Surya Namaskar – The Ultimate Guide (With Step-By-Step Instructions)

Suryanamaskar The Complete Guide
Suryanamaskar - The Complete Guide

Surya Namaskar  – Surya Namaskar means sun salutation.

Surya Namaskar means sun salutation. It is a popular sequence of yoga asanas done with breath awareness. It is a complete sadhna or yoga practice in itself and includes asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation techniques. The concept of Sun Salutation comes from the ancient practice of revering the Sun which is considered the source of every creation on the planet and also symbolizes spiritual consciousness.

Though the dynamic sequence of Surya Namaskar Yoga is not mentioned in the traditional hatha yoga scriptures and was included in the practice much later, it is a highly effective yoga practice to balance mental and physical energies. The sequence has gained popularity as one of the most popular Vinyasa and weight loss sequence.

You may come across various Surya Namaskar names and variations. It is also called Sarvanga Sundara Asana which means Total Body Workout. Today, you are likely to find different variations of Surya Namaskar steps with pictures; however, it is recommended that you first learn the Surya Namaskar steps from an experienced yoga trainer.

As a beginner, especially after seeing the different Surya Namaskar pics, you may think that the sequence is tough to remember and may find yourself caught up with questions like ‘How many asanas are there in Surya Namaskar ?’ or ‘How to do Surya Namaskar yoga ?’ This is because there are many variations but the most common variation is that of 12 steps.

As seen in most of the Surya Namaskar pictures, 1 set comprises of 12 asanas. 1 cycle of sun salutation comprises of 2 such sets done for the right and left side. You can practice the sequence slowly by staying in each asana for few breaths or you can practice it at a faster pace, breathing in and out as you move from one asana to the other.

Repeating these cycles help you lead an active and healthy life as it regulates and balances the solar energy of the body which flows through pingala nadi. It is performed in a steady rhythmic way which also reflects the biorhythms of the body, 24 hours of the day, and the 12 zodiac signs and this rhythmic process helps transform your mind and body completely.  

Apart from remembering these Yoga asanas surya namaskar it is helpful to remember the Surya Namaskar asana names. Below we have shared benefits of Surya Namaskar steps along with surya namaskar steps images.

If you are beginner, it is advisable to first practice under an expert’s guidance because finding the right alignment and balance in each asana takes a little time. It is only after you get comfortable with each asana and the flow, can you slowly shift your focus to breathing. It is the combination of rhythmic breath and asana that makes this exercise a powerful detox tool.

“Sun Salutations can energize and warm you, even on the darkest, coldest winter day.”

Carol Kruckoff, yoga therapist and journalist.

You will experience a boost in immune system, improved digestion, increase in your lung capacity, and a balanced metabolism,  reproductive and circulatory system. Regular practice helps in naturally balancing endocrine system and restoring hormonal balance, giving you a glowing skin,  healthy bones, and a great mood to kick-start your day with positive energy.

Since the sequence is a combination of dynamic asanas and bends and affects the entire body, it should not be practiced when you have excess toxins in the body, fever, boils, rashes, or if you suffer from high blood pressure, heart problems, hernia, slip disc or even during the onset of menstruation as it may create more pressure and heat.

The following is a detailed explanation on how to get in and out of the Surya Namaskar 12 steps or asanas that are practiced in Surya Namaskar along with surya namaskar images.

You will gain by knowing the benefits and caution for each of the pose. It will help you take necessary precautions or make adjustments based on your health condition.

Surya Namaskar steps is very easy to remember if practiced regularly. Also, the following sequence and asanas, are the most common and are widely practiced and recognised as Hatha yoga surya namaskar images.

12 Surya Namaskar Yoga steps with pictures

1. Pranamasana or Anjali Mudra

Prayer Pose

Steps to follow

With your feet together or hip width apart, evenly distributing weight on all four corners of your feet, aligning the center of your head to the pelvis, bring your palms together and press them, giving gentle pressure on fingertips and base of your palm.

Fingers are together and firm with fingertips pointing upward and thumbs slightly touching the heart center / center of the chest.

Neck and shoulder should be relaxed.

Since this is a gesture of reverence, there is a slight bowing of the head (like for a greeting).

This is a simple posture and also the first and last posture in Surya Namaskar.

Anyone can practice. It helps center the mind and body and helps reduce anxiety and stress.

2. Utthana Hasthasana

Upward Salute

Steps to follow

From Urdhva Hasthasana you can push your hips forward and lengthen your spine further by stretching back. This is the second Surya Namaskar pose.

Hands can be adjusted to stay either in Namaskar mudra or shoulder width apart.

As you let go, see that your weight remains centered and feet are rooted in the mat.

You can stay here for a few breaths and notice the space around your heart increase, giving you more space to breathe.

Benefit

Therapeutic for asthma

Reduces symptoms of backache, fatigue and mild anxiety

Stretches the shoulders and armpits

Improves digestion

Caution

Avoid raising your arms if suffering from neck or shoulder injury.

Avoid looking up if feeling dizzy.

3. Padahastanasana / Utthanasana

Hand To Feet / Intense Forward Bend

Steps to follow

As you exhale, prepare to bend forward by opening your hands wide and dropping them down, next to the feet. Continue to bend forward from your hip, with your sit bones pointing to the ceiling.

It is okay to keep your knees gently bent.

Keep your neck and shoulder relaxed and see that your spine does not curve.

Press into your heels softly so weight is evenly distributed.

Benefit

Therapeutic for insomnia, osteoporosis

Helps relieve anxiety, stress, headache.

Strengthens thighs and knees

Stretches hips, hamstrings and calves

Helps improve digestion

Helps reduce symptoms of  nasal-throat problem

Caution

Lower back pain, neck injuries, high bp, heart problem, ear/eye infection.

4. Ashva Sanchalanasana

Equestrian Pose / Horse Riding

Steps to follow

From Utthanasana, bend your legs at the knee to place the palms on the mat, in line with your feet.

Breathe in/inhale  and take your right leg back to a wide stance. As you do this, your left leg bends at the knee in a 90 degree angle.

The knee and heel of the left leg form a straight line and your right foot is balanced on toes.

Else you can rest your right knee on the mat for support and place right insteps on the floor.

The weight has to be evenly distributed and you should avoid leaning to the front or back.

Benefit

Stretches and strengthens quadriceps and the entire lower body.

Stimulates digestive system and tones kidney and liver.

Builds willpower.

Improves hip flexibility.

Lengthens spine and increases lung capacity,

Caution

Knee and neck injury.

Use modifications such as looking straight and not down and resting back knee on the mat for support.

5. Phalakasana / Dandasana

     Plank Pose

Steps to follow

Exhale and step your left leg back to form a plank pose.

See that your shoulders, elbows and wrists are stacked and perpendicular to the floor.

Draw the shoulder blades in towards each other then spread them, widening your collar bones.

Keep the neck relaxed, in line with your spine.

Spread your fingers wide with middle finger facing the front of the mat.

Roll and press your toes into the mat but avoid tightening your knees.

Engage your core and avoid arching by keeping the tailbone tucked in and lengthen it towards the heels.

Benefit

Strengthens arms, wrists and shoulder.

Tones abdomen and builds core strength and endurance.

Caution

Carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist injury or severe low back pain.

6. Ashtanga Namaskra

    Knee Chest and Chin / Salute With Eight Limbs

Steps to follow

From Plank Pose, drop your chin, chest and knees on the mat at the same time.

The chest is placed right between the palms.

The elbows are bent, hugging your body and pointing to the ceiling.

The hips stay up/off the mat.

Benefit

Expands the chest and improves flexibility of the back and spine.

Tones and strengthens the arms, shoulders and legs.

Releases tension around neck and shoulder and helps prepare for backbends.

Caution

Spinal or back injuries, buttock pain

7. Bhujangasana

Cobra Pose

Steps to follow

With palms pressed into the mat and elbows gently bent and  hugging your body, inhale and lift the chest and head to get into a backbend.

Keep your neck relaxed and roll the shoulders back.

Body below the navel remains pressed down into the mat.

Benefits

Strengthens the entire back and shoulders.

Makes mid and upper back flexible.

Tones abdominal muscles and improves digestive system and blood circulation.

Relieves symptoms of fatigue, menstrual cycle, backache and sciatica.

Therapeutic for asthma.

Expands chest and shoulders.

Caution

Ulcer, hernia, back injury, hyperthyroidism, intestinal prob – seek advice

8. Adho Mukha Svanasana

Adho Mukha Svanasana

  Downward Facing Dog

Steps to follow

Exhale and lift the hips up towards the ceiling.

Try and push the heels down towards the mat. Alternatively, you can keep the knees gently bent and heels off the mat.

Slowly drop your head and try and look towards your navel.

The weight should be evenly distributed on hands and feet and neck should be relaxed.

Benefits

Increase height, stretches lower body and strengthens arms, shoulders and back.

Improves blood circulation, calms the nerves and relieves stress

Therapeutic for high bp, asthma, sciatica, sinusitis

Helps relieve symptoms of menopause, back pain and headache.

Caution

Diarrhea, eye or ear infection, wrist injuries.

For high bp or headache – use support for the head.

9. Ashva Sanchalanasana

Ashva Sanchalanasana

Equestrian Pose / Horse Riding

From Downward Facing Dog, inhale and bring your right foot forward, in between your palms.

(Ref point 4 for benefits and caution)

10. Padahastanasana / Utthanasana

Padahastanasana / Utthanasana

Hand To Feet / Intense Forward Bend

Exhale and step your left foot forward in line with your right foot for forward bend.

(Ref point 3 for benefits and caution)

11. Utthana Hasthasana

Utthana Hasthasana

Upward Salute

Utthana Hasthasana is also the 11th pose in Surya Namaskar.

Steps to follow:

Inhale and lift your body all the way up with your hands stretched in line with your ears.

Push your hips forward and lengthen your spine further by stretching back.

Hands can be adjusted to stay either in Namaskar mudra or shoulder width apart

(Ref point 2 for benefits and caution)

12. Pranamasana or Anjali Mudra

Prayer Pose

Pranamasana is also the last twelfth posture of the Surya Namaskar. It signifies the gesture of reverence. It helps center the mind and body and helps reduce anxiety and stress

Steps to follow

Exhale and bring hands in front of the chest for Namaskar or Anjali mudra. Feet are together or hip width apart, continue to evenly distribute weight on all four corners of your feet.

Align the centre of your head to the pelvis, and give gentle pressure on fingertips and base of your palm.

To complete 1 cycle , repeat the above sequence by taking your left leg back in first equestrian pose and then bring your left leg forward in second equestrian pose.

You can practice this as a set of warm-ups before your regular yoga workout as it increases flexibility and stamina or you can practice multiple cycles followed by deep relaxation in savasana. If you have been practicing yoga for a while, then you can slowly add on to the repetitions, starting from 7 or 12 cycles of sun salutation a day to 21, 24, 54 or even 108 cycles.

The ideal time to practice Surya Namaskar is at sunrise. You can however, practice at anytime of the day/before sunset, on empty stomach.

To deepen your practice further and for spiritual benefits, you can include mantra chanting. Surya Mantra has 12 names that are chanted in praise of the Sun and help create harmony between your physical cycles and that of the Sun’s.

By chanting the following 12 names of the Sun you are expressing gratitude and acknowledging the 12 qualities of the Sun. You can dedicate one mantra to each of the 12 steps in the following order. Breathing and chanting in the respective posture helps create more awareness and turns your asana practice into meditation.

Om Mitraya Namaha – A reliable friend to all.

Om Ravaye Namaha – The shining and knowledgeable one.

Om Suryaya Namaha – Guide to all and keeps us active.

Om Bhanave Namaha – Illuminates and bestows beauty.

Om Khagaya Namaha –  Stimulator of senses who moves quickly in the sky.

Om Pushne Namaha – Giver of strength who nourishes all.

Om Hiranyagarbhaya Namaha – Creator with the golden womb, the cosmic self.

Om Marichaye Namaha – Lord of dawn and destroyer of diseases.

Om Adityaya Namaha – Son of cosmic mother Aditi who inspires.

Om Savitre Namaha – Lord of creation, the one who purifies.

Om Arkaya Namaha – Worthy of all praises and the radiant.

Om Bhaskaraya Namaha – Illuminates and leads us to enlightenment.

You may find it difficult to chant the 12 names if you are practicing at a fast pace. You can chant 6 bija mantras instead. These seed mantras do not have any literal meaning as such but create powerful vibrations around and within when chanted repeatedly.

In 1 cycle, the 6 mantras are repeated 4 times in the following order:

Om Hraam

Om Hreem

Om Hroom

Om Hraim

Om Hraum

Om Hrah

You may find several variations of Surya Namaskar as there are different styles of yoga practiced around the world. You can use the basic sequence as the main foundation for any vinyasa flow.

The most popular and common form comprises of the 12 plus 12 steps in Hatha Yoga Surya Namaskar as shared above. Ashtanga Surya Namaskar (A and B) is also a well known sequence.

Ashtanga Suryna Namaskar A ( and B is more dynamic with differences like the practice of chaturanga dandasana or low plank instead of plank, warrior 1 instead of ashwa sanchalanasana or an upward dog pose instead of bhujangasana, but primarily the difference is in the breathing style. You have to practice ujjayi breathing which is a dynamic pranayama.

Research shows that 1 minute of sun salutation can help you burn at least 3.79 calories. Studies show that an average weighing person may take upto 3 minutes to complete 1 cycle of Surya Namaskar and burn upto 13.91 calories.

Study also shows that when you practice a slow paced Surya Namaskar you will get therapeutic benefits of all asanas and when you practice a fast paced sun salutation, benefits will be similar to any aerobic exercise.

It is no doubt one of the most flexible and easy to remember yoga practice and you can modify it to suit your preferences.

Have you experienced any significant weight loss by practicing Surya Namaskar?

Or will you recommend sun salutation mainly for therapeutic benefits?

Do you believe that the practice of 108 repetitions can really keep the doctor away?

Share your experience as comments below.

Still wondering about ‘How to do surya namaskar with pictures?’ or ‘How to Surya Namaskar yoga?’ Click on the video link to watch the video on the complete surya namaskar sequence.

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