One of my favorite exercise routines is doing Surya Namaskars (sun salutations). Each Surya Namaskar makes you stretch and use muscles you didn’t even know you possessed and more than that—it regulates your body processes at an elemental level, unlike any other exercise. I began with barely managing to do 12 a day but now do 32 in one go. And I plan to increase it as I go along. So here go my reasons for doing the Surya Namaskar, and why you should get on the sun salutation bandwagon too.
Major Calorie & Weight Loss
Each Surya Namaskar consists of 12 poses or asanas of yoga—namely, Pranamasana (prayer pose), Hastautthanasana (raised arms pose), Padhastasana (hand to foot pose), Ashwasanchalanasana (equestrian pose), Kumbhakasana (plank or inner equanimity pose), Ashtanganamaskara (salute with eight points), Bhujangasana (cobra pose), Parvatasana (mountain or downward dog pose) and then back to Ashwasanchalanasana (equestrian pose), Padahastasana (hand to foot pose), Hastautthanasana (raised arms pose), and Pranamasana (prayer pose). So basically, each Surya Namaskar makes you work out your entire body from head to toe, and done at a medium pace, can burn about 10-15 calories, depending on your weight. 12 Surya Namaskars take about 15-20 minutes to do and will help you burn some 120-180 calories. Ideally speaking, you could do 24 Surya Namaskars in 30 minutes, and burn more than 300 calories at a fast pace. Not bad for a 30-minute workout.
Perfect for a Time Crunch
My second point kind of got made in the first point itself—if you burn some 300 calories in half an hour of exercise, that’s a good deal, right? As a work-at-home mom living in India, time is a bus I often tend to miss. I have two young school-going children and I am usually up by 6:00 in the morning to begin my mad dash of the day. I like to be sitting on my laptop typing away by 9:30, so I barely have the time to get the tots ready and packing to school and complete those danged morning chores. 300 calories in half an hour seems too good a deal to miss, so I get in that half an hour, and my Surya Namaskars are fast-paced enough to fit in 32 in 30 minutes. I don’t know about the calories but by the end, I am winded and dripping with sweat.
Stretch & Tone from the Inside Out
The asanas or poses in a Surya Namaskar stretch every muscle in the body, and you can make it as easy a stretch as you need or as tough a one as you want. You will, after the first 4-6 Surya Namaskars, begin to feel the burn in your hamstrings and abs—usually a good sign that you are getting a workout!
If you do your Surya Namaskars fast enough, like I pack in some 32 in about 30-35 minutes with 1-2 minutes of a break between 12 or 8 rounds, you will feel the sweat drip and the muscles scream. After the 30-minute workout, your heart is going to be thumping in your chest and while initially you may feel drained out—10 minutes of a light walk or a nice shower after, and you will feel like a million bucks. It’s not just cardio though. Surya Namaskars strengthen the core, the joints, and the muscles by making your body and gravity work against those muscles for weight loss, toning, and strength.
Regulate Hormones & Body Processes
The various poses of the Surya Namaskar literally compress, release, and stretch out the inner organs and glands as well—be it the thyroid, the pancreas, or the liver. This “massage” that the internal organs get starts to add a new life to them. This makes the organs and the glands work at their optimum and produce just the right amount of hormones and enzymes the body needs. So practicing Surya Namaskars can help regulate blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, thyroid, and digestion. Remember that the Surya Namaskar is not a magic wand that will take away any health problems, but if you match it with proper diet control, it can be a very effective tool for you to get back your health and fitness. It will also go a long way in helping you get healthy skin as well as a glow.
Reflect & Introspect
Many people practice the Surya Namaskar in a green environment with just the early rays of the Sun for company. And it’s a pretty good start. For me though, I do my Surya Namaskar practice at about 8:30 in the morning—in a room with the drapes all open—with mantras playing in the background. As the music crescendos and the sweat flows, I feel at peace with myself and my place in the world. I make my plans for the day, and introspect over the things I did wrong and the things I did right. It readies me for the day with a surge of mental and physical energy.
Improve Blood Circulation & Mental Balance
Stress has the capacity to cramp up every single muscle in your body. While doing Surya Namaskar you have to practice deep breathing and this helps you release a lot of stress. It also calms your mind and helps you cope with anxiety on a daily basis. Plus, while doing the Sun Salutation you are using every single part of your body. This ensures that you improve your blood circulation, helping you to be more energetic throughout the day.
As you can see, I really am a big fan. So why don’t you try it out too? The benefits outweigh any initial discomfort. Namaste and happy yoga to you…