija Manthra English
|1.||Pranamasana||Prayer Pose||Exhale||ॐ ह्राम्||AUM Hram|
|2.||Hasta Uttanasana||Raised Hand||Inhale||ॐ ह्रीम्||AUM Hrim|
|3.||Pada Uttanasana||Forward Bend||Exhale||ॐ ह्रुम्||AUM Hrum|
|4.||Ashva Sanchalasana||Equestrian Pose||Inhale||ॐ हैृम्||AUM Hraim|
|5.||Parvatasana||Mountain Pose||Exhale||ॐ ह्रौम्||AUM Hraum|
|6.||Ashtanga Namaskar||Eight-point Pose||Suspend||ॐ हृह||AUM Hraha|
|7.||Bhujangasana||Cobra||Inhale||ॐ ह्राम्||AUM Hram|
|8.||Parvatasna||Mountain Pose||Exhale||ॐ ह्रीम्||AUM Hrim|
|9.||Ashva Sanchalasna||Equestrian Pose||Inhale||ॐ ह्रुम्||AUM Hrum|
|10.||Pada Uttanasana||Forward Bend||Exhale||ॐ हैृम्||AUM Hraim|
|11.||Hasta Uttanasana||Raised Hand||Inhale||ॐ ह्रौम्||AUM Hraum|
|12.||Pranamasana||Prayer Pose||Exhale||ॐ हृह||AUM Hraha|
You will find several versions of Surya Namaskar such as Surya Namaskar A and B by Beryl Bender Birch, especially in Ashtanga yoga. Here the number of asanas in the each sequences varies – 10 (A) or 18 (B). These are used as warm-ups in many yoga studios. Adding other asanas into the traditional sequence called Vinyasa flow is popular as well. Once you have mastered the original sequence, you will be able to expand the vinyasa safely.
However, if you are choosing to make Surya Namaskar a spiritual practice, then begin with the traditional sequence with the bija/japa manthras. Add the Ujjaiyi breath and learn how to focus on chakras and bandhas (advanced practices) to enhance concentration, Dharana and prepare for Dhyana, meditation.
Next Post: Surya Namaskar Abhyasa