When it comes to exercise, motivation is a must. You might have thought of trying out the Surya-namaskar from my pervious post. When you do the Surya-namaskar regularly and faithfully with intention the entire body/mind benefits. Ideally you should do enough sets so that the body has a light perspiration. But right now begin slow.
(I searched the internet videos for the correct version of the Surya namaskar, it is this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt9eeXo5YPk From 4:41 sec to 5:25 sec is the ideal Surya-namaskar sequence of the 10 postures. Except do not hold the ‘downward dog’ position for 5 deep breaths as he mentions.)
The set of 10 yogic postures is the classical Surya-namaskar. A breathing pattern has to be followed of inhaling (purak), exhaling (rechak) and holding the breath (kumbhak). And an associated mantra has to be recited mentally as you perform each posture of the set. Each posture works to set your body and mind in its perfect alignment. I am not using the names of the individual Yog-asan, just writing what will happen as you perform them,Starting posture – To begin with, you will stand straight, facing the east, palms folded in the Namaskar position, looking at the rising Sun and recite the Mantras which are to be said out aloud.
First posture – The palms in the namaskar position are raised vertically upwards and your eyesight follows them. The neck and waist has to be stiffened as the entire body has to be vertical and in a straight line. If you have round shoulders or a stoop in your back, you will feel these areas straining and stretching. The entire body stretches out. Deep breathing is required so if you are not used to deep conscious breathing you will feel your lungs and diaphragm work. The palms have to be pressed against each other slightly so a slight pressure on your entire arm till tip of fingers will be felt. Hold yourself erect and inhale deeply, hold the breath.
Second posture – Bending down with the knees straight. The palms touch the ground on both sides of the feet and the head touches the knees. The muscles of the calves, thighs, buttocks, hips, waist, back and spine are stretched out. You will feel the strain. Go very slow, if you are unfit you might black-out as all the air in your lungs is forced out. The muscles joining your shoulders and back will feel the strain. The muscles of the abdomen and waist will be pulled in. The kidneys are activated here. The solar plexus is stimulated. You won’t be able to do it perfectly at the first attempt so bend as much as you can comfortably, do not strain.
Third posture – Touching the tips of the fingers to the ground and moving the neck to look straight in the front. This activates in addition the neck, throat muscles and the shoulders. If you are suffering from stiff neck or cervical area problems, go slow here. Here you inhale. Do as much as you can without straining, this exercise will build up strength and also reduce neck/chin fat.
Fourth posture – As you jump backwards you are exhaling. And the rest of this posture is done in the ‘kumbhak’, you ‘hold’ breath. You have exhaled and there is no air in your lungs. You are pulling your abdomen in. The weight of the whole body is on your palms and toes. The wrists arms and feet/ankles bear the maximum pressure here. Also the abdomen and waist, the buttocks and the thighs. This reduces abdominal fat. This is the real ‘plank exercise’. You might not be able to do it perfectly so you can touch your body to the ground in the initial stages.
Fifth posture – Now you inhale. this is the classical snake posture. The back is curved and look up at the sky. The weight of the whole body is on the arms. Here the neck, arms and the chest benefit. The size of the abdomen will decrease and that of the chest will increase till the perfect proportion is achieved. All liver, spleen and intestinal complaints will disappear.
Sixth posture – Here you are exhale. Your body makes a triangle with your buttocks as the highest upward point. You exhale. The palms and the feet are placed flat on the ground. The muscles of the feet, calves, waist, abdomen, back, neck and upper arms are exercised. This will reduce abdominal fat. Abdominal fat is the root cause of ill-health in majority of humans.
Seventh posture – As you jump forwards you inhale and you touch your finger-tips to the sides of your feet, look straight forwards. Same as the third posture.
Eighth posture – Same as the second posture. You exhale.
Ninth posture – same as the first posture. You inhale.
Tenth posture – Same as the starting posture. You mentally recite the last posture mantra. “Om Bhaskaraya Namah”
This is a full body workout. The entire musculature of the body benefits. The neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, back, chest muscles, abdomen, thighs, calves and ankles. The body skeleton, the joints all benefit. Most important the fluid movement of the 10 postures, fully stretch and compress the spine. This frees you from back-ache forever. Rheumatic tendencies are arrested. The ligaments and tendons of the entire body are overhauled and made to work properly.
The entire digestive system benefits, the stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines. Better digestion and absorption of food and regular bowel movements are the first step to a healthier life. As the back strengthens, the kidneys also benefit. The nervous system is invigorated. The brain, spinal cord and the functional parts of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Fogginess, mental fatigue, forgetfulness and other forms of mental stress are gradually removed. The intellect and the mind shine with energy. The sense organs also seem more sharp.
The circulatory system undergoes a systematic overhaul. The pumping of the heart improves. The blood circulation improves, this is very important as blood brings nutrients and flushes toxins from every part of the body. Deep breathing improves the lungs, the lung capacity and the stamina. The throat muscles are energised by the continuous compression and extension movements. Thyroid function improves. Similarly the other endocrine glands in the body are stimulated increasing health. This movement of the neck improves the circulation to the head so the hair and scalp health improves. The senses of hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting remain sharp till old age.
You are supposed to work out till you lightly perspire. This removes toxins, more important in higher altitudes where people do-not sweat naturally. A healthy skin absorbs more pran/vital energy directly from the Universe and it also glows with health.
In women, if she has been doing Surya-namaskar regularly it helps in all problems related to menstrual cycle, pregnancy, childbirth and post-partum recovery. During pregnancy it will reduce nausea and similar uncomfortable problems. Feminine charm, bust, body shape etc remains attractive, as the entire body muscles develop in a proportionate way. In men, masculine attractiveness is enhanced. Excess fat is dislodged from those difficult areas of abdomen, thighs, chin, saggy arms are corrected. Obesity will reduce. Posture related problems are corrected. In growing children the height of the body will be increased. Immunity increases. Gradually you feel more energetic and youthful. More confident, you feel capable and poised, ready for life!
Healthy old age is a blessing which very few people in this modern age enjoy. The Surya-namaskar is the best way of postponing age as it rids the body/ mind of the products of decay/ damage/ degeneration of the body. It links you to the Sun, the source of all life. If you do Surya-namaskar with a combination of satvik food your food intake will reduce. This means vegetarian food, vegetables, rice, millets, pulses, desi cow milk and ghee made from desi cow milk. No heavy spices, no oily food, no stimulants.
By now you must be thinking that I am exaggerating. But I am not! You are using the power of the Sun, your mantra and your intention and reforging your body, breath and mind. Do your Surya-namskar for a few months regularly and then see the change in yourself. And others will also notice the healthier you. You are in control. You decide. If you practice you will gain.I wrote this ‘biology’ post on purpose, so that you read the health benefits and they register in your mind. If you are still in your teens, adopt the Surya-namaskar for a life-time of health. You will never suffer even the minor complaints of fever and cold. If you have children, make sure that they perform it, you are gifting them a life-time of health and vitality. And even if you are older or unwell, try some of the postures in whatever slow imperfect way you can. Never strain the body, if you have been unwell/ lazy for 10yrs you can’t expect the perfect set on the first day. It will take 6 months of slow committed practice, it is ok. Congratulate yourself that you have started at least.
You can start at any age. It requires no kit, no expense, not much space. Even if you make mistakes initially it is ok. The Asans will self-correct gradually. Just remember to not strain, if you feel strain/pain stop immediately, Go slow. If you cannot do it at sunrise, do it at anytime of the day (2hrs after meals, as empty stomach is essential). But do it. Secure your health, effectiveness and longevity.
I know someone, a very over-weight lady. The Yog trainer wanted to get this lady started on Surya-namaskar. The poor lady could not bend, forget anything else. But the trainer was like, ‘do how much every tiny movement you can from the set, the body will loosen up with time’. It was a struggle for her, but she and the trainer persevered, a tiny bit every-day. By the end of 2 months, the lady did manage to bend enough to touch her own feet, and also shed a few kgs, an amazing achievement! So however physically unfit you actually are or believe yourself to be, all you need a good teacher to guide/ motivate and the Surya-namaskar. Reclaim your health!