A harmonious development of the body and mind alone can enable man to fulfill his ambitions and live a fruitful and happy life here in this world. A sickly body acts as a deadweight preventing the mind from soaring into the higher realms. An excellent, well-built body, strong and healthy, if it serves only to house an undeveloped or diseased mind is capable of much harm and little good to anyone. A good body, and a keen mind, with the inner spirit entirely dormant is like a lovely mansion without foundation liable to topple over at any moment. A perfectly harmonious development of the body, mind and spirit makes one perfect. Surya-Namaskara achieves this harmonious development.
Surya-Namaskara is a combined process of Yoga Asanas and Pranayama (Yogic postures and regulated breathing). Before students take up the practice of more complicated and difficult Yogic postures and exercises in Pranayama, the spine and body muscles should acquire some flexibility. This exercise of Surya-Namaskara reduces abdominal fat, brings flexibility to the spine and limbs, and also increases the breathing capacity.
There are twelve spinal positions each stretching various ligaments and giving different movements to the vertebral column. The vertebral column is bent forward and backward alternately with deep inhalation and exhalation of breath and a little of retention of breath in some cases. Whenever the body is bent forward, the contraction of the abdomen and diaphragm throws out the breath. When the body bends backward, the chest expands and deep inhalation occurs automatically. In this way the body becomes flexible and the entire portion of the lungs begins to function which results in correct breathing. Moreover, it gives mild exercises to leg and arms muscles and ensures good circulation of blood. At the same time, the sun’s life-giving rays play on the man’s body, sucking away the toxins along with perspiration invigorating circulation and imparting life to the human organism – the life which the sun alone can give. For a person with stiff limbs and spine, the Surya-Namaskara exercise is a boon to bring back lost flexibility.
Caution: During all these positions, movements of the limbs and breathing must be very, very slow and rhythmical. Sudden jerks of any part of the body and hard inhalation and exhalation in quick succession including retention of breath causing strain in the lungs should be completely avoided.
Position No. 2: Slowly inhale and raise the arms overhead. Bend backward.
Position No. 3: Slowly exhale and bend forward till the palms are kept flat in line with the feet. Touch the knees with your head keepings the legs straight without bending. In the beginning there may be slight bend at the knees to effect this, but after some days practice the legs should be kept straight.
Position No. 4: After slow and deep inhalation, move the right leg from the body in a long backward step. Keep the hands and the left foot firmly on the ground without moving, raise the head, and look forward. The left knee should be between the hands.
Position No. 5: Retain the breath. Move the left leg and keep the left foot along with the right foot, thus making the body a straight line. The entire weight of the body should rest on the hands and toes.
Position No. 7: With inhalation, slowly raise your head and bend the spine backward as much as possible.
Position No. 8: Exhale, slowly lower your head and raise the body, the toes and hands resting on the floor.
Position No. 9: Inhale and bring the left foot along the level of the hands. The right foot and knee should touch the ground. Look forward (Same as Position No. 4).
Position No. 10: Exhale, bring the right leg also forward and come back to Position No. 3.
Position No. 11: Inhale and raise the hands overhead and bend backward as in Position No. 2.
[Note: In the second Namaskara, start with your left leg and change the legs alternately for each.]
Position No. 12: Slowly bring your hands as in Position No. 1. Simultaneously exhale and relax in Tadasana. This is one Namaskara.
After completing twelve Namaskaras lie down flat on the ground on your back and relax each and every limb one by one from toes to the crown of the head. This is called Savasana (corpse pose). To begin with if one feels tired after three or four Namaskaras, he may stop with that and increase the number gradually (one everyday or every two days) all the time taking care that too much strain is not caused on any account, on any part of the body. The number may be increased according to each one’s capacity. There are person who can do 108 Namaskaras at a stretch without great strain.
Those who are spiritually or religiously inclined would do well to follow, in addition, the instructions given below:
Before doing the Surya-Namaskara, the student may chant the prayer to the Almighty Lord:
PRAYER TO THE SUN
“Om Suryam Sundaralokanathamamritam
Jnanam Brahmamayam Suresamamalam
Vande Sada Bhaskaram.”
Meaning: I always adore Surya, the Sun, the beautiful Lord of the world, the immortal, the quintessence of the Vedanta, the auspicious, the absolute knowledge, of the form of Brahman, the Lord of the gods, ever pure, the one true consciousness of the world itself, the Lord of the Indra, the gods and men, the preceptor of the gods, the crest-jewel of the three worlds, the very heart of the forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, the giver of light.
Then repeat the twelve Names of the Lord by turn (mentally) for each Namaskara. The twelve names are:
1) Om Mitraya Namah (Prostration to Him who is affectionate to all).
2) Om Ravaye Namah (Prostration to Him who is the cause for change).
3) Om Suryaya Namah (Prostration to Him who induces activity).
4) Om Bhanave Namah (Prostration to Him who diffuses Light).
5) Om Khagaya Namah (Prostration to Him who moves in the sky).
6) Om Pushne Namah (Prostration to Him who nourishes all).
7) Om Hiranyagarbhaya Namah (Prostration to Him who contains everything).
8) Om Marichaye Namah (Prostration to Him who possesses rays).
9) Om Adityaya Namah (Prostration to Him who is the son of Aditi).
10) Om Savitre Namah (Prostration to Him who produces everything).
11) Om Arkaya Namah (Prostration to Him who is fit to be worshipped).
12) Om Bhaskaraya Namah (Prostration to Him who is the cause of lustre).
The sun being the most effulgent and life-giving force in this planet, it forms the visible representation of the invisible Almighty Lord. The vast majority of men cannot think of the transcendent Supreme Absolute without the help of some concrete object or idea. To them the Sun forms the best object for worship and meditation. Thus, Surya-Namaskara provides the foundation for the magnificent all round culture of body, mind, and Spirit which is essential for every human being.