Hello sun! - My experience with Sūryanamaskāra
The sun has always been a great source of awe and mystery and obviously the great source of life itself. Therefore many ancient cultures have worshipped and praised the big ball of gas in many differing ways. The Vedas (1500 -800BCE) are no different, containing many odes to and many references to the importance of it, but like with with all yoga asana, the Vedas mentions nothing. According to Daniel Simpson in The Truth of Yoga, the raja of Aundh wrote a book called Surya Namaskars in the early 20th century, 'which taught a series of postures to cultivate strength'. Yoga teachers started to incorporate some of these physical movements with some sankrit mantras praising the sun, using the same term. In Yoga Body, Mark Singleton points out that the sun salutations were a combination of techniques coming from body building and gymnastics, as conditioning the physical body was very much a part of British and therefore British Indian culture at the time.
I decided to get more familiar with the 'sun salutation' and do 12 every morning for a month and report my experience. Due to being too lazy to write this it has now been 3 months of doing 12 sun salutations every morning. Every morning, even after a vaccinated 'punched in the arm' feeling.
Sometimes, it might have been 10 and sometimes 13 due to losing count. But I have never in my life kept up with something every day - that is, something that doesn't happen automatically, like breathing or feeling hunger. So the first positive from this experiment was a feeling of success of having stuck to a plan. This is important for me because it ardly hever appens. For a long time I've had an ideal version of me having a daily routine that goes something like this: getting up around 6am, drinking a herbal tea or lemon water and doing yoga and meditation. Every morning without fail. Only one part of that routine is happening now (because I accidentally became addicted to morning coffee at the age of 33, and I only get up at 6am on the days I have to go to work) but this is progress.
Secondly, I am now very familiar with the sun salutation, which was my goal. And I have incorporated it into lessons and taught it. Which sun salutation, though? My basic version is close to sun salutation A but this only requires saggital plane movement so I switch it up: usually on number 5 and 6 I do a revolved low lunge which adds a twist and on 9 and 10 I do a warrior 1 and 2 which adds some abduction. Depending on how I'm feeling I'll add other random movements in and I always end in supine, circling and then hugging the knees to rest the lower back.
Thirdly, I have strengthened my arms a lot. My arms have always been my weak point and I have never been able to do any pushups. I never understood how yoga practitioners could do a chaturanga and lower themselves to the floor slowly. Within a few days I was doing it and now I find it easy. I can even see more muscle definition in my arms and shoulders, which wasn't the plan at all, but is an added bonus.
My teenage nephews and I were discussion our pseudo-exercise routines and when I told them mine we developed a running joke that every morning I look out the window at the sun and wave 12 times and say 'hello!' Do I actually think about the sun every morning while doing my 'salutations to the sun'? No, I really don't. Contemplating the sun and feeling gratitude for it, and everything else I am grateful for in life, is now added to the list of my ideal daily routine. I wonder when it will actually come to fruition.
Daniel Simpson, The Truth of Yoga (2021)
Mark Singleton, Yoga Body (2010)