9 Benefits of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) Yoga Poses
Yoga Sun Salutations have many benefits, which explains why we do so many of them. Here’s our top 9, from muscle toning to moving meditation.
Ann Pizer |
Sun Salutations’ essential role in yoga asana practice is reinforced almost every time you take to your yoga mat. Any kind of flowing (vinyasa) Yoga makes frequent use of the structure of a Sun Salutation, which is characterised by breath-synchronised movement from the front to the back of your mat and the incorporation of the vinyasa sequences of poses.
As you repeatedly reach for the sky and then swan-dive over your legs to touch your toes, you may wonder ‘just what are the benefits of all these Salutations?’ Turns out, they are numerous, which helps explain the sequence’s enduring appeal. Here are our top 9, which include benefits for both your body and mind.
Benefits of Surya Namaskar
1. Warms Up Your Whole Body
Sun Salutations are a great way to get your body warmed up at the beginning of a yoga session or for any other movement practice. The combination of stretching and motion wakes up all your major muscle groups and signals them that it’s time to work.
2. Raises Your Heart Rate
Fast-paced Sun Salutations are one of the best opportunities to raise your heart rate while doing yoga. The trick here is to move quickly without sacrificing your alignment and attention to detail. Include jumping forward and back for an extra cardio boost.
3. Tones Muscles
Plank, Chaturanga, and the other poses of the vinyasa sequence tone your arms and abs while the standing poses work your leg muscles. Surya Namaskar B, with its inclusion of Warrior I and Chair Pose, is especially good for your legs.
4. Improves Flexibility
You definitely get your stretching in, with Downward Facing Dog and Uttanasana in particular working your hamstrings and Raised Arms Pose doing the same for your shoulders, arms, and back. Try taking a few rounds really slowly, holding each pose for several breaths as you settle into a deeper stretch.
5. Boosts Your Immune System
Getting your body moving and your heart working also jumpstarts your lymphatic system, which supports your immune system and helps you stay healthy.
6. Motivates You to Practice
Maintaining a home Yoga practice is all about staying motivated. If you’re not sure what to do when you get out your mat, it often seems easier not to. Sun Salutations are the answer every time. Always start here and see where it takes you.
7. Integrates Breath and Movement
Paying attention to the coordination of each movement with a breath turns this vinyasa flow into a moving meditation and sets the stage for a practice that is anchored in awareness, which helps clear the clutter from your mind.
8. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
When your body and mind are totally engaged with the physical practices of movement and breath, you get a much-needed break from the constantly spinning wheels in your head. The more regularly you practice, the more natural it becomes to drop into a meditative headspace where you can let go of thoughts as they arise.
9. Boosts Energy
Unsurprisingly, when your body and breath are engaged, your circulatory system is humming, and you are moving with attention, you are going to get a boost of energy that can carry you through the rest of your practice and maybe even the rest of your day.
How to Do Sun Salutations
Classic Sun Salutations A and B come to us from the Ashtanga Yoga tradition. Both begin standing in Mountain Pose at the front of your Yoga mat. Surya Namaskar A provides the basic framework, while the more intensive Surya Namaskar B adds in standing poses and more vinyasas. Our video with Ashtangi John Scott takes you through both sequences with useful alignment tips along the way.
Here Come the Sun Salutations
Now that you know some of the reasons Yoga loves Sun Salutations, allow your new appreciation to infuse your practice with an even greater awareness of the many benefits Yoga brings to your life.