The term Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) is derived from the Sanskrit (to adore) and Surya (the sun). The sequence, a careful series of eight basic postures, was traditionally done facing east at dawn, in honour of and in connection with the rising sun. Hindus have long revered the sun as a source of life which unites all, calling it Savitri, the vivified, and loka chakshus, the eye of the world. While some believe the Sun Salutations began as a Vedic tradition dating back 2500 years, others think it was created by a raja in the early 20th century. What can be agreed upon is that Surya Namaskar is a wonderful way to get your prana shakti — creative life force — flowing.
In Shiva Samhita, yogis teach that just as each of us embodies the universe, the sun is a symbol of our inner sun: our spiritual heart, home of jnana (higher wisdom) and consciousness.
A Sun Salutation practice can be done on its own or as a warm up to more asanas. Either way practitioners find it flexes the body, awakens circulation, and removes mental debris, thereby restoring inner balance. There are variations on the sequence, but the basic postures of Surya Namaskar are, in order: Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute), Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), Lunge, Plank Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose), and Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose).
At the beginning and close of Surya Namaskar, the joined-hands mudra touches the heart as a way to acknowledge the truth within in our own hearts and selves. Some say it’s best to repeat the sequence 12 times; others even strive to complete a mala (108 sequences in a row) annually, often at the vernal equinox. However you choose to do Surya Namaskar, you will find it an energizing, grounding, and cleansing sequence.