Surya Namaskar

Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Surya Namaskar Mean?

Surya Namaskar is the Sanskrit name for a specific sequence of twelve yoga asana, otherwise known as a Sun Salutation. It is one of the most widely known yoga practices, incorporated into several different traditions such as Hatha, Vinyasa and Ashtanga. The term is derived from two Sanskrit roots; surya, meaning "sun" and namaskar meaning "greetings" or ‘salutations’".

Traditionally, the practice of Surya Namaskar was used as a means of paying respect to the sun. In Indian culture from which the practice came, the sun is regarded as the source of all life, and it is therefore of great importance.

In Hinduism, Surya is the God of the sun, understood to be the creator of the universe, and in Vedic tradition the sun is symbolic of consciousness and the Divine. As such, Surya Namaskar is considered to be one of the most important yoga practices.

Surya Namaskar is also referred to as Sun Salutation in English.


Yogapedia Explains Surya Namaskar

Surya Namaskar is generally considered to be a morning practice, designed to harness the prana shakti (life energy) which is most abundant at dawn. The sequence stimulates all muscles, organs, systems and chakras in addition to cultivating concentration and stillness of mind.

It provides a complete work-out for body, mind and spirit. It is an energizing and efficient way to connect with inner strength and stability and is often used as a warm-up at the start of a longer yoga practice.

The exact origins of Surya Namaskar are widely debated. Some scholars believe it to be thousands of years old, whilst others contend that the physical sequence is a 20th-century creation, designed by the raja of Aundh to accompany ancient Vedic mantras which honor the sun.

The oldest known text to describe Surya Namaskar as a sequence of asana is the Yoga Makaranda, written in 1934 by T. Krishnamacharya. Although Krishnamacharya is often considered to be the father of modern Hatha yoga, it is unclear whether he invented the sequence or learned it from his predecessors.

The twelve asana which comprise Surya Namaskar are:

  1. Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

  2. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)

  3. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)

  4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose or Low Lunge)

  5. Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose)

  6. Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight Limbed Salute)

  7. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

  8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog Pose)

  9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose or Low Lunge)

  10. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)

  11. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)

  12. Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

Whilst this sequence is widely accepted as the traditional version, modified variations are taught by different schools of yoga, sometimes even incorporating additional postures. For example, Ashtanga yoga teaches two sequences, Surya Namaskar A and Surya Namaskar B, both of which contain different asana to those listed above. In some traditions such as Sivananda, each step of the sequence is combined with a Sanskrit mantra.

The transition from posture to posture is facilitated by either an inhalation or an exhalation, allowing the practitioner to connect to their breath as a means of cultivating concentration. The repetitive nature of Surya Namaskar fosters a meditative practice, in which little thought needs to be given to the movement once it has been learned. Additionally, Surya Namaskar provides many overall health benefits such as:

  • Maintaining cardiovascular health

  • Stimulating the nervous system

  • Improving strength and flexibility

  • Enhancing cognitive functions

  • Relieving stress and fatigue

  • Regulating hormones

The sequence should be practiced at least three times daily for maximum benefit. Those who have issues with blood pressure or have had recent injuries or surgery should check with a medical professional prior to practicing Surya Namaskar. Pregnant women may need modifications for some of the postures and should consult an experienced prenatal teacher before practicing.

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Surya Namaskara

Surya Namskar

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