Surya Namaskar: Origin & Benefits
General News | Nov-20-2021
It isn’t known where this sequence of poses came from. The subsequent is as close as we’ve to a history of Surya Namaskar — and it’s more a history of its rise in popularity. The popularization of the regular practice of Surya Namaskar is credited to Bhawanrao Shrinivasrao Pant Pratinidhi, who was born in 1868. Pant was the Raja of Aundh, a state in western India that’s now an affluent suburb of Pune.
He performed Surya Namaskar regularly, after his colleague and friend, the old Raja of Miraj, introduced him to the sequence. Pant had his children practice the Surya sequence and also had it taught to all or any of the youngsters in schools in Aundh. The importance of this exercise of Namaskars [is that they will be practiced] in the least times, altogether seasons, in the least stages of life, and by all men and ladies.
At that time there was still a separation between the physical practice and yogic practices like pranayama, the kriyas (cleaning rituals), and thus the asanas described within the Sritattvanidhi.
In Yoga Body: the Origins of recent Posture Practice, Mark Singleton writes that at the Mysore practice they also differentiated between yoga practice and Surya Namaskar Thirty-two boys attended the Yogasana classes and an outsized number of boys attended the Suryanamaskar Classes.”
Over time, the poses of the Surya Namaskar were classified as asanas and therefore the sequence eventually came to be seen as a warm-up to be practiced before other asanas. And that’s generally how Surya Namaskars are wont to today. The sequence has been adapted and expanded so that we now have Surya Namaskar A and Surya Namaskar B also, while many schools of yoga produce other set sequences that they teach.
Surya Namaskar Benefits
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Surya Namaskar here. Many claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) are made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose to not give them airtime here.
The main physical benefits of Surya Namaskar include:
1. Stretches, tones, and strengthens your muscles, ligaments, joints.
2. Helps improve overall flexibility in your spine, hamstrings, shoulders, and more.
3. Strengthens the muscles that support your spine.
4. Each pose helps to interact with different parts of your body, which is why it’s most frequently used as a warm-up.
5. Prepares you for more complicated asanas.
The repetition of those fairly simple poses helps to calm your mind.
6. Helps stretch and strengthen most of your body, including arms, abs, thighs, butt, spine, neck, shoulder, hands, wrists, and back.
7. Helps improve your posture.
8. If practiced repetitively and quickly it’ll raise your pulse. Cardiovascular activity strengthens your heart and should help prevent heart disease.
9. It is often said that 10 minutes of Surya Namaskar burns 139 calories. I couldn’t find a reliable source for this “fact”. However, it does undoubtedly help to burn calories, which may cause weight loss.
Many studies have concluded that practice of the sequence regularly can reduce your resting pulse. Other studies have shown different speeds of the practice of Surya Namaskar can lower or increase signs.
There are studies done, primarily in India, on the consequences of Surya Namaskar practice, and that they have found that a daily Surya practice “balances, harmonizes, and brings integration between physical and psychological state .”