Greeting a Life-giving Light: A Brief History & Benefits of the Sun Salutation
One of our most practised asana sequences among all yoga flows, is what we commonly know as the Sun Salutation. But have you ever wondered why we actually call it that?
Defining Some Terms
A “salutation” is by definition, “a gesture or utterance made as a greeting or acknowledgment of another's arrival or departure.” Immediately taking from that, the literal meaning of a sun salutation would be to create a gesture or utterance to acknowledge the sun’s arrival or departure.
What you may not know is that it is actually richly symbolic (although, if you come to our classes at Aruna Yoga, you may have heard a thing or two on its history). In many cultures the meaning and symbolism of light is both mythical and wonderful. Light speaks of warmth, truth, self-awareness, inner hope — life — and many other things. As humans, living on this beautiful earth, our primary source of light and life is the sun.
Brief History of the Sun Salutation
For thousands of years, the Hindus worshipped what they called Surya, or the sun. To them it was the heart of our world, and the very cause for the existence of life (which can now be proven true, in several scientific ways). It was during this time, long, long ago, that the sun was seen as the source of all, both physical and spiritual, acting as a path to divinity.
Otherwise known as Surya Namaskar, this asana is a symbolic way of honouring the light that burns to give us life. Surya, meaning sun, as previously mentioned. And Namaskar, coming from two words; Namas, meaning “to adore” or “to bow to”, and Kara, or “action”... simply… the act of adoration. Now this puts the Sun Salutation in perspective. If we were to complete the historical picture of what this flow is all about, it would be:
Yogic movement in adoration and worship of life-giving light.
What Are Some of The Benefits?
Improves flexibility by working on the muscles
Each asana or pose in the flow of a Sun Salutation, targets specific muscle groups and actual nerve centres (Chakras). Doing so all at once, brings a tremendous amount of balance to your body, gives your muscle groups the opportunity to strengthen and lengthen, and allows your heart a healthy heartbeat that will have good blood and oxygen flowing through your entire body. In this way, you are promoting flexibility, proper posture, and balance to your muscles and nerves, as well as oxygen to bring life to your brain and body.
Provides emotional stability
Remember how I shared about stress and negative emotions and how this can affect our breathing? Many times we forget to breathe, and this hinders oxygen from freely flowing through our body. We end up feeling panicked, and antsy, and (literally) short of breath. In truth, breathing is the best tool you have to bringing emotional stability, because of the amount of oxygen that you are able to intake when you take the time to generously inhale, and exhale. Accompanied with the right breath, each movement of Sun Salutation brings more and more balance to your left and right brain, balancing your emotions and providing you with a yummy dose of endorphins (hormones that trigger positive feelings).
Increases the absorption of nutrients
Healthy circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body encourages the absorption of nutrients, which evidently benefits the entire body. The lack of movement and unhealthy lifestyles that are so easy for us to fall into (myself included) in this day and age, are the causes of several health disorders such as obesity, thyroid dysfunction, and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). Sun Salutations, or yoga in general can be a part of healthy living that enables the absorption of the proper nutrients to combat similar disorders and other health risks. Eventually, this will positively affect your skin, muscle, brain, and bone health — your entire body, really.
Knowing this, why not try a beautiful Sun Salutation practise with me? It’s perfectly fine if you have never done this before. If this is your first time, you may follow along to the introduction first or skip on ahead on the practise. If you are feeling adventurous, energetic, or would love the challenge… do both.
This June 21st, at 7:30PM, Aruna Yoga is celebrating two years of having yoga classes at Rathcoffey and we will be doing 108 Sun Salutations in adoration of our life-giving lights. And yes, that is plural, because we are talking about the sun, but we are also talking about YOU. Yes, you are a life-giving light! Because of the time that you have spent reading our blogs, sharing our heart… some of you even practising at our studio. Thank you. This Garden Party is a FREE event, but we encourage you to come with a generous heart as we will also be giving to a wonderful charity, Crumlin’s Children’s Hospital, and it would be wonderful if we would be able to share life with them as well in the form of this support.
On June 24th - 27th, from 10:00AM - 1:00PM each day, we will also be having a 4-morning Rise & Shine Summer Retreat, where you can experience other asanas that are also beneficial to your entire well-being. This is a beautiful way to grow deeper in the practise, and even to experience it for the first time, as no prior experience of yoga is required to be a part of this retreat. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to say that your first experience of the practise was in a retreat?
If you cannot make it to either, we will miss you. We hope to see you for one of our summer classes, or when regular classes resume in September later this year. Remember to always let your light shine… The light in me, bows to the light in you. Namaste.