12 easy steps for perfect suryanamaskara
The following pictures describe step by step the 12 different suryanamaskara positions together with the associated breathing sequences.
Position 1: Prayer pose (Pranamasana)
- Stand erect with the feet together.
- Face the sun or the direction of the sun.
- Place the two palms together in front of the chest in an attitude of prayer, the namaskara mudra.
- Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
- Be aware of the body for at least half a minute.
- This will prepare you for the forthcoming practice.
- Try to consciously relax the muscles of the body.
Breathing: Breathe normally with full awareness.
Position 2: Raised arms pose (Hasta Utthanasana)
- Raise both arms above the head, keeping hands separated by a shoulder’s width.
- At the end of the movement bend the head, arms and upper trunk backwards.
- The palms should face forwards.
- The movement should be executed in one smooth motion with awareness.
Breathing: Inhale while raising the arms.
Position 3: Hand to foot pose (Padahastasana)
- Bend forward and place the palms of the hands on the floor, either in front of or on each side of the feet.
- The movement should be continuous and without any jerking.
- Keep the legs straight.
- If possible, try to touch your knees with your forehead or chin; (be careful of your nose for you may cause injury when doing suryanamaskara quickly).
- Do not apply undue force under any circumstances in order to attain the final position.
Breathing: Exhale as deeply as possible while bending forwards and if possible accentuate the contraction of the abdomen, especially in the final position.
Beginners: Beginners and people with stiff backs will find this pose difficult to attain. If you cannot touch the floor with your hands, try to touch it with your fingertips. It is only a matter of practice. As you become more supple through yoga practices, you will be surprised to find how easy it becomes to place the palms flat on the floor. Only time and practice are necessary. It is important that the legs remain straight in position 3 so that the leg muscles (hamstring muscles) are stretched and the legs become more flexible.
However, beginners who cannot touch the floor will have to adapt in the following manner: bend forwards as far as you can and try to touch the floor with the fingers or hands, keeping the legs straight. Try to stretch the legs a little more by reaching towards the floor with the fingers. Then bend the legs to place the palms on the floor in order to assume position 4. Try not to bend the legs.
Position 4: Equestrian pose (Ashwa Sanchalanasana)
- Stretch the right leg backwards as far as you can.
- Simultaneously bend the left leg at the knee, but keeping the left foot in the same position. The palms should remain on the floor and the arms should remain straight.
Beginners: If this is too difficult for beginners, the palms can be raised off the ground with only the fingertips in contact with the floor. This helps to increase the arch of the back. In the final position the toe and knee of the extended right leg should be in contact with the ground.
Complete the movement by bending the head backwards and arching the spine as much as possible without straining.
The movement should be executed smoothly and with awareness.
Breathing: inhale deeply as you move the body.
Position 5: Mountain pose (Parvatasana)
- Raise your right knee.
- Simultaneously lower your head towards the floor and bend the back so that the buttocks move upwards. Stretch the left leg backwards and place the left foot beside the right foot.
- Then raise the buttocks as high as possible into the air and further lower the head so that it lies between the two arms.
- The legs should be straightened in the final position.
- Try to press the heels of both feet towards the ground.
- Throughout the practice the arms must remain straight, and the hands and right foot should remain in contact with the floor.
- Though attainment of position five requires the movement of various parts of the body, all the movements should be synchronized to form one harmonious and smooth motion.
Breathing: exhale deeply as you perform the movement.
Position 6: Worship with 8 points (Ashtanga Namaskara)
- This position is so called because in the final pose eight points of the body are in contact with the ground.
- Lower the body to the ground, first bending the legs and placing the knees in contact with the floor.
- Bend the arms and lower the head and trunk towards the ground.
- Try to brush your forehead along the surface of the floor as you move the head and trunk forwards.
- At the end of the forward movement of the head and trunk, let the chest brush along the surface of the floor and rest the chin on the ground.
- Finally raise the abdomen and hips slightly off the ground.
- In the final position the eight points should be on the ground: the chin, the chest, two palms, two knees and the balls of both feet.
- The whole movement should be smoothly executed.
Breathing: Hold the breath outside, i.e. don’t breathe in.
Position 7: Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
- Lower the hips to the ground.
- Simultaneously straighten the arms so that the head and back arch upwards.
- In the final position the head and back should be bent backwards as far as is comfortable, but try to keep the abdomen as close as possible to the floor, without straining.
- The position of the hands and feet should not change throughout the movement.
Breathing; Inhale deeply during the movement.
Position 8: Mountain pose (Parvatasana)
- This position is a repeat of position 5.
- From the arched position of bhujangasana bend the back in the opposite direction so that the buttocks move upwards.
- Keep the arms and legs straight and don’t move the position of the hands and feet.
- In the final pose raise the buttocks as high as possible and the head should be between the arms. Gently press the heels towards the floor.
Breathing: Exhale while performing the movement.
Position 9: Equestrian pose (Ashwa Sanchalanasana)
- This position is a repeat of position 4.
- Bend the left leg and place the left foot between the two hands.
- Simultaneously raise the head upwards, arch the back downwards and lower the right knee to the floor. The position of the two hands and the right foot must not change. The arms should remain straight throughout.
- In the final pose, accentuate the arching of the back and bend the head backwards as far as possible.
Breathing: Inhale deeply while assuming the final pose.
Position 10: Hand to foot pose (Padahastasana)
- This position is the same as position 3.
- Lower the head towards the ground.
- Simultaneously raise the buttocks and right knee upwards.
- Then, when you are able, place the right foot beside the left foot in between the hands.
- Straighten the legs and try to touch the forehead to the knees.
Breathing: Exhale deeply as you move the head towards the knees.
Beginners: Ideally, the hands should remain on the floor throughout the movement.
However, beginners will find that because of inflexibility of the back they will be unable to straighten the legs if they try to keep their hands on the floor. They should, therefore, allow their hands to leave the floor as they straighten the legs. However, in position three they should stretch the fingers further towards
The floor for a few seconds when their legs are straight. This will encourage the back to become more supple so that you can eventually keep the palms on the floor with the legs straight.
Position 11: Raised arms pose (Hasta Utthanasana)
- This position is the same as position 2.
- Smoothly straighten the whole body.
- Keep the arms straight and separated by about a shoulder’s width.
- Raise the arms over the head and lean the head, arms and back slightly backwards. Then push the abdomen a little forwards.
Breathing: Inhale throughout the movement.
Position 12: Prayer pose (Pranamasana)
- This is the final pose and the same as position 1.
- Bring the palms together and hold them in front of the chest.
- Relax the whole body.
Breathing: Exhale while assuming the final pose. Breathe normally while remaining in the final position prior to continuing the practice.
One complete round
The 12 positions described above constitute only half round of suryanamaskara. Actually, one full round consists of 24 positions. The positions 13 -24 are similar except that the lunges in the equestrian poses in positions 16 and 21 are done using alternate legs, as compared to those legs used in positions 4 and 9.
Breathe through the nose and not through the mouth. The breathing sequence in suryanamaskara is perfectly natural and should occur spontaneously.
There is an easy principle to remember when you are learning suryanamaskara. When you bend backwards, inhale, for the chest expands, inducing air into the lungs. And when you bend forwards, for the abdomen compresses, which in turn reduces the volume of the lungs, via the diaphragm, forcing air out of the lungs.
You must retain the breath only while you assume position 6. If you experiment for yourself you will find that this is also perfectly natural, for it is difficult to lower the body and breathe at the same time. In summary, you do not require any effort on your part to ensure correct breathing. Your body will tell you when to breath. Actually, breathing occurs automatically. But what you must do is accentuate the inhalation and exhalation more than the body will do naturally.
You will require to make some effort in this direction.