Published on March 30th, 2019 | by Graham Fowler0
Sun Salutations: Put Spring In Your Step
by Graham Fowler
It’s a well-known but often overlooked fact: How we start the day affects how we live the rest of it.
Would it be worth it to take 10 minutes each morning to noticeably improve your health, vitality and outlook? For free? In your own home? If your answer is yes, read on.
Surya Namaskar, or Salutation to the Sun, is a series of easy yoga postures with physical and spiritual benefits.
Together, the postures enhance the entire physiology as they tone and stretch the major muscle groups, improve joint function and massage internal organs. Comprised of alternating forward- and backward-bending movements that are synchronized with the breath, the series facilitates the flow of lymph and cerebrospinal fluid and improves blood circulation. It also supports the elasticity of the lungs and respiratory diaphragm.
When performed consciously and with slow, deep breaths, Sun Salutations can help release held tension, liberate the flow of prana, life force, awaken the intelligence of the body and uplift the spirit.
Sun Salutations are often done at the beginning of a regular yoga class or practice. But the best time for them is at sunrise.
A metaphor for unconditional love
The ancients saw the sun as nature’s most profound metaphor for unconditional love. It shines everywhere, bringing warmth, light and life itself. Over many thousands of years, millions have started their day with reverence to the sun.
If you’re lucky enough to have a view of the sunrise where you live or where you practice yoga, that is ideal. If not, you can still face east and use your imagination.
If you are new to Sun Salutations, it might be helpful to study the photos and record yourself reading the descriptions of the postures (not too fast) so you can practice comfortably with the audio and not have to read at the same time.
Included with the descriptions below is guidance for breathing through each transition: to inhale or exhale. Let your breath lead the way, moving smoothly with each breath from one posture to the next in continuous flow.
You can also try holding each position for a longer time, maybe even for a minute or two, or until you get a sense that the prana has been activated. Be sensitive to what your body wants. Moving more quickly in sync with the breath brings an upsurge of vitality. Practiced slowly with the eyes closed, Sun Salutation becomes a meditation in motion.
Slowness induces awareness. Sometimes even a small movement or pulsation within the pose can create a new opening as you get more sensitive to subtle flows of energy in the body.
There are many variations of Surya Namaskar. This one is physically accessible for most people and is compatible with the optional affirmations. Yoga teachers can use different affirmations in keeping with differing class themes or seasons.
If you’re new to yoga, it’s a good idea to see a qualified yoga teacher for more tips on these poses.
Feel the peace, beauty and tranquility of the sunrise. It is the time that the forces of dark and light merge and produce the third force of spiritual light. At this time, we find our inner poise and balance at the start of the day so we can gather our resources before diving into the world.
1. Standing in Mountain Pose, join your hands together at your heart center and see—either literally or in your mind’s eye—the very beginning of the sunrise. Feel its golden energy entering through your eyebrow center and spreading down to the center of your chest. Then feel the warm glow expanding throughout your being.
Take a moment to feel gratitude for life, for the brand new day and for this ancient practice. Then, as you bring your awareness to both the inner and outer sun, you are ready for Surya Namaskar.
I bring awareness to a higher power within me. I let this Light lead me. I let this Light provide for me and protect me.
2. With your hands together in prayer pose, bring them overhead. Give yourself a slight backbend as you hold the breath.
I open the blockages in these shoulders, these arms, in my throat, that I may be Your touch, Your voice, Your instrument.
3. Exhaling, extend your arms out wide and fold into a standing forward fold.
I allow the old structures to evolve as I explore the deeper levels of awareness.
4. As you inhale, bring your right leg back either into a Low Lunge with your back knee on the floor, or High Lunge with your back leg straight. Look forward with your heart and keep your gaze soft.
Be Thou my vision.
5. Exhale back to Downward Facing Dog.
My heart opens to allow my deepest good.
6. Inhaling, come to Plank Pose. Hold the breath in as you draw in the low belly slightly.
I am unshaken by the tidal waves of change, anchored to the silent depths of Being.
7. As you exhale, bring your knees, chest and then chin to the floor, in salutation to the sun and with gratitude for the nourishment you receive from the sun.
I let go of the need to figure it all out. I let go of the need to control the outcome. As I surrender these needs I move fully into the present moment.
8. Stretch out your body, point your toes and inhale up into Cobra. Keep your pelvis on the floor and your collarbones broad.
I feel an upsurge of happiness and am intimately connected to my Inner Teacher.
9. Exhale back to Downward Facing Dog. Press your hands into the earth, lengthening the arms, torso and legs.
I feel my body as a divine instrument. With steady breath, I activate and tune my instrument.
10. Inhale your right leg forward into a Lunge. Your back knee can be up or down. Feel your hips sinking down and keep a little lift in your heart. Breathe into the sensation.
If I take one step toward the Light, Spirit will take a hundred on my behalf.
11. Exhale as you bring your right leg forward into a Standing Forward Fold, pumping prana into all the vital points of the body.
I exhale anything having to do with limitation and breathe in the awareness that I am enough and that I am here in accordance with Divine Intention.
12. Inhaling, sweep the arms out and up overhead, joining the palms together. Holding the breath, bring your prayer to your third eye. Exhale your prayer to your heart, returning to the calmness and serenity of the sunrise.
I have cared for you from the time you were born. I am your God and will take care of you until you are old and your hair is gray. I made you and will care for you.
Repeat as desired. No competition, no hurry. Finish with shavasana or seated meditation. Enjoy!
Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows. -Helen Keller
Graham Fowler is founder and Spiritual Director of Peachtree Yoga. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org