The Origins of the Surya Namaskar in Yoga

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    You can’t even think of yoga without the ‘Surya Namaskar’ or salutation to the Sun. All yoga sessions are meant to start with this, which is also considered a regimen that ensures that every muscle of your body is out to work. But what are its origins? We will delve into the history of Surya Namaskar, exploring its origins, development, and spiritual significance.

    The Ancient Origins of Surya Namaskar

    The worship of the sun as a deity has been prevalent since the time of the Rigveda, composed sometime between 1500-1000 BCE. Hymns in the Rigveda contain praises for Surya, the sun, and rituals associated with this deity. The most famous of course is the Gayatri Mantra. But did you know that two variations of the Surya Namaskar also trace their origins to Vedic texts. These are the ‘Trucha Kalpa Namaskarah’ and ‘Aditya Prasna’.

    ‘Trucha Kalpa Namaskarah’ is a method of performing Surya Namaskar using three ruchas or Vedic hymns. It involves reciting the Dhyana mantra followed by Surya Namaskara, with the chanting of twelve special Hindu mantras arranged in a specific manner. These mantras, composed by Kanva Rishi, were intended to please the Sun and cure diseases, and each mantra is accompanied by twelve postures. The traditional practice involves performing 108 Namaskaras in a day, which is considered highly auspicious by Hindus. ‘Aditya Prasna’ utilizes verses from the Taittiriya Aranyaka of the Yajurveda. This form of Surya Namaskar is popularly practiced in South India.

    Another ancient practice similar to Surya Namaskar is mentioned in the epic Ramayana, attributed to the sage Valmiki. Known as Adityahadayam, it describes a simpler form of Surya Namaskar as part of the story.

    Revival of the Suryanamaskar

    The formulation of the current sequence of Suryanamaskar is credited to Bhavanrao Shrinivasrao Pant Pratinidhi, the Raja of princely state of Aundh in modern day Maharashtra. He was a polymath who contributed in different fields, from physical exercise, to socio-political reforms. Check out his interesting story here.

    After practicing Surya Namaskar for years, Bhavanrao or Balasaheb realized that his body was getting lighter, his mind becoming blissful and he felt youthful. He had no ailments for 17 years. Therefore, he studied and researched on the subject. He formulated the exercise and made it a compulsory part of his state's physical training programme.

    The Suryanamskar was popularised by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, in the 20th century. Krishnamacharya is considered as Father of Modern Yoga, who had famous disciples such as Eugenie Peterson, K. Pattabhi Jois, and B. K. S. Iyengar. It was through the teachings of Krishnamacharya and his influential students that practice of Surya Namaskar spread around the world.

    Surya Namaskar Today

    Since the last few decades, Surya Namaskar has gained popularity as a standalone practice and is often incorporated into yoga classes, fitness routines, and wellness programs. Its accessibility and versatility have made it a go-to practice for many individuals seeking holistic well-being.

    Breathable fabrics, such as cotton, linen, or bamboo, are gaining great popularity among the practitioners of Surya Namaskar as they allow for proper air circulation and ventilation. As the body moves through different poses, it generates heat and perspiration. Breathable fabrics help to wick away moisture from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable throughout the practice. This enhanced breathability prevents overheating and allows the body to cool down naturally, thereby enhancing your performance and focus during the sequence.

    From its humble beginnings, it has evolved into a globally embraced practice, offering physical, mental, and spiritual benefits to countless individuals. Incorporating Surya Namaskar into our lives can foster a deeper connection with ourselves, nature, and the universe.

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