The meaning of the sun salutation in yoga

The sun salutation or sun prayer is called “ Surya Namaskar ” in Sanskrit and is a dynamic series of asanas in hatha yoga. In Surya Namaskar, 12 yoga asanas are combined with rhythmic, flowing breath and dynamic movement sequences. The movements always follow the breathing and therefore last as long as each new breath. The number 12 symbolizes the 12 hours of sunshine per day and also stands for the 12 months of the year. The flow of movement can be carried out both quickly and slowly and fluently.

Woman stretches towards the sun

Surya Namaskar is also referred to as the wheel of life and thus represents the never-ending cycle of rebirth. The sun prayer, which is named after the sun god Surya, invites us to practice the sun salutations in the face of the (morning) sun, by bathing our whole body in the life-giving rays of the sun and anchoring the activating energy of the sun within us. One thus activates Samath Prana, which is referred to as the manifestation of the sun's energy in the body.

This lively and energetic flow of movement also promotes muscle building and at the same time the flexibility of the body. The sun prayer is usually practiced before each yoga session, ideally facing the rising sun. This underscores the spiritual aspect of yoga practice: the sun enables all life on this earth and is therefore greeted with gratitude.

The well-known sun salutation evolved from a yogic practice called Surya Kriya, which describes a powerful, spiritual process of activating the inner sun . Regardless of whether you are just at the beginning of your yoga journey or already have an advanced practice, the sun salutation is accessible with modifications for pregnant women or people with back problems, for example, but also offers a wide range of possible variations for a more intensive practice. Here is a step-by-step guide: Sun Salutation Practice Guide

Surya Namaskar: Effect on body and mind

The sun salutation is traditionally practiced in the morning or before each yoga session and has numerous positive effects on your physical and mental well-being:

physically mental
  • activates the circuit
  • weight training
  • trains the respiratory system
  • promotes flexibility and at the same time strength and endurance
  • uses over 100 muscles
  • maintains the flexibility of the joints
  • especially the arm and leg muscles are strengthened
  • awakening & activating
  • gives willpower
  • provides clarity
  • stimulates the flow of energy (Prana)
  • promotes concentration and mental endurance
  • sensitizes the perception of one's own body
  • activates the "inner sun"

If Surya Namaskar is performed slowly and meditatively, flexibility is particularly encouraged and you can feel exactly which areas are stretched in the asanas. With a fast and dynamic practice, the cardiovascular system is stimulated and you train both your endurance and muscle strength. The sun salutation should be adapted to your current form and health situation and only practiced in such a way that you do not injure yourself.

Interesting study results have accumulated over the years that illustrate how yoga positively influences our entire body system and can ensure greater well-being and health. A 2016 study showed that regular practice of sun salutations can promote weight loss in those who are overweight. Also, results from a study conducted in 2011 showed that Surya Namaskar strengthens not only lung function but also heart vessels. As you can see, there are numerous reasons to practice the sun salutation regularly!

As mentioned above, it is also about activating your own inner solar energy, making your inner light shine. Besides the practice of Surya Namaskar, there are also additional yogic practices that can be helpful in awakening and cultivating that energy.

Woman meditating on rocks by the sea

Solar Energy in Yoga

  • the solar plexus: Manipura chakra is the 3rd of the seven main chakras and is located in the lumbar spine and navel area. It is an important store of solar energy in the human body. If the solar plexus is in harmony, the human being has a lot of life energy and assertiveness at his or her disposal. The Manipura chakra also controls the solar energy channel Pingala Nadi and can be stimulated by meditating on its color through repetition of so-called Bija mantras and visualizations. In this way you cultivate your inner (sun) light and draw from its energy. However, this meditation technique is not an exercise for beginners. If you are not yet familiar with meditating on objects or inner images, you can also simply imagine a powerfully radiant light in your abdomen during your meditation and let it radiate in all directions.
  • Kapalabhati - the rapid breathing/fire breathing means "luminous skull". It not only activates the solar plexus, but also provides mental clarity and relieves physical and mental tension. You can find instructions here: Yogic Rapid Breathing

  • Tratak Meditation: Trataka is actually a purification practice from Hatha Yoga, but since this meditation focuses one's full attention on a candle flame, one stimulates one's inner fire and invites the light within oneself. We have already put together detailed instructions for you on this special meditation technique: meditation to let go

  • Surya Namaskar with Mantra: The sun salutation can also be combined with the mental recitation of mantras. Exactly one mantra is spoken or mentally repeated for each of the 12 asanas . There are various mantras such as the prayer to Surya, the Gayatri or Shakti mantra.

These are just a handful of examples that you can try for yourself at your own pace. We hope that you too will let your light shine and give yourself and your body lasting well-being with the Surya Namaskar.

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