Have you ever felt that even after a very good work out and stretching, when you wake up the following morning, you feel quite stiff? And actually every morning, if you do not do any physical exercise, sometimes it takes a few hours to feel “back in shape”. I found it interesting to read that muscles always tend to shorten when we sleep, accounting for “stiffness” in the morning.
Ray Long, the author of a great book “The Key Poses of Yoga”, explains that the brain creates “set lengths” for muscles based on regular activity. For example, if we tend to sit on the chair in the office half a day, the brain signals that this is the length of the hips required for us. Or those who do a lot of cycling and do not tend to stretch afterwards, end up with very stiff hamstrings. Consistent practise of yoga lengthens the muscles, which in turn helps to improve a range of motion throughout the body. And this creates a new “set length” in the brain.
Surya Namaskar is a dynamic combination of yoga asanas practised in series, which each pose successively deepening with every repetition. It can be performed at the beginning of the practise as a warm-up, or can be a nice start of the day. Even 3 rounds of surya namaskar (which takes about 10 minutes) first thing in the morning will help you to feel better!
A lot of heat is generated during Surya Namaskar, raising the core temperature and causing the blood vessels on the body surface to dilate. Vasodilation combines with sweating to dissipate the heat and regulate the body temperature. Sweating helps to eliminate toxins.
Also, Sun Saluation alternately contract and relax muscles. This creates a “pumping” action in the veins and improves return of blood to the heart. This in turn increases cardiac output. More blood circulates to the vital organs, including liver and kidneys. Sweating increases as well, and this again aids to detoxify the blood.
Some more Benefits include:
- Effective way of loosening up, stretching, massaging and toning al the joins, muscles and internal organs of the body. Gives more flexibility.
- Deeply warms and awakens the entire body.
- Strengthens the abdominals & back.
- Helps to balance metabolism& release toxins.
- Synchronizes breath with movement and enriches the body with oxygen.
- Improves heart activity and blood flow.
- Stimulates and balances all systems of the body: nervous, reproductive, circulatory, immune, respiratory and digestive.
- Its influence on the endocrine glands helps to balance the transition period between childhood and adolescence in growing children.
- Improves sleep.
- Improves memory.
- Helps to reduce fat in the hips, waste line and neck areas.
- Helps to stay and feel young!
As stated in the work of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, the practise of Syria Namaskar should be avoided in cases of:
– A fever, acute inflammation, boils or rashes
– High blood pressure
– Coronary artery diseases
– By those who have had a stroke, as it may overstimulate or damage a weak heart or blood vessel system.
– Hernia or intestinal tuberculosis.
– During the onset of menstruation. If there are no adverse effects, the practice may be resumed towards the end of the period.
People with back conditions should consult a medical expert before commencing this practice. Conditions such as slipped disc and sciatica will be better managed through an alternative asana program.
During pregnancy, adapted sequence can be practised with care. Following childbirth, it may be commenced approximately forty days after delivery for re-toning the uterine muscles.
Time of practice:
Initially this complex of asanas was used in the ancient times to worship the sun. It was believed that practicing Syria Namaskar at the sunrise will help to neutralise (avoid) the diseases and poverty.
Indeed, the ideal time of practicing Syria Namaskar is the sunrise, it is a very peaceful time, or the sunset. If this is not possible then you can do Sun Salutations any time of the day provided the stomach is empty (after 3-4 hours from the last meal). Time before dinner (5-6pm) is also very good.
Types of Surya Namaskar:
There are various ways to practise Surya Namaskar. For example:
– Classical Hatha Yoga Surya Namaskar.
– Ashtanga Surya Namaskar, A and B. A deeply warms and awakens the entire body. B is a stronger sequence appropriate for more experienced students and offers a deeper exploration of the hip flexors.
– Adapted sequences for mid- and late pregnancy. One of these is suggested by Ekhart Yoga Online:
I hope that this article will inspire you to practise Surya Namaskar in the morning, and see how these 10 minutes will help you to get a positive outlook for the rest of the day.
With best wishes.
- Swami Satyananada Saraswati “Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha”, 2013 Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India
- Ray Long “The Key Poses of Yoga”
- Mark Stephens “Teaching Yoga”
- Francoise Barbira Freedman “Yoga for Pregnancy, birth and beyond”