Warms up and prepares the body for asana practice. Lubricates and increases the blood supply to the joints. Stretches and strengthens the whole body. Improves efficiency of the internal organs. Helps to detoxify the body. Stimulates pingala/surya nadi which increases energy and stimulates digestion. Increases the prana in the body and helps to remove energy blockages. Useful for weight loss when practiced as an exercise. Helps to balance the endocrine system. Beeja mantras strengthen the heart. The particular breathing sequence strengthens the lungs.
Benefits for Women:
Taking the Position:
In standing position join the palms together, thumbs at a 90 degree angle from the fingers, pressed against the sternum. Exhale while inhaling stretch the arms up, look up and gently bend backwards. Exhale bend forward from the hips coming into standing forward bend, try to place the palms on the floor and head toward the knees or shins. Inhale step the left leg back into half cobra position, keeping the foot erect and resting the left knee on the floor. Push the hips down towards the ground and bend the neck back. Push the chest forward, opening the chest and pulling the shoulders back. Try to bring the calf and thigh of the right leg close together. Hold the breath, bring the right leg back, joining the feet together, keeping the arms, legs and back straight in Plank Pose. Your feet should remain erect. While exhaling, first bring the knees to the ground, then the chest and finally the forehead, coming into Ashtanga position, keeping the hips and abdomen off the ground. While inhaling come into the Cobra Position, straightening the arms, keeping the toes erect and legs together, knees and hips on the ground. Push the chest forward and pull the shoulders back, gazing up towards the ceiling. Exhale raise the hips up into downward dog. Keep the arms and legs straight. Tuck the chin in towards the chest, push the body backwards and try to lower the heels to the floor. Push the forehead down towards the floor. Inhale and step the right leg forward between the hands coming back into the half cobra position. While exhaling bring the left leg forward into Standing Forward Bend. Inhale, straighten the body up and come back to standing with palms joined in front of your chest.
Releasing the Positions:
Focus on core abdominal region and chest.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Avoid if one has severe back and spinal problems, high blood pressure, heart problems, abdominal surgery or serious abdominal problems. Avoid if there is knee or wrist pain, peptic ulcer, hernia or diarrhoea. Avoid during pregnancy and practice a pregnancy version. Though Surya Namaskar is often thought of as a warm up to begin class, for some people it can be difficult and may be practiced towards the end of a class, as they build up to it through simpler and more gentle warm up practices.
Variations & Tips:
Can be practiced slowly as yoga, correlated with the breath or even slower, maintaining the asanas or it can be practiced fast as a form of exercise. Namaskar - hands can be raised above the head with hands together in namsakar or hands apart. They may remain in the same position whilst a gentle backbend is done or the hands may support the back and one tilts backwards. Forward Bend - the hands may touch the ground or the fingertips may touch. One can also just let the arms hang down or let the hands touch the knees. If there is back pain or mild sciatica one can squat with the back straight and heels lifted. Half Cobra - to come into this pose the second time one may need to take two steps to get the foot between the hands. If one prefers they can keep the fingertips on the ground, this can give a deeper backbend but may give less of a hip opening effect. Plank - place the knees on the ground if it is too stressful for the back. Ashtanga Asan - if it is uncomfortable to put the forehead down then the chin can remain on the mat. Bhujangasan - if the back bend is too strong either the hips can be lifted, the feet can be slightly apart, the arms can be bent or the neck can remain straight instead of tilted back. Urdhva Shwanasan - it is not necessary that the heels touch the floor, keeping a straight back is more important. If there is tightness in the calves then a little walking in the pose will be helpful.