Sun Salutations are an important practice in Hatha Yoga. The practice is also known as "Surya Namaskara" - Surya comes from Sanskrit and means sun, whereas Namaskara stands for salutation. It harmonizes the movements of your body with your breath and has many mental, physical, and energetic benefits, moving prana (life force) through your whole being.
It is important to note that this practice should be done ideally in the mornings and on an empty stomach.
There is no written text or source that gives the precise date of origin or even the composition of the very first Sun Salutations. According to many yoga masters, it was inspired by the practice of daily rituals that included chanting mantras and prostrations to the sun god.
The Hatha Yoga Sun Salutations consist of the following 12 movements:
1. Pranamasana (Prayer Pose) - Stand at the front of the mat with hands in prayer position, and exhale.
2. Hasta Uttanasana (Raised Arms Pose) - Inhale and raise the arms overhead, arching your back slightly.
3. Padahastasana (Hand to Foot Pose) - Exhale and bend forward, touching the floor with your hands beside your feet.
4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Low Lunge Pose) - Inhale, step the right leg back, and lower the right knee to the floor, keeping the left knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
5. Dandasana (Plank Pose) - While exhaling, step the left leg back, aligning the body in a plank position.
6. Ashtanga Namaskara (Salute with Eight Parts) - Lower the knees, chest, and chin to the floor, keeping the hips up.
7. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) - Inhale and slide forward, lifting your chest off the floor, while keeping the hips and legs on the mat.
8. Parvatasana (Mountain Pose) - Exhale, tuck the toes and lift the hips to form an inverted V shape.
9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Low Lunge Pose) - Inhale, step the right foot forward between the hands, and lower the left knee to the floor.
10. Padahastasana (Hand to Foot Pose) - Exhale and step the left foot forward to meet the right, folding forward.
11. Hasta Uttanasana (Raised Arms Pose) - Inhale and rise up, lifting the arms overhead and arching your back slightly.
12. Pranamasana (Prayer Pose) - Exhale, bring your hands to your heart center and stand at the front of your mat.
This completes one round of Hatha Yoga Surya Namaskara. You can repeat the sequence to perform more rounds as desired. Remember to coordinate your breath with each movement for a smooth and meditative practice. There are a few different ways to practice the Sun Salutations: In fact, Krishnamacharya and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, both creators of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, are two great figures of yoga primarily responsible for the creation of two other variants of Sun Salutations according to the Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition: Surya Namaskar A and B, which differ in some ways from the steps of the Surya Namaskara in the Hatha Yoga tradition.
In Madan Yoga 200hr Yoga Teacher Trainings, we explore the Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) in much detail - learning how to perform each step correctly, how to give modifications and adjustments, and eventually, how to verbally instruct each step and give proper guidance.
Photo: Student instructing Hatha Yoga Surya Namaskara to her classmates during the 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Course with Madan Yoga near Pokhara, Nepal.