It's easy to find yoga almost anywhere these days. It's become so common that nearly every health club offers at least one class. I highly recommend it as a form of exercise but, like any other activity, it takes a fair amount of time. Surya Namaskara, or Sun Salutations, is one of the primary series of movements and poses you will learn in any yoga class. It is said that the practice of Surya Namaskara "is capable of rendering human life heavenly and blissful and that by means of it, people can become joyous, experience happiness and contentment, and avoid succumbing to old age and death." *
While I'm not sold that it will make me live forever, I do believe that five to 10 minutes of Sun Salutations is a great way to start the day. It is said that yoga should be practiced before five a.m. and with no prior warm-up. This also seems drastic, especially for those of us trying to live hectic western lives. I will say though, that when I make myself get into a routine of starting each day with a short yoga session, my body and mind both feel much better equipped to cope with whatever each day will throw at me. For those who have never tried it at all, I wouldn't be surprised to see this routine intrigue you enough that you will soon be working a couple of full yoga classes into your weekly routine.
There are two types of Surya Namaskara. The first consists of nine vinyasas, or positions, and the second, of 17. We will discuss the first type:
1st vinyasa - To begin, stand straight up, feet together, chest up, head tilted slightly down, gazing at the tip of the nose. This is called Samasthiti, which means standing in a straight line. Then, breath slowly in through the nose, raise your arms over head and bring your hands together. Lean the head back and look up at your fingertips
2nd vinyasa - Release your breath slowly, bend forward and bring your hands down to the sides of your feet, trying to touch your knees with your nose.
3rd vinyasa - Then, inhale slowly and lift only your head.
4th vinyasa - Next, press your hands on the floor and while exhaling, throw your feet back until you are on your hands and toes only - like the bottom of a push-up but with your arms in close to your sides.
5th vinyasa - Then press your chest forward, straightening your neck and bending your back. Look up toward the ceiling extending the feet out so that the top of your toes are pressing against the ground (this pose is often called "up dog").
6th vinyasa - Next, lift the waist up, tilt the head under, heels to the floor and gazing at the navel - like an inverted "V" (called "down dog").
7th vinyasa - Is a movement that goes back to the 3rd vinyasa by jumping your feet up close to your hands and straightening your legs.
8th vinyasa - Follows the 2nd vinyasa.
9th vinyasa - Follows the 1st vinyasa. Now you should be standing back in Samasthiti.
Repeat as many times as desired. Try to empty your mind (somewhat easier first thing in the morning) and keep your gazed fixed toward the tip of your nose. Don't try and perform stretches, just concentrate on your breathing and let the Salutations take you into the day.
* Excerpt from Yoga Mala, by Yogasana Visharada Vendanta Vidvan, p.44