In many cultures light has long been a symbol of consciousness. Our primary source of light is the sun. For thousands of years, the Hindus have revered the sun which they call Surya, as both the physical and spiritual heart of our world, and the creator of life itself.
One of the meanings of honoring the sun is through the Surya Namaskara sequence, better known as the Sun Salutation. The Sanskrit word Surya means sun, the word Namaskara means ‘to bow to’. Each Sun Salutation round begins and ends with the joined-hands mudra (gesture) touched to the heart. The Yogis believe that the seat of light and wisdom is in our heart.
The different postures in Sun Salutation have a deeper spiritual meaning, and the different poses in the sequence are actually an offering to the sun. The Yogis practise the Sun Salutation at sun rise to receive the healing energy of the sun.
Many variations have evolved throughout the years and today the original version of Sun Salutation is hardly ever practised in the West. The sequence has turned into a dynamic exercise using powerful movements and postures that misinterprets what the real intention of Sun Salutation practice is.
The beautiful thing about the classical Sun Salutation is that it brings awareness to each and every movement, to the breath and to the mind. The transition from posture to posture is facilitated by either an inhalation or exhalation and once the body gets used to the sequence one may start to feel a meditative state throughout the sequence. The most important thing is the breath. Watch the breath closely when you practise. Move slowly and gracefully and always breathe through your nose, not your mouth. Nasal breathing filters and warms incoming air and slows your breath down, thereby lending the sequence a meditative quality which is the meaning of the practice.
The Sun Salutation sequence is, in essence, a humble adoration of the sun and the light within you. Always practise Sun Salutation with complete awareness turned toward yourself. Make each movement as mindful and precise as possible. Next time you practise Sun Salutation, try to put your mind into the practice. Watch every step carefully and move gracefully and slow. The classical Sun Salutation is a great way to improve strength and flexibility and to cleanse and connect the body and the mind. The entire nervous system is nourished and simulated too.
Remember to be aware of your breath when you practise. If your breathing becomes labored or shuts down altogether then it is time to stop or take a rest. Always go at your own pace and always listen to your body and relax and restore when you need to, also when you practise in a class. Always be patient with your practice and try to be content with where your body is at. The body is wise, listen to it!
Sally’s guided Sun Salutation CDs are available to buy for €18 including shipping. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to order.
About the author
Sally Goldfinger teaches authentic hatha yoga, using the traditional sun salutation, around the world. Her unique teaching style focuses on stress relief, inner balance, and cleansing of the physical body leading to the purification of the mind.
For more information on Sally visit her website IONYOGA.