SURYA NAMASKAR - SALUTATIONS TO THE SUN

Anton practising at his favourite spot by the Ganges River near Rishikesh India. 

SURYA NAMASKAR - SALUTATIONS TO THE SUN 

Sun Salutations are an integral part of most modern yoga styles. The roots of this practice are hard to trace, but it was most likely a more static practice and maybe included some slower prostrations compared to what is practiced today.

There are many different variations and approaches - some older and some more recent creations - the common thread between them is the intention to worship the sun, a form of divinity in almost every ancient culture.

Doing yoga in the midst of nature is the traditional way of practicing. In the past, yogis would seclude themselves for prolonged periods of time away from settlements to practice. Heading outdoors, in a calm natural setting, exposed to some rays of the sun is a good way to ground this practice back to its original intent. According to the yoga tradition the exposure to sunlight nourishes the body with Prana (life energy or vital force). 

The best time to practice salutations is at sunrise. It is an auspicious time of day where the mind is still calm and fresh while everything comes to life around us. At dawn, the sun is not too strong and there is no danger of overheating the body (contrary to popular contemporary beliefs, excessive sweating is not a sign of advanced yoga practice!) 

Another advantage of practicing yoga in nature is also the access to fresh air, a "vehicle" of Prana. The air around moving waters is supposed to be particularly saturated with it. While this is true for any stream or river, the Ganges river stands out in importance in India. For millennia, people have come to the river in the morning to do their ritual baths and worshiping. Near Rishikesh, where the Ganges leaves the Himalayas, it is an especially beautiful and inspiring place.

 

 

MODIFIED SUN SALUTATIONS (as seen in video)

This variation of sun salutations are more suitable for seasoned asana-practitioners. People with a background in gymnastics, martial arts, etc. will also find it quite accessible. It should not be performed right at the start of a practice without any warm up, but also not too late as the body will be tired.

There is no need to go into a full handstand. Just the attempt to lift your legs up, instead of stepping or jumping, is a great way to develop core muscle strength, which is the key to developing the ability to float.

The big advantage of this version is that the floating is much gentler on the joints than jumping back and forth. It is a much smoother transition allowing the practitioner to stay more focused and be closer to the ideal of a Sun Salutation - to be a moving meditation.

Consider the floor when practicing a dynamic practice outdoors, look for a solid and stable ground. The sand in the video is not ideal but adequate. It even comes in handy if one of the jumps into handstand does not work out!

 

By Anton Jager