If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, you’re probably familiar with sun salutations or Surya Namaskar A or B.
If not, I’ll give you a short introduction, based on my personal experience:
The sun salutation is a sequence of poses—each with a different meaning—designed to be done in the direction of the sun, everyday at dawn, sunset, or at any time you want. It’s a perfect opportunity to establish a personal relationship with the sun based on gratitude, awe and respect.
I’ve been starting my day with Surya Namaskar A—in my opinion it’s the easier one—for more than a year, and it has been helping me greatly to overcome anxiety and related depression. Here is why:
It’s a great way to wake up:
Practicing at least three Sun Salutations in the morning is a wonderful way to awaken your body, to stretch, to say good morning to each of your muscles. It’s also a great way to know your body and its limits since in the morning we are “raw”, so to speak—our muscles still need to be “warmed”.
Be gentle with yourself, which is a wonderful way to practice ahimsa (non-violence). I still practice my morning sun salutations with knees bent in Uttanasana (forward bend), and knees on the floor in Chaturanga. We all have something going on in our bodies be it sore shoulders, sore knees (like myself) or a sensitive spine. Practice gentleness with your body.
It’s a great way to start your day:
When I was struggling with depression, so many times I was afraid of leaving the bed because I feared what that day would bring me. I had no confidence in my ability to deal with daily challenges. By practicing yoga, investing in energy healing, meditation and a healthier diet, I was able to regain this lost confidence.
Sun Salutations give you a lot of power. It’s an energetic sequence designed to make you strong, powerful, glowing, confident. Specially when I am in Ardha Uttanasana (half standing foward bend), I like to look up with a strong spine and think: I’m able to deal with any challenge throughout my day.
It’s a great gauge for your progress:
By practicing Sun Salutations every day, you’ll feel that you’re getting stronger, that your body is getting more capable of doing things it wasn’t before. Your mind becomes clear, your focus is enhanced. When I started doing Sun Salutations, I used to wake up at 8:30, did three (half) Sun Salutations in my pajamas, eyes closed, and then went back to bed.
In a couple of weeks, I started to improve more and more, and today I like to wake up at 5:30 everyday—sometimes even 4-4:30 on special occasions (the sun rises early where I live). Its opened up more space in my day. Its enhanced my productivity and helped me to get things done more wisely, giving me more free time to do what I want and to plan my life. Today, I do 10 full Surya Namaskar A cycles—a great improvement.
You establish a personal relationship with the sun:
During my Sun Salutations, I feel I am “drinking” the sun light, just as a plant does. I directly receive this infinite power, this infinite light and wisdom. Everyday, before and during my sun salutations, I keep this mantra in my mind: “I salute the sun, source of light and knowledge”. It has a greatly beneficial effect over the mind.
I believe that the same way the sun awakens the seed that grows—always looking for the sun—towards the sun, so does our inner strength and power grow. It can be awakened by the sun and nurtured by it so that we also can do great things. It sounds esoteric, but it’s a very practical approach. You can feel results when Sun Salutations are practiced consistently.
It’s a perfect asana sequence:
If you’ve practiced yoga asana for a while you’ve noticed that there are sequences. For example, “the standing poses”, “the Sarvangasana cycle”, “the Padmasana cycle” and so on. Those are groups of postures that seem to be just one variation of a central important pose like Padmasana (Lotus Pose) or Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand).
Sequences can also be preparations for a complex pose. The more you practice, the more you notice that the asanas are interconnected.
The sequence in Surya Namaskar is perfect. It’s designed to center you in your heart, to focus your mind, to energize and to give you strength and also inner power (the good one). It’s made in such a way that you’ll reap the benefits very quickly, and it’s also very accessible. You can do the adjustments that best suit your body, and practice it everyday.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose) centers you, brings you back to your breath and gives balance. Uttanasana (forward bend) relaxes you and energizes the spine. As I said before, looking up in Ardha Uttanasana (Half standing foward bend) gives you confidence to face whatever the day brings you. Chaturanga makes you stronger, Cobra or Upward Facing Dog energizes the spine, and opens the chakras. Downward Facing Dog is a relaxing, grounding pose, and it helps to connect with your breath. Uttanasana centers you and Tadasana seals the sequence.
There are many benefits of practicing Sun Salutations, but those are the most important for me so far.
After my 10 morning salutations, I rest in savasana for 15 minutes and then I proceed to meditation, pranayama, or do a self-massage. A great breakfast and you’re ready for a very calm, centered day.
No matter what.
About the Author:
Andressa V. da Nóbregais a Brazilian journalist on her way to becoming a yoga teacher (Iyengar method). Yoga, meditation and energy healing has been helping her to overcome anxiety and depression. She shares her practice in her blog.