Here Comes the Sun: The Tradition and Practice of Surya Namaskar
That most familiar of asana sequences, Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is as rich in symbolic and mythic overtones as it is in physical benefits.
In many cultures, light has long been a symbol of consciousness and self-illumination. "The world begins with the coming of light," wrote Jungian analyst Erich Neumann in The Origins and History of Consciousness. "Opposition between light and darkness has informed the spiritual world of all peoples and moulded it into shape."
Our primary source of light is, of course, the sun. When we look at our closest star, we may see nothing more than a big yellow ball. But for thousands of years, the Hindus have revered the sun, which they call Surya, as both the physical and spiritual heart of our world and the creator of all life itself. That's why one of Surya's many other appellations is Savitri (the who, according to the Rig Veda, "begets and feeds mankind in various manners".
Moreover, since everything that exists originates from the sun, as Alain Danizlou wrote in The Myths and Gods of India, it "must contain the potentiality of all that is to be known." For the Hindus, the sun is the "eye of the world", seeing and uniting all selves in itself, an image of and a pathway to the divine.
The Sun Salutations are the most basic building block of the yoga asana practice. When taken as part of a daily practice, the Sun Salutations awaken the fire of purification deep within the inner body.
The internal fire is key to detoxifying the body and cleansing impurities through daily yoga practice. Once the body is fully cleansed the mind becomes sharp, focused and balanced.
The traditional Sun Salutations are comprised of two variations that build on increasing levels of difficulty.
Sun Salutation A is simpler and is usually repeated five times. Sun Salutation B is more challenging and incorporates Utkatasnana (the awkward chair pose – mostly awkward) and Virabhadrasana (warrior) A. Usually repeated either three or five times (or as many as your body feels able to do), when practiced together, these two Sun Salutations can constitute an entire yoga asana practice.
For people who don't have a lot of time, learning Sun Salutations can be the perfect place to begin.
My experience as a teacher is that many of the core constituents of this mindful movement through asanas neglect correct alignment, and so negating the benefits, and more perilously invite injury..... To that end, I’m in the process of recording a video that demonstrates the two, with cues on alignment and ways to modify if you're new to practice.
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