As we learned in The Sun Salutation- The Beginning and Full Series, the Sun Salutation or Surya (Soorya) Namaskar is a fundamental part of many Yoga classes. There are different versions of the Sun Salutation, but the most classical version is a series of twelve poses as seen here, The Sun Salutation Gallery. These poses, are typically practiced at dawn and dusk facing the sun. As popular and trendy as the Sun Salutation seems, Surya Namaskar or the Sun Salutation actually dates back to the Vedas, ancient Sanskrit sacred texts, 1500 to 1000 BCE. The Vedas are the origin of Yoga and were passed down orally by Rishis (Vedic Scholars). In the history of Yoga, a man called Pantagali inscribed these sacred texts which became the Yoga Sutras. As described here in the excerpt from the article “Surya Namaskarams,” the origin of the Sun Salutation was compiled from years of study of the human body and mind:
Soorya Namaskar has its origin in the ‘Rig-Veda’. The presence of such effective ways of maintaining one’s health from such an ancient time shows that Rishis (Vedic Scholars) must have spent innumerable years, studying various aspects of the human body like anatomy, circulatory system, digestion of food, respiratory system, nervous system, stimulatory networks and impulses. They must have done experiments to devise various strategies which would help a human being lead a healthy and peaceful life. Soorya Namaskar helps the to develop a body which is strong, capable of working hard and facing hazards in life. It helps in controlling one’s mind which is unstable by nature and helps the mind to concentrate on the task at hand.
According to “Sun Salutations – The Meaning of Surya Namaskara,” the Sun Salutation was not only a physical practice but was the spiritual practice of sun worship:
For thousands of years 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. One of the means of honoring the sun is through the dynamic asana sequence Surya Namaskar(better known as Sun Salutation). The Sanskrit word Namaskar stems from namas, which means “to bow to” or “to adore.” The familiar phrase we use to close our yoga classes, namaste—te means “you”—also comes from this root. The essence of its meaning is “the divine in me honors the divine in you.” Each Sun Salutation begins and ends with the joined-hands mudra (gesture) touched to the heart. This placement is no accident; only the heart can know the truth. Surya Namaskar, or sun salutation, is included in a regular morning ritual of prayer and worship. It is the prayer of Lord Surya, the god of health.
For additional resources on the practice, meaning and origin of the Sun Salutation, please visit the links below.
- The History of Surya Namaskar. “Surya Namaskarams.” Sri Surya Devalayam.
- The Origin and History of Surya Namaskar. “Sun Salutations – The Meaning Of Surya Namaskar.”
- Meaning of Surya Namaskar. “The Meaning Behind The Movement.” Nicole Becker
- The Practice of Surya Namaskar. “Shine On Me.” Kelly McGonigal
Articles In This Series
- The Sun Salutation – The Beginning and Full Series
- The Sun Salutation Gallery
- The Sun Salutations’ Origin and Meaning
More Information On The Sun Salutation.