Guest Author - Terri Johansen
Why should we practice Sun Salutations: We do Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara) for many reasons: our physical health –the practice of the poses involved will stretch and lengthen many of the main muscles in the body. They also provide flexion and extension of these muscles and give us a toned shapely body. Doing yoga in general is also known to be helpful for weight loss.
Here is some information on Sun Salutations in general and in regard to the physical practice of Surya Namaskara.
• Know what you’re doing. Choose a simple Sun Salutation to begin and practice slowly until the motions feel natural. Don’t worry about how many you can do. One is enough. You can build up slowly and learn to truly appreciate this practice.
• Sun Salutations help relax the mind. They are a great beginning to a meditation practice as they are meditation in motion.
• You may have heard that Sun Salutations should be practiced in the morning, particularly at sunrise. However, I suggest you do your Sun Salutations whenever is the most convenient for you and stick to this schedule. Consistency will give you the best outcome.
• Never compare or try to copy someone else. Your body is your own and it will guide you if you listen. It’s natural to be over zealous at times but you should move at your own pace and develop the practice gradually.
• Sun Salutations can be an entire yoga practice in themselves. However adding some seated, prone, and reclining poses is a good idea as you grow stronger and more confident.
• Sun Salutations can be done at different paces. For instance I like to do mine in a slow flow, combining my movements with breath awareness. This is relaxing and peaceful. Sometimes Sun Salutations are done in a quick vinyasa style, especially when used as a warm up to your practice. And of course there is always the in between pace. Choose what you like based on how you intend on using the poses in your practice.
• You should always consult a medical professional before starting a yoga practice, especially if you currently suffer from any type of physical problem.
Sun Salutations can have a resounding affect on you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Often this side of the practice is ignored or misunderstood. Here are some thoughts on this part of the practice and the power of Sun Salutations.
• Throughout time and civilizations the sun has been a profound symbol of light within and without. For example to the Hindus, “the sun is the eye of the world, seeing and uniting all things in itself, an image of and a pathway to the divine.”
• A Sun Salutation practice is thought to demonstrate respect and inner insight. It is done as a type of devotion always bringing your mind inward gazing upon the heart. The movements are done mindfully and matched perfectly with your breath. Standing with attention, we can open ourselves up to the energy within and out bowing with respect and modesty.
• The sequence is intended to awaken the Sun within you which represents your inner self. According to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, “Sun Salutations bestow upon us the good fortune of having only good thoughts, of hearing and speaking only good words, and of attaining a sound and sound body, so that we may have a long life, and one day achieve oneness with God.”
• Even though you probably don’t worship the sun you can recognize the influence of light to the life upon our planet. You may even find your own expression of the vastness of the Universe and perhaps see that there is much greater things than ourselves.
• Our physical movements affect the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our being. The practice of Surya Namaskara can ease the mind, still the chatter, and bring you into a place of relaxation. You may find your body experiencing a release of energy as a dedication of sorts, thus this energy returns to you as an eternal gift to your inner spirit.
Erich Neumann writes in The Origins and History of Consciousness, “In many cultures, light has long been a symbol of consciousness and self-illumination. The world begins with the coming of light. Opposition between light and darkness has informed the spiritual world of all peoples and molded it into shape.”
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