Namaskar means ‘to bow,’ to recognize with your whole being. Reaching up, bowing forward to the earth in prostration – the meaning is inherent in the movement. Eventually, you are going to have an ecstatic experience of the life force entering your body. Understanding its meaning will allow you to bring the healing energy of the sun and a connection to the Divine into your own practice.
To enjoy the full experience of Surya Namaskar, it’s recommended four things. First, let the breath lead the movement. Each inhalation and exhalation should draw you into and through the next pose, and not be forced to fit a predetermined pace. When you go into that state of following the breath, you are following the source.
Also, take the time to fully contemplate the meaning of what Surya Namaskar is and to sense your authentic gratitude to the sun. All of life on Earth depends on the sun. Contemplating the vitality you receive from the elements allows you to go to a deeper level of participation with the movements of the sequence.
Finally, try practicing outdoors, in the presence of the sun, at least occasionally. It’s really important to experience a Namaskar outside of a studio. Experience it with the rising sun, feeling the rays of the sun on your body.
Although Sun Salutations can be practiced at any time of the day, the early-morning hours are considered especially auspicious for yoga and meditation practice. The mind is supposed to be most calm and clear at this time. Ayurveda recommends that one awake at this time every day.
For most of us, early morning is one time of the day we can be alone, without demands and distractions. Rising a bit early can allow you to experience inner stillness and offer your energy to a greater intention for your day. Surya Namaskar is the perfect morning practice to awaken the body, focus the mind, and connect to a sense of gratitude for the new day.
If getting up to practice yoga before sunrise seems intimidating or impossible, you can capture the feeling of Surya Namaskar by doing a simple morning ritual whenever you wake up. Bring the attitude of the Sun Salutation to your heart and mind, face the direction of the rising sun, and offer a formal bow of gratitude. Visualize that you have the sun inside your heart. Part of Surya Namaskar is really being able to see the sun inside you.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Start by establishing equal weight on both feet and a tall, bright posture through the spine and crown of the head. Bring your palms together in front of the heart center. Pause and imagine a sun at your heart, shining brighter with each inhalation. Sense gratitude for the life-giving energy of the sun for the prana (life force) flows through you and all beings.
Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
Inhale, turn your palms out, and sweep your arms up and overhead. The spine can take a gentle backbend, lifting the heart and expanding the chest. Let this movement be a gesture of opening to life. Gaze up, keeping the forehead relaxed and the face soft.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Exhale and fold forward at the hips. Let the descent be an offering of gratitude. Keep the spine straight as long as you can, then let it softly round into a full forward bend. You can bend your knees to ease strain on your back or hips. At the end of the exhalation, draw your chin in and gaze at your legs.
Ardha Uttanasana (Half Standing Forward Bend)
Inhale and lift your chin, your chest, and your gaze. Stay rooted through strong legs, reaching down through your heels. Press your hands into your shins to help lift your heart and straighten your spine. Savor this smaller movement, letting your breath fill you up.