We salute the sun because it is responsible for life on Earth. The sun itself has cycles, and so the sun salutations have parts. Sun salutations or Surya Namaskar in Sanskrit, is a moving flowing meditation. It is great to wear comfortable clothing that easily moves for this practice, like yoga shorts or yoga pants.
Each part of the meditation has a corresponding breath, and each part has a corresponding mantra.
- Part one is exhaling into Pranamasana (prayer pose). Students make sure their feet are grounded into the mat together or slightly parted, no more than the distance of a fist. The mantra that corresponds is “Mitraaya Namaha.”
- Part two follows with inhaling their arms up overhead into Hasta Uttanasana (Raised arms pose). The student creates space here to take a deep inhalation. The corresponding mantra is “ Savaye Namaha”
- Part three is exhaling the breath into Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (hands to foot pose) which is also known as standing forward fold. The student places their hands flat on the mat with their fingertips lined up with their toes. They can bend their knees as much as necessary to allow the hands to come as flat as possible. The mantra is “Suryaya Namaha”
- Part four involves inhaling and bringing the right leg back into a lunge, then dropping the knee and turning over the foot to come into Ashwa Sanchalanasana (equestrian pose). The mantra is “Bhaanave Namaha”
- Part five is the one part that requires the breath to be retained as the student moves into a plank position or Tuladandasana (stick pose). The mantra is “Khagaya Namaha.”
- Part six allows the student to exhale as they lower into ashtanga, eight points on the mat. Their knees, feet, chest, hands, and chin come to the mat while their buttocks stay lifted. It is called Ashtanga Namaskara (salute with eight parts pose). The mantra is “Pooshne Namaha.”
- Part seven has the student inhale pushing up into a Bhujanngasana (cobra pose). Use their back strength to lift rather than their hands. The mantra is “Hiranyagarbhaya Namaha.”
- Part eight involves the student exhaling and pushing themselves back into Parvatasana (inverted V or downward dog pose). The mantra here is “Mareechaye Namaha”
- Part nine uses the inhale to bring the right leg back up and planted. The student finds them again in Ashwa Sanchalanasana (equestrian pose). This time they have the opposite leg back than the first time they were in the pose. If the right leg went back in part four, then it comes back forward in part nine. The mantra is different this time, “Om Adityaaya Namaha.”
- Part Ten has the student bringing their left leg back forward into Hasta Padangusthasana once again using a different mantra of “Savitre Namaha.”
- Part Eleven brings the student back up into Hasta Uttanasana, reaching up and back, creating space and using the mantra “ Arkaaya Namaha.”
- Finally, in part twelve, the student returns to Pranamasana (prayer pose) using the mantra of “Aksharaya Namaha.”
This moving meditation is a great way to warm up before further asana practice. Students should practice the right side as written and then repeat on the left side. Do both sides for one full round and repeat the round 4-6 times. In Sivananda yoga classes, students receive a nice rest in Savasana after Surya Namaskar before moving onto the series.
It is a great strengthening and activating exercise, effectively connecting students with their body and breath!