Sun Salutation

Common Title Sun Salutation
English Title Sun Salutation
Sanskrit Title Surya Namaskar
All Titles Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar,
Pose Level Beginner
Pose Position Standing
Pose Type Stretch, Forward-Bend, Back-Bend, Stretch, Inversion, Strength
Sanskrit Pronunciation Play Audio
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The term Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation come from “Surya” which means “Sun”and “Namaskar” which means "to bow down." The Sun is the primary source of energy for planet Earth and when one is in tune with its cycles, it is believed that we are in good physical health, filled with energy and vitality, and can fully enjoy overall well-being. These are the main reasons why this traditional sequence of postures called Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) is practiced so widely.

Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) is a series of twelve physical postures. These alternating backward and forward bending postures flex and stretch the spinal column through their maximum range, giving a profound stretch to the whole body. These postures are performed with synchronized breathing, each posture counteracting the preceding one and maintaining a balance between flexion and extension. Since this sequence is often performed and recommended by countless yoga practitioners, let us now go in detail with the method and various benefits that it offers.

Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) contains beginner level yoga poses. In some cases, a yoga student may find some of the yoga poses in the series a little difficult. To accommodate them, there are simpler variations of Sun Salutation too. In general, though the Sun Salutation is practiced and benefited from by everyone.

Sun Salutation is considered a base pose as sun salutation variations can be derived from this pose. Sun Salutation helps boost energy in the body and hence can be included in flow yoga sequences. Sun Salutation is considered a warm-up yoga pose to prepare the body for more intense yoga poses / yoga flow.

Chakras

Sun Salutation helps open, activate, and balance the following chakra(s):
  • Solar Plexus (Manipura Chakra)
  • Sacral Chakra (Swadisthana Chakra)
  • Root Chakra (Muladhara Chakra)

Anatomy

Sun Salutation benefits the following muscles and hence can be included in yoga sequences with the corresponding muscle(s) focus:
  • Lower Back
  • Biceps and Triceps
  • Core (Abs)
  • Feet and Ankles
  • Hamstrings
  • Chest
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Neck

Sun Salutation yoga sequences

Sun Salutation is commonly found in the following types of yoga sequences:
  • Kids yoga sequences
  • Yoga sequences for teenagers
  • Yoga sequences for relieving lower back pain
  • Yoga sequences for building biceps and triceps
  • Core yoga sequences
  • Yoga for feet and ankles
  • Yoga sequences with focus on hamstrings
  • Heart opening yoga sequences
  • Hip opening yoga sequences
  • Yoga therapy sequences for knees
  • Yoga therapy sequences for neck

How to do Sun Salutation

The below cues and yoga sequences added by yoga teachers show multiple ways to do Sun Salutation depending on the focus of your yoga sequence and the ability of your students.

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  1. Move with the breath. Different paces. First pace slower.
  2. (fortsätta med ashtangasana eller vågen, kobran, nedåtgående hunden,
    uttanasana med konkav rygg, med avslappnad rygg och upp till tadasana)
  3. Zum Aufwärmen 6 Runden Sonnengruß

    Tadasana - Augen schließen und Hände in Namaste, lass den Atem natürlich und leicht fließen

    Atme EIN, heb deine Arme nach oben über den Kopf - du kannst dich hier leicht nach hinten beugen und in eine erste Rückbeuge kommen

    Atme AUS, komm in die stehende V...
  4. From Tadasana
    Inhale - Raised Arms Pose
    Exhale - Standing Forward Fold Pose
    Inhale - Low Lunge Pose
    Exhale - Plank Pose'
    Inhale/Exhale - Eight Limbed Pose
    Inhale - Cobra Pose
    Exhale - Downward Facing Dog Pose
    Inhale - Low Lunge Pose
    Exhale - Standing Forward Fold Pose
    Inhale - Tadasana. RE...
  5. A. Come to standing to practice a variation of Surya Namaskar.

    B. From Tadasana:

    Inhale - Raised Arms Pose
    Exhale - Standing Forward Fold Pose
    Inhale - Low Lunge Pose
    Exhale - Plank Pose'
    Inhale/Exhale - Eight Limbed Pose
    Inhale - Cobra Pose
    Exhale - Downward Facing Dog Pose
    Inhale - ...
  6. A. Release, to begin with the practice a variation of Surya Namaskar.

    B. From Tadasana:

    Inhale - Raised Arms Pose
    Exhale - Standing Forward Fold Pose
    Inhale - Low Lunge Pose
    Exhale - Plank Pose'
    Inhale/Exhale - Eight Limbed Pose
    Inhale - Cobra Pose
    Exhale - Downward Facing Dog Pose
    In...
  7. in * Reach up
    ex *Touch the earth
    in * Lunge Rt back
    in * Plank
    ex *CHILD
    in *Cobra
    ex * Dog
    in * Rt leg forward Lunge
    ex * fold down touch the Earth
    In * Sky
    ex * Heart Sumasati
  8. - Urdha Hastasanna
    - Uttansanna
    - Anjaneyasanna LEFT LEG BACK
    - Plank
    - Ashtanga ( keens to the floor first + chest and chin to the floor at the same time)
    - Bhujangasana
    - Adho Mucka Svasanna
    - Anjaneyasanna LEFT LEG FORWARD
    - Uttansanna
    - Urdha Hastasanna
  9. - Urdha Hastasanna
    - Uttansanna
    - Anjaneyasanna RIGHT LEG BACK
    - Plank
    - Ashtanga ( keens to the floor first + chest and chin to the floor at the same time)
    - Bhujangasana
    - Adho Mucka Svasanna
    - Anjaneyasanna RIGHT LEG FORWARD
    - Uttansanna
    - Urdha Hastasanna
  10. - Urdha Hastasanna
    - Uttansanna
    - Anjaneyasanna RIGHT LEG BACK
    - Plank
    - Ashtanga ( keens to the floor first + chest and chin to the floor at the same time)
    - Bhujangasana
    - Adho Mucka Svasanna
    - Anjaneyasanna LEFT LEG FORWARD
    - Uttansanna
    - Urdha Hastasanna
  11. b. Surya Namaskar
    wie im Kurs geübt.
  12. 1 breath 1 movement - inhale to inflate, exhale to fold
  13. From Tadasana
    Inhale - Raised Arms Pose
    Exhale - Standing Forward Fold Pose
    Inhale - Low Lunge Pose
    Exhale - Plank Pose'
    Inhale/Exhale - Eight Limbed Pose
    Inhale - Cobra Pose
    Exhale - Downward Facing Dog Pose
    Inhale - Low Lunge Pose
    Exhale - Standing Forward Fold Pose
    Inhale - Tadasana. ...
  14. A classic 'flow' Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation. We will be working on this theme over the coming weeks with many 'base' poses to help progress to some of the poses listed here.

    It is essential to practice the Sun Salutations each week in order to warm the body, increase flexibility and to p...

Discover more cues, teaching ideas, and how to do steps at How to Do Sun Salutation

Sun Salutation Benefits

Sun Salutation Benefits:

As the name suggests this sequence is best done at sunrise. These postures could be done fast or slow [2] depending on the need of the body and the practitioner. If Sun Salutation is done fast then the yoga pose provides a great cardiovascular exercise. If done slow with proper breathing, Sun Salutation helps tone the muscles giving a wonderful stretch to the entire body. Let us go in detail with the various benefits of this sequence.

Physical Benefits (Anatomical)

  • Strengthens Muscles [1]: All the postures are arranged in such a way that the various muscles of the body are expanded and contracted thus strengthening them with practice. Upper body muscles: arms, neck and shoulders and Lower body muscles: lower back, abdomen, thighs, hamstring and calves are all strengthened.
  • Helps women with weight loss [1]: Especially for women, helps burn excess fat around the neck, chin, arms, shoulders, hips, abdomen, thighs, buttocks and the chest.
  • Removes toxins: Improves the quality and circulation of blood in the body thus helping with detoxification.
  • Tones muscles: A great way to tone the body and improve the posture if one is having a hunched back.
  • Lengthens spine: Improves and lengthens the spine thus giving a gain in height if the postures are performed correctly.
  • Increases Immunity: Improves th...
Continue reading more on Sun Salutation Benefits

Sun Salutation Contraindications

 (Surya Namaskar) Sun Salutation Contraindications:

As the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is a 12 poses sequence done with the flow of energy with proper breathing, it requires a certain physical strength for beginners. Hence this sequence does have its limitations and should not be performed if one is suffering from certain ailments. The muscles in this yoga pose are put to work continuously, so it is better done with good guidance at the time of learning. Below are some of the contraindications of this sequence.

  • Bodily Weakness: Since this is an involved yoga sequence, care should be taken if one has general body weakness or muscle and bone weakness.
  • Bad Back: In Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar), the spine expands and contracts putting pressure on the lower back and hip. Hence someone with a very bad back or injured back should certainly avoid this even if one has practiced this for years. It is essential to take a yoga teacher's guidance or start slowly once the yoga practitioner has recovered from the back ailment or injury.
  • Pregnant Women: Not advisable to be done by pregnant women as this puts pressure on the back and the abdominal area.
  • High Blood Pressure: People suffering with high blood pressure should avoid this sequence. But with proper guidance from a yoga teacher and for someone not elderly can begin this yoga pose slowly and carefully.
  • Heart Problem: Someone with heard problem is advised to consult a physician before practicing Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar). Remember that the age factor does play a big role for someone with heart conditions.
  • Arthritis: Knee strength plays an important role with the various postures in Surya Namaskar. So someone who has severe arthritis leading to knee stiffness, should take it slow or avoid this sequence.
  • Wrist Injury: Injury at the wrist will make the sequence difficult as pressure on the wrists in poses like Cobra Pose, Adho Mukha Svanasana and going down to Eight Limb Pose would cause more stress and injury to the wrists.

Thus to conclude, someone who is new to yoga and has one or more of the above ailments needs proper guidance from a yoga teacher or someone who is experienced in yoga after consultation from a physician. One needs to work on Sun Salutation sequence intelligently while keeping the impact on the muscles in mind at each pose.

Sun Salutation Variations

Sun Salutation Variations: Below are some common variations of the yoga pose Sun Salutation with base pose as Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar).

Sun Salutation Steps

 (Surya Namaskar) Sun Salutation Steps:
  1. Pranamasana (Salutation Pose): (It is a variation of Tadasana with namaste hands). Begin the sequence by joining the palms in namaste hands near your chest and have your feet placed together and stand close to the edge of the mat. Close your eyes and take a few breaths pulling in the abdominal muscles and expanding the chest while keeping the back straight. Calm the breathing if it is too fast or too short. This pose helps with calming the breath and relaxing the body.

    Beginner tip: If closing the eyes brings giddiness or feels uncomfortable, then keep the eyes open and focus on any one point while continuing breathing.

  2. Standing Backbend Hasta Uttanasana (Raised Arm Backbend Pose): (It is a variation of Standing Backbend with raised arms and namaste hands). Inhale and stretch both the arms above the head holding the palms in a namaste. Curve the head, chest and shoulders towards the back in the form of an arch. Feel the stretch at the chest, upper abdominal muscles and the middle back. The energy is carried upward through inhalation to the upper part of the body with the back bend. Make sure the feet are firm on the floor and as you take the upper body backwards, breathe deeply and feel the chest expanding.

    Beginner tip: If throwing the head back leads to giddiness or breathing gets difficult, then one can just raise the arms up and behind the body without moving the shoulders and the chest beyond their comfort zone. One can also bring two toe distance between the feet to avoid losing balance.

    Hasta Uttanasana meaning: ‘Uttana’ means intense stretch and ‘hasta’ means hands. Thus with the arms stretched, the shoulder muscles and the neck muscles are opened up giving strength to the arms and chest to go into the deeper postures of Surya Namaskar.
  3. Uttanasana Uttanasana (Hasta Padasana aka Hand to foot Posture): As you exhale bring the entire body from Hasta Uttanasana to Uttanasana (Hasta Padasana) by bending at the hip and stretching forward to reach for the feet with your palms. Exhale completely and place the palms on the mat close to either side of your feet and reach for the knees with your forehead. If this is difficult, one could bend the knees a bit or take the body forward as per the comfort level.

    Remember to breathe as this will help in moving the body forward easily. This wonderful stretch brings a great beginning to the opening of the lower back, opening of the calves and the hamstrings. This yoga pose massages the abdominal organs and hence the power of digestion increases, and menstrual disorders or irregularities are relieved. There is fresh blood flow to the brain and the spine. A complete exhalation throws out the toxins in the body. Continue breathing while feeling the spine expand with inhalation and exhalation.

  4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose): Inhale, bend the right knee, extend the left leg back and drop the left knee on the ground while continuing to place the palms on the floor close to the right foot. Push the spine downwards, feeling the stretch in the inner right thighs and press the pelvic deep towards the floor raising the chest, head and the shoulders backwards. Gazing towards the sky, exhale completely and begin slow breathing taking the energy upwards to the head. If placing the palms on the floor completely is difficult, bring the tips of the fingers on the floor, but make sure the posture is correct.

    Feel the stretch at the lower back, the inner thighs, the shoulders and the chest. This yoga pose also works as a great eye exercise if the gaze is towards the roof or the sky. Pressing of the abdominal muscles and pulling in the abdominal muscles will help in toning and reducing the excess fat around the abdomen and also strengthen the abdominal muscles. As this pose distributes the weight of the body evenly, it gives an overall toning of the body making it look fresh and beautiful.

  5. Plank Pose Plank Pose (Phalakasana): Inhale and as you lift the body a bit, place the right foot close to the left foot behind you. As you exhale, raise the chest, shoulders and the spine by extending the arms and elbows and continue placing the palms on the floor where they were placed earlier at the second step. This pose will have the entire body balancing on the toes and on the palms bringing all the energy to the shoulders and arms. Looking up, extend the stretch of the neck and the entire body making sure the abdominal muscles are tightened. Build endurance here and hold the pose with smooth breathing while feeling the spine move with every breath. If this pose is difficult, one can go a bit lower with the knees for a half plank pose or bend the forearms to give the shoulders a better support. This posture brings great strength to the chest, shoulders and the arms if the alignment is kept in mind. The abdominal muscles too should be kept in mind while in this pose.
  6. Ashtanga Namaskara (Salutation with eight limbs): Inhale and as you exhale bring both the knees to the mat and slide the body down bringing only the chest and the chin to the floor with the face straight. Make sure the lower back (buttocks) is raised up and balance the body on the toes and bend elbows. After complete exhalation in this pose, begin the normal breathing and remain focused with the attention to the core. The eight limbs, the toes of both the feet, both the knees, chest, both the palms and the chin are placed on the floor/mat without putting all the body weight on them. The body weight should be evenly distributed and using the back and abdominal muscles strength, this pose can be done smoothly. This yoga pose helps in relieving tensions around the back and spinal nerves. The expansion of the chest and the abdominal area gives room for curing ailments like asthma, constipation and indigestion. It also works to reduce the excess fat at the buttocks when tightened.
  7. Cobra Pose Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana): On inhalation, lower the hips while pushing the chest forward and upward with the hands pushing the palms deeper into the mat and bring the spine fully arched and look up taking the head back. Exhale completely in this Cobra Pose and fix the gaze upwards which is also a good eye exercise. The knee and the thighs can remain close to the floor or for a deeper stretch take it a bit above the floor. Taking the focus to the lower back and spine, feel the tensions as you pull the spine forward with every exhalation. If one finds it difficult to hold in this pose, you could bend the elbows a bit, not putting too much weight on the shoulders and the arms. This pose gives dynamic expansion to the organs of the chest and abdomen. The spine here is expanded beautifully removing blockages and thus helping a good flow of energy to all parts of the body from the spine.
  8. Adho Mukha Svanasana Adho Mukha Svanasana or Parvatasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose): As you exhale, bring the entire body up placing the feet on the floor and the palms on the floor. Raise the entire spine and back taking it deep upwards and bring the chest and the head deep inwards and aim for the mat/ loor with the head. Complete exhalation here and begin the deep breathing by pushing the head deeper inside and the lower back deeper upwards. If placing the feet on the floor completely is difficult one could balance on the toes, but with practice, work on placing the feet firm on the floor. Feel the stretch at the lower back, the entire leg and the arms and take the focus more to the core and tuck-in the tummy. This pose tones the spine, relieves varicose veins and eases the shoulder stiffness. This is also considered a great posture for athletes to give better strength to the hamstrings.
  9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose): Inhale and raise the body bringing the right foot close to the palms bending the right knee and place the left knee on the floor behind you giving the hip a push downwards. Exhale completely and push the right hip down bending the right knee forward. Take the chest and shoulders up and gaze upwards.
  10. Uttanasana Uttanasana (Hasta Padasana aka Hand to foot Posture): Inhale and stretching the right leg completely bring the left foot close to the right foot and place the head close to the knees bending the upper body at the hip. This pose will be far easier to do now than at the beginning as the muscles have opened up with the various other yoga poses. Hence one can go deeper by touching the entire chest and the face close to the thighs and the knees. Exhale completely in this pose and watch the breath as the spine expands.
  11. Hasta Uttanasana (Raised Arm Backbend Pose): Inhale deeply, look up first and then extend the arms in front of you keeping the palms in Namaste and raise the head and the upper body upwards taking the stretch backwards with the arms in Namaste and exhale completely in this pose. This stretch should take you deeper backwards as the spine, by now, would have expanded enough. Breathe taking the energy upwards to the throat as this pose works wonders for the thyroid glands. With inhalation, expand the stretch.
  12. Pranamasana (Salutation Pose): As you exhale, release the stretch and bring the body in Mountain Pose and completely exhaling with the palms in Namaste position close to the chest. Calm your breath and close your eyes. Give the body two breaths to relax and start the sequence again going into the 11 postures with proper breathing and taking the energy at each pose to a different level.

The practice of this sequence could be done in 12 rounds (6 times for each leg) at the beginning of the yoga session as this opens the muscles and brings enough warmth to the body to go further with the other asanas. One must bring the body to relax before starting with the other yoga poses after completing Surya Namaskar. If one wants to do these poses more for cardio, then doing 24 rounds would help in toning the body along with strengthening the cardiac muscles.

Learn more: Sun Salutation Steps

Sun Salutation Modifications

 (Surya Namaskar) Sun Salutation Modifications:

Most of the above asanas that are part of the sequence of Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) can be performed even if the practitioner is new or has certain discomfort in a specific pose. These postures can be altered based on each individual's capacity and comfort level:

  • In Hasta Uttanasana, one need not arch the back much. Just raising and stretching the arms should be good enough to get the stretch.
  • Uttanasana In Pada Hastasana (Uttanasana), bending knees will help avoid too much pressure on the lower back. It will also give the flexbility to extend the arms to touch the floor. If the neck hurts when trying to take the head towards the knee, then just relax the neck and look in front and don't push the head towards your knees.
  • In Ashwa Sanchalanasana, if the chest does not open, remain close to the ground with the palms on the floor. With slow repeated practice, the chest will open up and it will be easy to expand it backwards. If the knees feel uncomfortable, place a blanket underneath the knees or you could also reduce the distance the back leg is stretched or the front leg is bent.
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana Parvatasana or Adho Mukha Svanasana is a difficult pose for beginners. Here one could bend the knees or even reduce the distance between the feet and the arms. If placing the head deep is uncomfortable, then you could look up. In some cases of Migraine, looking down may be very uncomfortable. In such a case, simply look up. If the arms feel weak, use a blanket below the palms to give support to arms and shoulders.
  • Eight Limbed Pose (Ashtangasana) Ashtanga Namaskara or Ashtangasana (Salutation with Eight Limbs or Eight Limbed Pose) is most certainly easy to do after going flat on the floor and then raising the lower back and thighs off the floor. Some yoga students may find going into this yoga pose directly a bit difficult as a lot of pressure is put on the shoulders and arms. So one could practice by first going down flat on the tummy and then with inhalation rising up on the eight limbs.
  • Cobra Pose Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana requires chest and abdominal strength to bring the body in this yoga pose from Ashtangasana (Eight Limbed Pose). Here one could bend the elbow initially until one gets comfortable with the pose. You could place a blanket below the thighs to give support to the back to stay in the pose. To avoid more strain to the back, one can give a slight arch to the back and avoid going deep with the back bend.

Sun Salutation Yoga Sequence Preparatory Poses

As Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) by itself is a sequence structured with step by step flow of the body and breath, it is used as a preparatory pose for most yoga poses (asanas). Hence one can work on simple stretches before the practice of Surya Namaskar, like neck stretches, back stretches, shoulder stretches, and leg stretches. One could also prepare the body by doing few rounds of deep breathing that will help in opening the nostrils (which is required for better flow of energy during Sun Salutation).

Sun Salutation Yoga Sequence Relaxing Follow-up Poses

After the practice of Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar), it is important to relax and cool the muscles. Therefore the practice should end with either Savasana (Corpse Pose) or Advasana (Reverse Corpse Pose). Any of these two yoga poses (supine and prone respectively) will help in relaxing the spine and all the muscles of the body. Bring the focus on breath and "feel" the spine move with focus on the lower back.

Sun Salutation Yoga Sequence Level Up Follow-up Poses

For better strength and flexibility one can move to the advance level of Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) by practicing Sun Salutation B (Surya Namaskar B), where the 17 steps will bring stability, endurance, strength and stamina. One could also take the practice to another level by reciting the mantra at each pose which will create a good flow of "pranic" energy in the body which works more towards the spiritual benefits. The other possible enhancing of the level is to do it 108 times for greater endurance and stamina.

Sun Salutation Yoga Sequences

Sun Salutation Titles in English and Sanskrit

Many yoga poses have multiple titles because of differences in their Sanskrit to English title translation or a specific title becoming popular because of it's common usage amongst yoga teachers and yoga practitioners. Below are common titles of Sun Salutation:

  • Sun Salutation
  • Surya Namaskar

Sun Salutation Sanskrit

Sun Salutation sanskrit title is Surya Namaskar

Please click on the link below to listen to Sanskrit pronunciation of Sun Salutation:
Sanskrit audio pronunciation for  Surya Namaskar Play Sanskrit audio pronunciation for Surya Namaskar

Sun Salutation References

Scientific articles that were referenced to describe benefits and contraindications for Sun Salutation. Please find them below.

  1. How Effective Is Sun Salutation in Improving Muscle Strength, General Body Endurance and Body Composition? by Milind V. Bhutkar, Pratima M. Bhutkar, Govind B. Taware, and Anil D. Surdi, year 2011.
  2. A comparative study of slow and fast suryanamaskar on physiological function by Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani, Kaviraja Udupa, Madanmohan, and PN Ravindra, year 2011.
  3. Motion analysis of sun salutation using magnetometer and accelerometer by SN Omkar, Meenakshi Mour, and Debarun Das, year 2009.
  4. An Analysis of Sun Salutation by SN Omkar.

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