Sun Salutations or Sun Exercises?
Surya Namaskar — greeting the sun.
A bunch of pose sequences together to be performed at a time when the sun rises? Doesn’t that make total sense? Who wouldn’t want to come out of their cave and have a good stretch after a night of savasana-type poses?
The anally congested may say you need to do these facing the sun but I think that depends on what time of the day it is and when you are engaging in your practise.
Think about this for a moment, on a practical level before we go into the potential spiritual purposes of doing Sun salutations towards the sun.
Back when we didn’t have alarm clocks, to make the best out of the light that we had, most humans got up when the sun rises. For those of us who have not seen or forgotten what a sunrise might look like, they start really dim and gradually get very bright. By the time the sun is rising, if you lived somewhere like in India, you wouldn’t be looking at it, let alone doing sun salutations towards it without some heavy sunglasses and sunscreen.
Sun salutations are called so because they are a group of exercises that are sequenced well and can be a great way to get things going first thing in the morning. Ana Forrest used to call them Sun Exercises which is technically what they are, exercises.
Now I know those who dislike matching yoga with fitness will be rolling their eyes as quickly as they can roll their malas right now. But an exercise is an activity that requires focus, and usually does something to blood-chemistry and the nervous system. You may not be seriously sweating, but it’s still exercise!
There are an array of Sun Salutations. Probably as many styles as there are practitioners who dared to break out of the mould and venture into exploring their own needs and doing what works for their unique bodies (lord forbid).
You will not go to yoga-hell if you do sun salutations without the presence of the sun. Also, in case anyone had forgotten, the sun doesn’t give a shit about what we do most of the time!
How do I know this?
Because I have done Sun Salutations at night, or way before dawn (3am) and I’m more than fine. I’m fast, doing Sun salutations during those times could have saved my life as they have well saved my mind!
I used to think Sun Salutations were just warm-ups. Then an old friend once told me she loved to start the day with 10 Sun Salutations and a headstand. That has stuck with me. Then when I met Ana Forrest we would do Sun Exercises until we were warm enough to safely move on.
Another occasion when Sun’s were a regular practise was when I used to really dislike my body. The moment I would dive into that familiar ocean of self-loathing, I would reach for a 20min playlist and bang out as many Suns as I could within that time. By the end of those sessions, I would be way more hot and sweaty than I would be compared to my usual yoga warm-up.
Although I would often be a heap of a sweaty mess on the floor, I had forgotten about disliking myself. This went on for a number of months until I finally snapped out of indulging in that way of thinking.
I also remember occasions when I would get on my mat and didn’t know what to do, so I just started doing Suns, sometimes I would finally be able to tap into my body and feel my way through my practise, other times I just continued until I could create Suns that were just perfect for what I needed.
These post-pandemic, lowered cardiovascular health times have prompted me to just get up and do 10 Suns whenever I have been sitting too long or I have noticed that I have given up on conscious breathing.
I’d love to know what you love Suns? Quickening the blood? Getting out of your own head or just getting your heart rate up? Do let me know because each response is actually totally valid for the purpose of engaging in Salutations to the Sun!
Check out the following post for tips on Sun Salutations BLOG: Sun Salutations