How To Do Surya Namaskar

Sun Salutations

Surya Namaskar, literally translated as Sun Salutations, is a set of 12 powerful yoga postures practised together in a sequence. If you are pressed for time and are looking for a simple yoga sequence that provides a cardiovascular workout whilst keeping the body supple and the mind calm, then this is a great solution. 

Each round of Sun Salutations consists of two sets. The first set is demonstrated below. To complete the second set, you simply repeat the same sequence of postures, only moving the left leg instead of the right (in steps 4 and 9 given below). You might find several versions of doing Sun Salutations, however for best results, it is best to stick to one particular sequence and practice it regularly. Always practise Sun Salutations on an empty stomach. 

Let us guide you through each of the 12 postures, so that you can practise this sequence yourself at home. And see below our 11 tips for improving your Sun Salutations!

1. Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)

surya namaskar yoga step 1

Stand at the edge of your mat, keep your feet together and balance your weight equally on both the feet.

Expand your chest and relax your shoulders.

As you breathe in, lift both arms up from the sides and as you exhale, bring your palms together in front of the chest in prayer position.

2. Hasta Uttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)

surya namaskar steps

Breathing in, lift the arms up and back, keeping the biceps close to the ears. In this pose, the effort is to stretch the whole body up from the heels to the tips of the fingers

How to deepen this yoga stretch?

You may push the pelvis forward a little bit. Ensure you're reaching up with the fingers rather than trying to bend backwards.

3. Hasta Padasana (Hand to Foot pose)

how to do surya namaskar

Breathing out, bend forward from the waist, keeping the spine erect. As you exhale completely, bring the hands down to the floor, beside the feet.

How to deepen this yoga stretch?

You may bend the knees, if necessary, to bring the palms down to the floor. Now make a gentle effort to straighten the knees.

It's a good idea to keep the hands fixed in this position and not move them henceforth until we finish the sequence.

4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)

sun salutation steps

Breathing in, push your right leg back, as far back as possible. Bring the right knee to the floor and look up.

How to deepen this yoga stretch?

Ensure that the left foot is exactly in between the palms.

5.  Dandasana/Phalakasana (Plank Pose)

12 poses of surya namaskar

As you breathe in, take the left leg back and bring the whole body in a straight line.

How to deepen this yoga stretch?

Keep your arms perpendicular to the floor.

6. Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight Points Salute)

surya namaskar poses

Gently bring your knees down to the floor and exhale. Take the hips back slightly, slide forward, rest your chest and chin on the floor. Raise your posterior a little bit.

The two hands, two feet, two knees, chest and chin (eight parts of the body touch the floor).

7. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)

how to do sun salutation

Slide forward and raise the chest up into the Cobra posture.You may keep your elbows bent in this pose, the shoulders away from the ears. Look up.

How to deepen this yoga stretch?

As you inhale, make a gentle effort to push the chest forward; as you exhale, make a gentle effort to push the navel down. Tuck the toes under. Ensure you're stretching just as much as you can; do not force.

8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

sun salutation yoga pose

Breathing out, lift the hips and the tail bone up, chest downwards in an 'inverted V' (/\) posture.

How to deepen this yoga stretch?

If possible, try and keep the heels on the ground and make a gentle effort to lift the tailbone up, going deeper into the stretch.

9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)

sun salutation steps

Breathing in, bring the right foot forward in between the two hands, left knee down to the floor, press the hips down and look up.

How to deepen this yoga stretch?

Place the right foot exactly between the two hands and the right calf perpendicular to the floor. In this position, make a gentle effort to push the hips down towards the floor, to deepen the stretch.

10. Hasta Padasana (Hand to Foot pose)

Sun Salutation yoga

Breathing out, bring the left foot forward. Keep the palms on the floor. You may bend the knees, if necessary.

How to deepen this yoga stretch?

Gently straighten the knees and if you can, try and touch your nose to the knees. Keep breathing.

11. Hasta Uttanasana (Raised Arms Pose)

Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar Yoga

Breathing in, roll the spine up, hands go up and bend backwards a little bit, pushing the hips slightly outward.

How to deepen this yoga stretch?

Ensure that your biceps are beside your ears. The idea is to stretch up more rather than stretching backwards.

12. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

how to do Sun salutation sequence

As you exhale, first straighten the body, then bring the arms down. Relax in this position, observe the sensations in your body.


Tips for improving your Sun Salutations

Tip 1. Warm up the body before you start

It is a good idea to do some gentle warm-up stretches before you start with the Surya Namaskar rounds. This helps remove restlessness in the body and prepares it for yoga postures.

Tip 2. East or West?

Where to face while doing Surya Namaskar? Face the east direction if you are doing Sun Salutation in the morning and the west direction if you are doing it in the evening.

Tip 3. Add the attitude of gratitude

Go into the practice with thankfulness and appreciation for both the big and small things in your life. If you concentrate on what you have, you’ll always have more.

Tip 4. Do your Surya Namaskars gracefully

This becomes important when you strive to achieve a higher target of Surya Namaskar rounds (some people may even go up to 108 sun salutations). Even when you pick up the pace, don’t do the poses with a jerk or with force. Allow the postures to flow gently and gracefully one into the other.

Tip 5. Keep a smile on your face

It makes a big difference! You will be able to enjoy your movement much more. That smile can keep the energy going.

Tip 6. Do your Surya Namaskars with awareness

This is a very essential element in the entire practice. Surya Namaskar can be very energising if done with gratitude, grace, at a slow pace, and with awareness on the breath. For example, in the Ashtanga Namaskara (6th pose), the solar plexus corresponding to the navel chakra, the reservoir of energy, gets activated, releasing a lot of energy in the body, making us feel very energetic. If done with proper awareness, one can feel the flow of energy starting from the navel chakra to the entire body.

Tip 7. Breathing should be natural

While doing Sun Salutation, breathe normally (not in Ujjayi). Also, breathing should not be forceful. Breathe slowly, gently, and effortlessly, with awareness on each breath that you inhale and exhale. Try and keep the breath in harmony with every body movement.

Tip 8. Surya Namaskar is best done with mantra chanting

Through their power of vibration, the Sun Salutation and mantras have a subtle yet powerful and penetrating effect on the mind and body. Each of the 12 Surya Namaskar poses have 12 corresponding mantras recited in honor of the Sun. Further, as you do each posture, take your attention to the particular chakra (12 chakras for every posture). For example, in the first pose (Namaskarasana), we take our attention to the Anahata Chakra located at the heart level. Doing your Sun Salutations with mantra chants and awareness on chakras, adding a feeling of gratitude, adds a profound spiritual and meditative aspect to your practice.

Tip 9. Surya Namaskar can be a warm-up or a stand-alone practice

The latter works best for those who are pressed for time. A few rounds of Sun Salutation can provide a comprehensive body workout in a span of 10-15 minutes! As a routine practice, 6 sets or 12 rounds of Sun Salutation are sufficient. You can also do it as a warm-up exercise, before getting into Padma Sadhana or other intense yoga postures. If you are practicing Surya Namaskars as part of your warm-up, you can do them at a somewhat faster speed. When you practice them as part of the yoga posture practice, you can keep slow to medium speed. After a few rounds, the body feels light and flexible and the stretches in the active yoga postures become deeper. If you have backache, avoid practicing Sun Salutations at a fast pace.

Tip 10. Relax after finishing Surya Namaskar

As you finish your last round of Surya Namaskar, lie down and relax your entire body. For best results, it is advisable to lie down in Yoga Nidra, giving the body enough time to assimilate the effects of the stretches. However, if you are short on time, you can relax for a few minutes in Corpse Pose, for complete rest to the mind and body.

Tip 11. The secret is in putting effort and then letting go

Last, but surely not the least, this is the most important tip to enhance your Surya Namaskar experience. Like every yoga posture, when you start doing Surya Namaskars in the beginning, you will need to put in a little effort. That effort is required, as it helps channelise the Rajoguna or restlessness in the body and then what remains is simple harmony or Sattva. So Rajoguna gets exhausted with exercise and Sattva leads you to meditation – the feeling of letting go.

Including all of these in our daily practice of Surya Namaskar can make the experience a complete sadhana – one which includes asana (posture), pranayama (breathing), mantra (chants), and chakra meditation.

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