If you are looking for an all-in-one, quick and consistent workout modality then look no further than the Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar. This beautiful sequence of 12 postures performed on each side of the body (right and left) not only helps us break out in a sweat but also works directly on strengthening our spine and nervous system to ensure optimal health, vitality as well as mental clarity.
As a yoga practitioner and teacher, I have been practicing sun salutations for over six years and it continues to amaze me with its simplicity, science and effectiveness. I cannot think of any other practice within any other modality that offers such amazing benefits for spinal health as the sun salutations. Why is this so crucial? Because the spine is the centre of our body, the axis of our individual physical universe. Every major, vital organ and endocrine gland within the body is located interestingly along the spine which also houses our nervous system.
And while we pay so much attention to our physical appearance, our muscular health and a toned body, we rarely give thought to the spine. I have seen many students come to the yoga class asking me if the class will help them strengthen their core or abs or tone their arms or help them shed weight. And rightly so, because yoga is now considered an integral part of a holistic fitness plan and for most people this is what fitness means – how striking we look and feel from the outside, is it not?
Aspects such as a well-functioning nervous system, robust organs, a sound hormonal system are rarely given much thought. But this is where the real juice is metaphorically speaking, and sun salutation is a wonderful introduction to an effective spinal practice that encapsulates all of the above aspects and will keep you looking externally fit as well as internally sturdy.
● Helps release stiffness: Opens up the flow in all major joints and muscles, simultaneously strengthening them.
● Improves spinal health: As mentioned above, by improving spinal flexibility, it refreshes the nervous system, thereby directly impacting our brain and mental health in the long-run.
● Balances left and right brain hemispheres: Since it is done on each side (right and left), it improves symmetry between two halves of our body that are connected to opposite brain centres.
● Massages solar plexus and corrects breathing: The smooth alternation between forward-bending and back-bending movements massages the solar plexus and promotes correct and deep breathing, improving lung capacity.
● Eliminates stress: The synchronized flow of muscle contraction and release eliminates physical and mental stress we tend to hold within.
● Perfect grounding technique: Wonderful grounding technique shows us our interconnection with the forces of nature, particularly the life-giving energy of the Sun.
If you are pregnant or over 65 years of age, please consider specialized practices such as pre-natal yoga or yoga for seniors (geriatric yoga) for a safer practice.
Points To Note
● Practice preferably early morning when the rays of the Sun are milder or evening around sunset.
● If experiencing your menstrual cycle, you may want to skip this as it may heat up your body.
● Preferably practice at the beginning of your session, to warm up body and make it more flexible.
And since yoga is an experiential practice, this segment will not be complete without a demo. Please check out the video of the sun salutations, where I explain clearly each posture as well as the breath associated with the same. I hope this helps you cultivate a safe and consistent home-based practice.