11 Tips to Better Sun Salutations
Are you practicing Sun Salutations? Want to brighten up your experience even more? Here are some simple and practical tips that can help make your Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) experience complete and blissful. Happy Sun Saluting!
Tip 1: Warm up the body before you start Surya Namaskar
It is a good idea to do some gentle warm-up stretches before you start with the Surya Namaskar rounds. This helps remove restlessness in the body and prepares it for Surya Namaskar yoga postures.
Tip 2: East or West?
Where to face while doing Surya Namaskar? Do it facing the East direction if you are doing Sun Salutation in the morning and the West direction if you are doing it in the evening.
Tip 3: Add the attitude of gratitude
It makes a big difference! You will be able to enjoy your stretches much more. That smile can keep the energy going.
Tip 4: Do your Surya Namaskars gracefully
This becomes important when you strive to achieve a higher target of Surya Namaskar rounds (some people may even go up to 108 sun salutations). Even when you pick up the pace, don’t do the poses with a jerk or with force. Allow the postures to flow gently and gracefully one into the other.
Tip 5: Keep a smile on your face
It makes a big difference! You will be able to enjoy your movement much more. That smile can keep the energy going.
Tip 6: Do your Surya Namaskars with awareness
This is a very essential element in the entire practice. Surya Namaskar could be very energizing (believe it or not!) if done with gratitude, grace, at a slow pace and with awareness on the breath. For example, in the Ashtanga Namaskara (6th pose), the solar plexus corresponding to the navel chakra, the reservoir of energy, gets activated, releasing a lot of energy in the body, making us feel very energetic. If done with proper awareness, one can feel the flow of energy starting from the navel chakra to the entire body.
Tip 7: Breathing Should Be Natural
While doing Sun Salutation, breathe normally (not in Ujjayi). Also, breathing should not be forceful. Breathe slowly, gently, and effortlessly, with awareness on each breath that you inhale and exhale. Try and keep the breath in harmony with every body movement.
Tip 8: Surya Namaskar is best done with mantra chanting
Through their power of vibration, the Sun Salutation and mantras have a subtle yet powerful and penetrating effect on the mind and body. Each of the 12 Surya Namaskar poses have 12 corresponding mantras recited in honor of the Sun. Further, as you do each posture, take your attention to the particular chakra (12 chakras for every posture). For example, in the first pose (Namaskarasana), we take our attention to the Anahata Chakra located at the heart level. Doing your Sun Salutations with mantra chants and awareness on chakras, adding a feeling of gratitude, adds a profound spiritual and meditative aspect to your practice.
Tip 9: Surya Namaskar can be a warm-up or a stand-alone practice
The latter works best for those who are pressed for time. A few rounds of Sun Salutation can provide a comprehensive body workout in a span of 10-15 minutes! As a routine practice, 6 sets or 12 rounds of Sun Salutation are sufficient. You can also do it as a warm-up exercise, before getting into Padma Sadhana or other intense yoga postures. If you are practicing Surya Namaskars as part of your warm-up, you can do them at a somewhat faster speed. When you practice them as part of the yoga posture practice, you can keep slow to medium speed. After a few rounds, the body feels light and flexible and the stretches in the active yoga postures become deeper. If you have backache, avoid practicing Sun Salutations at a fast pace.
Tip 10: Relax after finishing Surya Namaskar
As you finish your last round of Surya Namaskar, lie down and relax your entire body. For best results, it is advisable to lie down in Yoga Nidra, giving the body enough time to assimilate the effects of the stretches. However, if you are short on time, you can relax for a few minutes in Corpse Pose, for complete rest to the mind and body.
Tip 11: The secret is in putting effort and then letting go
Last, but surely not the least, this is the most important tip to enhance your Surya Namaskar experience. Like every yoga posture, when you start doing Surya Namaskars in the beginning, you will need to put in a little effort. That effort is required, as it helps channelize the Rajoguna or restlessness in the body and then what remains is simple harmony or Sattva. So Rajoguna gets exhausted with exercise and Sattva leads you to meditation – the feeling of letting go.
Including all of these in our daily practice of Surya Namaskar can make the experience a complete sadhana – one which includes asana (posture), pranayama (breathing), mantra (chants), and chakra meditation.
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