Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations can be described as the ‘heart and soul’ of yoga. A popular dynamic sequence of twelve asanas, this practice has immense benefits. The sun is an invigorating source of life, providing us with energy and nourishment that is integral to our survival. Traditionally, Surya Namaskars were practiced facing the rising sun. They can also be practiced at dusk, when the sun is setting. Today, as the practice of yoga has evolved, Surya Namaskars are practiced as part of a class, normally as a warm up and before doing any intense postures.
Surya Namaskars Benefits
Strengthens the muscles and joints
The Twelve asanas strung together work on muscles and joints in every part of the body. The muscles, joints and ligaments get stretched, strengthened and toned. When practiced regularly, one will notice a great improvement in muscle strength. Spinal flexibility improves.
The functioning of vital internal organs improves with regular practice. Blood circulation and oxygen supply improves. Blockages get released, helping build immunity.
While doing Surya Namaskar, breath patterns are defined by the posture movement. Due to this rhythmic movement, the lungs are ventilated and blood gets more oxygen. This contributes towards detoxification and better flow of lymph which carries toxins to the excretory organs. This also helps in building immunity.
Encourages weight loss
An intense physical exercise, Surya Namaskar contributes greatly towards weight loss. With practice, one can increase the number of rounds, too, which will help in losing weight. The postures stretch the abdominal muscles and when practiced at a faster rate, you’ll finish your rounds with a great sweat! Metabolism also improves over time.
Balances the body and mind
Since the practice works on every part of the system, there is a harmony between the mind and body. A greater mind-body connection is established and balance improves.
Infuses the body with energy
As blockages get released, prana or life force flows freely, improving energy and stamina. Vitality increases, helping you feel stronger and healthier as you practice more and more.
Helps in skincare and haircare
Blood flow to the scalp increases, promoting hair growth. There is better nourishment which also prevents hair fall and graying of hair. Similarly, better blood circulation to the face also helps in keeping the skin healthy, young and glowing. The greater energy and vitality also contributes towards skin health. It also helps towards reducing wrinkles and other skin related problems.
Ignites the digestive fire
Surya Namaskar is one of the best ways to ignite the digestive fire or Agni. When digestive fire is strong, digestion is good, stamina and energy is better and you feel healthier.
All the postures work on the abdominal muscles and digestion. With good digestion, health is better and ailments and diseases are curbed. Blood flow to the intestines improves, leading to better functioning of the digestive tract. Trapped gas also gets released. When gut health is disturbed, it can lead to many health problems. So, with regular practice, one can maintain good digestion and gut health.
Reduces stress and anxiety
The nervous system gets balanced, reducing stress and anxiety. Intuition and focus improves. Memory and functioning of the nervous system gets better. Even the Endocrine system and hormones are balanced, leading to lower stress levels. One will notice they are calmer and feel less worried.
Regulates the menstrual cycle
For women, Surya Namaskar regulates the menstrual cycle, reduces period pain and aids in a more balanced cycle. Symptoms of any imbalances are managed more easily and effectively. Postures stimulate sluggish glands and improve hormonal health.
Improves sleep quality
Surya Namaskar aids in improving sleep quality and reducing or even curing insomnia. Sleep patterns improve as asanas ease tension and promote relaxation throughout the body and mind. Restful sleep becomes easier to achieve.
Improves cardiovascular, metabolic and respiratory health
The overall health of various systems in the body improves. Heart health, metabolic health and lung health gets better. The practice stimulates the lymphatic system, spinal nerves and other internal organs. Overall, long term benefits of Surya Namaskar helps you stay disease-free, healthy and energetic.
How to Practice Surya Namaskar
The best part about Surya Namaskar is you can practice at a fast, medium or slow pace. You can even change up your speed based on your goals. For example, if you are looking to lose weight, you can practice multiple rounds at a fast pace. Think of it like a cardio workout that is going to leave you sweating.
If you’re looking to stretch and strengthen muscles, a medium-slow pace is good as it allows time for the muscles to get worked in each posture.
You can also change up your pace based on the season or weather. A fast pace is great during the winter when you want to increase body heat. In the summers, a slow or medium pace is good to get in the required stretching.
What do Studies Say About Practicing Surya Namaskars
A review showed that Surya Namaskar is necessary for all to maintain physical, physiological and mental health. If introduced to children at the age of 7 or 8, it helps them grow better not only physically but also with great mental health.
A comparative study of slow and fast Surya Namaskar on physiological function found that the practice has positive physiological benefits as evidenced by improvement of pulmonary function, respiratory pressures, hand grip strength and endurance, and resting cardiovascular parameters. It concluded fast Surya Namaskar has similar effects as physical aerobic exercises, whereas the effects of a slow practice are similar to those of yoga training.
Another study found that Sun Salutations can be an ideal exercise to keep up one’s optimum level of fitness. A study on college students in India with high stress concluded that surya namaskar is effective in leading to R-Dispositions like physical relaxation, mental quiet, at ease/peace, rested and refreshed, strength and awareness and joy and reduces sleepiness, somatic stress, worry and negative emotion at a dispositional level. On Cardiovascular and Metabolic health it was found that regular practice of Surya Namaskar may maintain or improve cardiorespiratory fitness, as well as promote weight management.
With an abundance of convincing evidence to show us the impact of Surya Namaskar on good health, it’s no surprise the practice holds such an important place in every yoga session! Join Shvasa's online yoga class to experience this for yourself. We promise you will love how your health and fitness improves over time!