What are Surya Namaskar?

The Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation, is a sequence of āsanas performed in a vinyasa style i.e. with continuous flow from one āsana to the next. Surya, in Sanskrit refers to a Hindu sun deity, and Namaskar, means ‘I bow to you’. The sun salutations are believed to be derived from the ancient ritualistic Vedic worship of the sun which can still be seen in the daily morning ablutions of the Hindu Brahmin. Many of the movements in these early morning rituals, such as the raising of the arms together in anjali mudra and the reverential bowing forward and touching of the earth are incorporated in the sequence of Surya Namaskar. The āsanas included differ from tradition to tradition, but a classical example of a sun salutation or Surya Namaskar sequence would be: Tadāsana, Urdhva Hastāsana , Uttanāsana , Adho Mukha Svanāsana, Urdhva Mukha Svanāsana, Chaturanga Dandāsana, Urdhva Mukha Svanāsana , Adho Mukha Svanāsana and then Uttanāsana, Urdhva Hastāsana and finally ending with Tadāsana.
As the sun is the ultimate sustainer of life itself, the Surya Namaskar, like the morning rituals of the Brahmin, can be seen as a sacred and reverential gesture in which one pays homage to the sun before engaging in daily activities. Traditionally it is practiced at the start of the day and facing east, to greet the rising sun.
The origins of the Surya Namaskar sequence is somewhat uncertain, as none of the traditional yogic texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika mention anything resembling the sequences we follow today. The oldest-known yoga text to describe a Sun Salutation sequence, the Yoga Makaranda, was written in 1934 by T. Krishnamacharya, who is considered by many to be the father of modern hatha yoga. It is unclear whether Krishnamacharya learned the sequence from his teacher Ramamohan Brahmachari or from other sources, or whether he invented it himself. Krishnamacharya taught a sequence to his students, most notably K. Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar and Indra Devi. These students went on to become internationally prominent teachers themselves and inspired much of āsana practice in the West. As a result, Sun Salutations have become an integral part of modern āsana practice even though its origins are somewhat obscured.
In a yoga class setting, a Surya Namaskar sequence is often used as a warm-up practice. It acts to unify a class, as everyone is breathing and moving in unison. In her book, Sun Yoga, Juanita Stenhouse describes 25 variations of Surya Namaskar. It is possible for even beginner students to follow a modified Sun Salutation sequence and it is a useful way of learning to transition smoothly from one āsana to another and develops yet another aspect of one’s practice. A sharpness and acuity of body and mind is cultivated in practicing this way.
Reference: yogajournal/practice/2746, the yoga tutor/sun-salutations, wikipedia/ Namaste, Image Reference


What are Asanas?

The āsanas are the poses or postures of the physical yoga practice. It is the part of yoga with which we are most familiar in the west. Āsana comes from the Sanskrit ‘to be’. The english translation of the word āsana is therefore not wholly accurate, since ‘pose’ or ‘posture’ implies that it is static. In fact āsanas are anything, but static, there is movement of blood, movement of breath and flow of energy present within each āsana. According to the philosophy of Yoga, the physical body is a manifestation of consciousness. It is a crystallization of karmic (behavioral) patterns created by the mind. The key to working with the body, therefore, is to understand the consciousness behind it, much of which lies outside our ordinary awareness. This requires that we practice asanas aware not only of the technicalities of the postures but also of the mental and emotional states that they create within us.
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