Though yoga can bring tremendous physical benefits and powerful mental clarity and calm, there can be a lot to wrap your head around, even when it comes to mastering the basics. So we’ve decided to help you out by breaking down one of the key fundamentals—Surya Namaskar, also known as a sun salutation. You may not be familiar with the name, but you’ll have almost certainly been put through the paces if you’ve attended any sort of instructor-led yoga class. Hint: It’s normally the warmup.
But while sun salutations may just sound like a precursor to the good stuff, they’re actually one of the most beneficial elements of practicing yoga and come with plenty of awesome benefits. Whether you’re just setting out on your yoga journey or you’re a Vinyasa regular looking to take things up a notch, it’s worth spending time perfecting your sun salutations. So, with the help of a yoga instructor, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about sun salutations, from their purpose and benefits to the poses and how to do them properly.
Keep scrolling for your complete guide to sun salutations, and watch yourself become a Surya Namaskar master.
Meet the Expert
Catherine Howe is a certified yoga instructor and the owner ofSensory Yoga Wellness.
What Is a Sun Salutation?
Surya Namaskar, aka the official Sanskrit name for sun salutations,is a sequence of yoga poses (or asanas, we should say) that are typically performed at the start of a Hatha or Vinyasa flow class. There are many variations on this sequence, but sun salutations A and B are the most common, both of which we’ll come to in a moment.
Translated from Sanskrit, Surya means “sun,” and Namaskarmeans “to bow down to” or “show gratitude.” In ancient tradition, sun salutations wereused by Hindus during morning prayer and worship rituals. Over time, they’ve evolved to become a key part of conditioning the body, and calming the mind, helping yogis disconnect from the distractions of daily life and enter a meditative state ahead of their practice.
The poses involved in a sun salutation depend on which variation you’re performing—sun salutation A contains fewer poses and is often the go-to for beginners, while sun salutation B contains a longer sequence of slightly more challenging poses, such as chair pose and warrior I. Both sequences are designed to engage, stretch, and invigorate the whole body while keeping the focus on meditative breathing. So whichever you opt for, you’ll reap a bounty of benefits.
Why Practice Sun Salutations?
Aside from being a great way to ease yourself into a yoga practice, the range of asanas involved in a sun salutation sequence is designed to open up all areas of the body and leave you feeling more balanced by the time you reach the final stretch. From forward folds to upward-facing dog, the combination of poses is also more than enough to give you a challenging cardio workout if you perform them at pace and repeat several rounds—just think of the sweat you can work up in a Vinyasa class, and you’ll get the idea.
You also can’t get much more naturally energizing than a sequence of poses that honors the sun—the provider of all energy on Earth. “A sun salutation can be done as one movement, one breath, really ramping up the energy,” says Howe. “However, it can also be performed in as many breaths as you need, with the same results.” She says to listen to your body, and on any given day, your pace and needs may vary.
The real beauty of sun salutations lies in their mental benefits. A 2015 study found that after practicing Surya Namaskar for 20 minutes every morning for two weeks, college students suffering from stress symptoms were found to display far higher “physical relaxation and mental quiet” compared to those who didn’t take part in the daily practice. Researchers also found that the students described themselves as feeling more “at ease/peace, rested, and refreshed.” Increased feelings of joy and strength were also reported, as were fewer negative feelings and better sleeping patterns. That all sounds pretty good to us!
How to Do Surya Namaskar A
This is the best place to start if you’re a beginner, although perfecting good form and alignment throughout the sequence will make it challenging even for the more seasoned yogi. While some instructors may offer modifications for certain poses (to cater to different abilities in a class, for example), Howe walked us through the typical sun salutation A sequence:
- Begin in mountain pose (Tadasana) by standing at the top of your mat with your feet hip-distance apart. “Feel the four corners of the feet connected—big toe, baby toe, outside edge of the foot, and the heel,” explains Howe. “[You should have a] microbend in the knees, long spine, arms by your side, and palms facing forward (this will automaticallyrelease your shoulders back and down).” Inhale and exhale here to begin your sun salutation.
- Inhale toupward salute (Urdhva Hastasana). Howe says your arms should be reaching over your head, and your heart should be lifted to honor the sun.
- Exhale toforward fold (Uttanasana), hinging from the hips, leading with the heart center toward the floor, knees very slightly bent, allowing the upper body to rest against the legs.
- Inhale tolow lunge (Anjaneyasana). “Step one foot back, [front] knee over ankle where possible, lift heart center, hips forward, arms can vary—[either] fully extended to the sky, halfway, or at heart center,” Howe says.
- Exhale todownward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Your knees should be fairly straight, heels pressing toward the mat, chest facing your thighs, tailbone lifted, spine straight, and head relaxed in line with the biceps.
- Inhale toplank pose (Phalakasana). Howe says to place your wrists under your shoulders, straighten your knees, and lift and engage your core to support your spine. “Your upper back should be open, pressing the floor away,” she notes.
- Exhale to four-limbed staff pose (Chaturanga Dandasana). Your knees should be down or lifted, elbows hugging your ribcage, chest close to the mat, and gaze pointing downward.
- Inhale to upward-facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). “Lift the heart center, shoulders over the wrists, thighs lifted off the mat, tops of the feet pressing into the floor, long spine, crown of the head reaches (avoid lifting the chin),” explains Howe.
- Exhale to downward-facing dog.
- Inhale tolow lunge.
- Exhale to forward fold.
- Inhale toupward salute.
- Exhale to finish in mountain pose.
How to Do Surya Namaskar B
If you’re ready to level up, sun salutation B offers a slightly more challenging take on things. Begin in the same way as you did with sun salutation A, with both feet at the top of your mat, focusing on your breath. Here’s how the sequence of poses differs:
- Begin in the standing mountain pose.
- Inhale to chair pose by bending your knees in a shallow squat position and lifting your arms up.
- Exhale to a forward fold, hinging at the hips and letting your chest rest on your legs. Next, inhale and come to a half-forward bend, lifting the head up and coming up slightly, keeping the fingertips on the floor (if able) and the back straight.
- Exhale and flow into the plank position, with your weight resting on your hands and your legs straight behind you, keeping your body in a straight line. Bend your elbows slightly, keeping them close to your sides,until they are parallel to the floor, to assume the four-limbed staff pose.
- Inhale and flow into upward-facing dog, straightening your arms and lifting your chest up to the ceiling. Your thighs will be lifted off the mat with your feet pressing into the floor.
- Exhale into downward-facing dog. Your knees should be straight, heels pressing toward the mat, chest facing your thighs, tailbone lifted, spine straight, and head relaxed in line with the biceps.
- Inhale and flow into warrior I pose by stepping your right foot forward. Bend your right knee in a lunge position as you lift your chest up and move your arms straight overhead, allowing your palms to touch. Keep your left foot back.
- Exhale and flow back into the four-limbed staff pose.
- Inhale and flow into upward-facing dog.
- Exhale and flow into downward-facing dog.
- Inhale and move into warrior I again, only this time, move your left foot in front and keep your right foot behind.
- Exhale and flow into the four-limbed staff pose.
- Inhale and flow back into upward-facing dog.
- Exhale and flow into downward-facing dog.
- Inhale and flow into a forward fold.
- Exhale and flow into the chair pose.
- Finish with the mountain pose.
How to Do Chandra Namaskar
Given that the word “sun” is literally in the name, it can be easy to assume that sun salutations should only be practiced in the daytime—not so. While yogis recommend practicing Surya Namaskar in the mornings at sunrise, or simply at the start of your day if you’re not exactly an early riser, it really can be done at any time of day. If you’re one for doing things by the book, however, you might consider trying sun salutations’ evening counterpart, Chandra Namaskar, or moon salutations.
Moon salutations are a sequence of poses designed to cool the body and quiet the mind, as opposed to the more energizing Surya Namaskar. Perfect for adding into your bedtime routine, the asanas in a moon salutation sequence pay particular attention to balancing the respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems, helping your body to detox, rest, and repair. There are many variations, with some versions leaving out poses like the goddess squat and star pose and adding in downward-facing dog—but here’s how a typical moon salutation goes:
- Inhale and start in standing mountain pose.
- Exhale and flow into upward salute by lifting your arms straight overhead and lifting your chest to the ceiling. Or you can move into a side bend by moving outstretched arms to one side.
- Inhale and flow into the goddess squat, stepping out into a wide squat with your toes pointed out and your arms bent out at your sides with palms up.
- Exhale and flow into the star pose by straightening legs to a standing position with toes pointed out. Extend your arms straight out to both sides, palms facing forward.
- Inhale and flow into the extended triangle pose. Bend at the hip to the right side, moving your left foot’s toes straight ahead and keeping your right foot turned out slightly. Keep bending to the right until you can rest your right hand on your ankle, shin, or the floor behind your foot.Look up at your left arm, which should be straight overhead.
- Exhale and flow into the pyramid pose, moving your left arm down toward the right side with your gaze at the floor. Your legs should remain in the same position as detailed above.
- Inhale into a low crescent lunge by lifting your chest up and stepping forward with your left foot in a lunge position. Kneel down on your right knee, and then extend that leg straight behind you. Keep your right foot pressed into the floor as you push your hips forward, lifting your arms up and lifting your chest up. Your weight will be on your left bent leg.
- Exhale into a low side lunge by turning your hips to the front and squatting down on that left leg, with your right leg straight out beside you with its toes pointed up. Press your hands together in front of you.
- Inhale and flow into the garland pose, pulling your right leg in and coming to a low squat, resting on your bent knees with your bottom a few inches from the floor. Bring your hands together in a prayer position with your elbows resting between your knees.
- Exhale and flow back into a low side lunge, this time moving your left leg straight out to the side and keeping your weight resting on your right leg.
- Inhale and flow into a low crescent lunge, stepping forward with your right foot and keeping your left foot back in a lunge position. Lift your arms up, and lift your chest up.
- Exhale back into the pyramid pose, straightening your legs and bending at the hips to the left side this time.
- Inhale and flow into the extended triangle pose. Lift your right arm up to the ceiling and allow your gaze to look up at your fingers.
- Exhale and flow back into the star pose.
- Inhale and flow back into the goddess squat.
- Exhale and flow into the upward salute or side bend.
- Finish with the standing mountain pose.
What’s the Deal With 108 Sun Salutations?
First things first: You don’t need to commit to 108 rounds every time you want to dive into a little Surya Namaskar. Generally, performing 12 rounds is thought to be plenty, though starting small and working your way up is the best approach—if three or four is what works for you, stick with that until you’re ready to progress.
Around the changing seasons—especially when the spring equinox falls—it’s common for some yogis to practice the ritual of 108 consecutive sun salutations to cleanse the mind and body while welcoming in the new. Thought to be sacred in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the number 108 has long carried both religious and cultural meaning—for example, there are 108 beads in a mala, which is used to count prayers, breaths, or mantras, while in Ayurveda, there are 108 sacred points on the body.
Though you can set your own pace for the 108 challenge (it’s normally done with Surya Namaskar A), do keep in mind that this is designed to challenge you both physically and mentally—you might want to give up around the 65 mark, but if you’re able to keep going, you’ll have yogi points for days.
Ready to roll out a mat and get started?
We Tried Laughter Yoga—Here Are Our Thoughts
Sun Salutations, or Surya Namaskar, can be a complete practice in and of itself. These 12 or so poses linked in a series can lengthen and strengthen, flex and extend many of the main muscles of the body while distributing the prana flow throughout the system.What are 3 benefits of practicing sun salutations? ›
- Become centered and grounded. ...
- Create focus for your day. ...
- Gain muscle and flexibility. ...
- Leave your ego behind. ...
- Boost the immune system and overall health. ...
- De-stress and find inner peace.
Yogis are known to practice 108 sun salutations during the change of seasons. Practicing 108 Sun Salutations is a meditative practice that connects the body, the mind, and the universe specifically when nature is undergoing a change.What is the spiritual meaning of a Sun Salutation? ›
The Yogis believe that the seat of light and wisdom is in our heart. The different postures in Sun Salutation have a deeper spiritual meaning, and the different poses in the sequence are actually an offering to the sun. The Yogis practise the Sun Salutation at sun rise to receive the healing energy of the sun.What happens when you do 108 Sun Salutations? ›
The full Surya Namaskar sequence has all the components of a full Yoga practice in it (backbend, forward bend, inversion, pranayama, meditation.) By repeating this sequence 108 times you will liberate your spine, revitalise your body and clear your mind.Who should not do Sun Salutation? ›
High Blood Pressure: People suffering with high blood pressure should avoid this sequence. But with proper guidance from a yoga teacher and for someone not elderly can begin this yoga pose slowly and carefully.What are 12 steps of Sun Salutations? ›
- Pose 1: Prayer pose – Pranamasana.
- Pose 2: Raised arms pose – Hasta Uttanasana.
- Pose 3: Hand to foot pose – Hasta Padasana.
- Pose 4: Equestrian pose – Ashwa Sanchalanasana.
- Pose 5: Mountain pose – Parvatasana.
- Pose 6: Ashtanga Namaskara.
- Pose 7: Cobra pose – Bhujangasana.
Incorporating sun salutation in a yoga session contributes to significantly intense physical activity to improve cardio-respiratory fitness in unfit or sedentary individuals. Yogic practices increase muscle strength, oxygen uptake, its circulation and utilization [12,18].How do you make Sun Salutations more challenging? ›
Start in mountain pose, and then inhale as you raise your arms. Exhale to a forward bend. Inhale as you step your right foot back to lunge; exhale as you step your right foot forward, returning to your forward bend. Such repetition can be extremely challenging if done slowly and mindfully.Do Sun Salutations improve flexibility? ›
The Sun Salutation builds strength and increases flexibility. Each movement is coordinated with the breath. Inhale as you extend or stretch, and exhale as you fold or contract.
Here is what I recommend you try: do 12 Sun Salutations every morning, first thing after you wake up. Before you even eat breakfast. Try this for 12 days and you'll be hooked. (Some people recommend 8 rounds, I say the number is up to you and how much time you have in the mornings.Why is 108 so important? ›
Why the number 108? The number 108 is considered a sacred number in Hinduism, Buddhism and yogic tradition. Malas or Japa beads come in a string of 108 and are used for devotional meditation, mantra and prayer. With each bead a mantra or prayer is repeated to meet a total of 108.Does Sun Salutation balance chakras? ›
Benefits of Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation
It is said that your body has several chakras through which life energy or prana is channelized to nourish you with good health. Practicing Surya Namaskar activates these chakras, enhances the size of it, letting prana flow through freely.
According to Vedic cosmology, 108 is the basis of creation, represents the universe and all our existence. In Hinduism, we believe that outer cosmology should mirror our inner spirituality because our ultimate realization is that we are one in the same.Is sun salutation a prayer? ›
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. The Sun Salutation is a prayer in motion. It allows us to use the body as an instrument of higher awareness, so that we can receive wisdom and knowledge.Where did Sun Salutations come from? ›
The precise origins of the Sun Salutation are uncertain, but the sequence was made popular in the early 20th century by Bhawanrao Shriniwasrao Pant Pratinidhi, the Rajah of Aundh, and adopted into yoga by Krishnamacharya in the Mysore Palace, where the Sun Salutation classes, not then considered to be yoga, were held ...Do Sun Salutations wake you up? ›
Sun Salutations are a great way to wake up your body and mind through standing poses and fluid movement. It's certainly a more conscious (and lower-impact) start to the day than burpees, but it will also wake you up and connect your body and mind.How long should you hold each pose in Sun Salutation? ›
One Sun Salutation is said to take about four minutes.
Some practices of Sun Salutation say to stay in each pose only for a breath or two, while others have you hold each pose for 10-15 breaths. This all depends on what your preference is and what makes you feel the best. The amount of rounds depends on this as well.
Although Surya Namaskar can be practiced at any time of the day, it is best to practice at sunrise as sun rays can help revitalize the body & the mind. Surya Namaskar can be done in a 3-speed variation– slow, medium or fast pace.How many times can Sun Salutation be performed? ›
Sun salutations can be repeated up to 108 times in a day by advanced practitioners (108 is an important yoga symbol that represents spiritual completion). 9 sets of the 12 sun salutation postures also totals to 108.
108 Sun Salutations in a row can be tough, mentally and physically (no kidding!) and is probably the closest we are going to get to doing a marathon in yoga. So we have created a training plan for you to follow to get you prepared; building up your strength gradually so that you can practice the full 108 safely.Are Sun Salutations for beginners? ›
But apart from that, the sun salutations provide a brilliant foundational sequence for beginners who want to learn to flow on their own. If you're starting your own yoga practice at home, you can use the sun salutations as a foundation from which you create more creative sequences.How do you practice 108 sun salutations? ›
- Useful Tips to Help You Get Through 108 Sun Salutations. This practice can take anywhere from 50 minutes to several hours, depending on your pace and how often you take breaks. ...
- Work Up to It. ...
- Hydrate! ...
- Feel Free to Take Breaks. ...
- Hold Onto Your Mantra. ...
- Take Some Time Afterward.
From your achilles, this pose stretches the calf muscles, then your hamstrings, followed by the muscles into your backside. The stretch can also be felt into your lower back, the muscles that run all the way up your spine (erector spinae) and your lat muscles.Does Sun Salutation reduce belly fat? ›
Yes, Surya Namaskar helps reduce belly fat, bloating and tones muscles. If practised alongside a proper diet, it can help to lose weight around the belly. Yes, Surya Namaskar helps reduce belly fat, bloating and tones muscles. If practised alongside a proper diet, it can help to lose weight around the belly.Why do sun salutations burn so many calories? ›
What is this? They provide a great cardio workout. Depending on the pace you do your sun salutations, they can really increase the heart rate and give you a good cardio session. The quicker your pace, the more you are challenging yourself, burning calories, and targeting fat loss.Is Sun Salutation good for high blood pressure? ›
When practiced slowly, with a focus on breath and clarity of mind, Sun Salutations are said to have a meditative effect. Practicing the easy series at a slow pace also helps improve blood pressure control.Do you need to warm-up before Sun Salutation? ›
Sun Salutations Are Often Too Intense to Use as a Warm-Up
These poses ask a lot of the body. And in my opinion, they're too intense to jump right into at the beginning of a practice. In preparation for bigger postures and sequences the body can benefit from warming up with smaller, less intense movements.
As a general rule, you can do 108 sun salutations daily. However, keep in mind that it is a physically challenging practice, and you may want to take some rest every other day. Consider mixing it up with more grounding practices so as to prevent any injury from the repetitive movements.How long does it take to see benefits of Surya Namaskar? ›
Perfecting all 12 poses could take anywhere from 5-7 days. It will also help you gain strength and lose weight faster. Once you've gained enough strength, increase the number of rounds you do! Surya Namaskar should be practised six days a week for a total of 50-100 rounds, depending on your weight loss goals.
The Surya Namaskar tones the entire body, helps with weight loss, and strengthens muscles and joints. Practice this flow if you want to improve your complexion as it ensures a better functioning digestive system. Improve your sleep as it helps combat insomnia and reduces stress levels.How many calories do you burn in one Sun Salutation? ›
So, technically, 10 minutes of Surya Namaskar translates into burning 139 calories, which is more than what you'd burn even after swimming for 10 minutes. Surya Namaskar, also known as 'The Ultimate Asana', strengthens your back as well as your muscles and brings down blood sugar levels.What is the 11th posture in sun salutation A? ›
When done as a part of the Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation exercises), you will chant a mantra while performing this asana. Hasta Uttanasana is encountered as the 2nd pose and also the 11th pose.How many calories do you burn doing 108 Sun Salutations? ›
Doing one round of Surya Namaskar burns approximately 13.90 calories. You can start by doing 5 sets of it initially and then increase it up to 108 with time.What is the most sacred number? ›
- The number 108 is considered sacred by the Dharmic Religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.
- In Hindu tradition, the Mukhya Shivaganas (attendants of Shiva) are 108 in number and hence Shaiva religions, particularly Lingayats, use malas of 108 beads for prayer and meditation.
Psalm 108 is the 108th psalm in the Book of Psalms. The first verse attributes it to King David, the author of many Psalms. It is a hymn, beginning in English in the King James Version: "O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory". In Latin, it is known as "Paratum cor meum Deus".What happens if we chant more than 108 times? ›
Its like self-realization. OM Chanting and its vibrations when chanted for 108 times, turns out to be essentially progressively amazing and can help open the Crown Chakra and hence your way to Self-Realization.What are 3 benefits of sun salutations? ›
- Become centered and grounded. ...
- Create focus for your day. ...
- Gain muscle and flexibility. ...
- Leave your ego behind. ...
- Boost the immune system and overall health. ...
- De-stress and find inner peace.
A continuous practice of Sun Salutations will bring more strength, flexibility, and tone to the body. It will open the hamstrings, shoulders, and the chest, as well as release tension. As you move through the poses, you are also lubricating the joints, in turn aiding in keeping the full range of motion in the body.Can you do Sun Salutation at night? ›
This series of Sun Salutations, coupled with some long forward-folding gentle twists, and a half or full Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand), can be a wonderful end-of-the day or pre-bedtime repertoire. So my answer is yes, it's fine to practice Sun Salutations in the evening.
The number 'seven' is widely used throughout Revelation, including in reference to the seven churches, seven bowls, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders, Seven Spirits of God, seven stars, seven lampstands, seven eyes and horns of the Lamb of God, seven heads and diadems of the dragon, and seven heads of the ...Why is 786 a lucky number? ›
786 is considered a lucky or holy number. Especially, the significance of this number in Islam is above everything. The number is believed as a numeric form of the Arabic phrase “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim”, meaning, 'In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful'.When should sun salutations be done? ›
Success with Sun Salutation, as with all aspects of yoga practice, depends on commitment and regularity. An everyday practice would be best, but you might at first aim for four times a week. If possible, don't skip more than a couple of days in a row, or you might end up back at square one.Are sun salutations a good workout? ›
Sun salutations are also a very good cardiovascular exercise, helping to increase the metabolic rate of the body, and in turn aiding in weight loss. Those who are from the Hatha Yoga school know that it is an essential part of the asana practice. The series of 12 poses of Surya Namaskar are all linked in a Vinyasa.What are the 10 benefits of Surya Namaskar? ›
- Blood Circulation Enhancement. ...
- Improves The Functioning Of The Digestive System. ...
- Surya Namaskar Benefits In Weight Loss. ...
- Helps Detox. ...
- Healthy Lower Body. ...
- Glowing Skin And Luscious Hair. ...
- Helps In Muscles And Joints Strength. ...
- Calming Your Body.
The poses involved in a sun salutation depend on which variation you're performing—sun salutation A contains fewer poses and is often the go-to for beginners, while sun salutation B contains a longer sequence of slightly more challenging poses, such as chair pose and warrior I.Who invented Sun Salutations? ›
In the 1920s, Bhawanrao Shriniwasrao Pant Pratinidhi, the Rajah of Aundh, popularized and named the practice, describing it in his 1928 book The Ten-Point Way to Health: Surya Namaskars. It has been asserted that Pant Pratinidhi invented it, but Pant stated that it was already a commonplace Marathi tradition.Which pose starts all Sun Salutations? ›
- Begin in Mountain Pose.
- Uttanasana to Flat Back.
- Plank Pose.
- Knees, Chest, and Chin or Chaturanga Dandasana.
- Cobra or Upward Facing Dog.
- Downward Facing Dog.
- Step or Jump to a Forward Bend.
- Finish the Sun Salutation.
This practice can take anywhere from 50 minutes to several hours, depending on your pace and how often you take breaks. If you're interested in trying it out, here are a few tips to get you through your first 108 Sun Salutations practice!Is Sun Salutation A meditation? ›
The combination of movements matched with the breath makes the Sun Salutation a moving meditation. The 'sun saluter' aims to focus the mind on the breath, thereby keeping the monkey mind from bringing a constant stream of thoughts.
Surya Namaskar boosts blood circulation, which gives our skin and faces its radiant glow. It also prevents skin from aging. It also helps in the smooth running of the digestive system. It increases the blood flow of the digestive tract which ensures better functioning of the intestines.What happens if you do 100 Surya Namaskar everyday? ›
Here are some benefits of doing 108 Surya namaskars: Different muscle groups are stretched and contracted alternatively – no muscle strain. Increased flexibility and stamina. Cleansed chakras or nerve centers.