Beyond Sun Salutations.

Prostrations and Illuminations.

Photo: Om Prakesh —

The tradition of bowing, kneeling before, full prostration and the deeply spiritual anjali mudra (palms together, thumbs to the heart centre) and Sanskrit word Namaste can all show respect and on a deeper level in the yogic traditons begin the link between the inner world with the outer, the divine in us and the divine in everything, humble reminder of the wholeness and connectedness of life.

Photo by Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash

I myself have always been connected to the reverent bow, first a student of karate as a child then a student and teacher of yoga and journeys to India and now living in Asia, in particular the Thai wai, palms together in anjali mudra with a small bow.

I have also recently returned from a trip to Seoul, South Korea and experienced the bow in my daily interactions with people, just the same way we shake hands, as in most of Asia. The deeper the bow and length of time it is held relates to the age and respect of elders (and many other factors)…I found this out quite often when meeting younger people who proceeded to bow pretty deeply. Haha.

The Size of the Ego Vs The Size of the Solar System.

It may feel strange or uncomfortable to begin with to lower our heads in reverence, as our ego puffs out its chest to say, ‘I’m in charge!’…So sweet, like a toddler teetering on the edge of a step playing ‘I’m the king of the castle.’

There is no denying the size and power of the ego, but the universe; seen and unseen, shows how tiny in comparison we and it are, though no less important than anything else in creation.

Surya, the sun and centre of our solar system can’t really be denied as the most important part of the divine creation, at least as far as the Earth and humanity is concerned. Without the many wavelengths of light there would be no life of the planet, or at least as we know life — maybe we all might look like some of the strange and wonderful creatures at the bottom of mile deep oceans.

Prostration and surrender can surprisingly act as a counter to the egoic mind, the small ‘I’ that believes it is so much more important than it really is, though alone in the world. Ultimately the individual surrenders to become part of the supportive, collective whole.

Surya Namaskar and Beyond.

In the yoga traditions the simple and yet complex practice of Surya Namaskar or sun salutations (or Chandra Namaskar, moon salutation) can be thought of as physical practice for sure, but there are many more subtle levels to explore as the yogi’s practice deepens, though too many to talk about here.

If you are interested there is a wonderful, small but complex book by the Bihar School titled Surya Namaskara — A Technique of Solar Visualisation.

Photo by Nirzar Pangarkar on Unsplash

Besides the physiological benefits of stetching, strengthening muscles, joints, lungs and heart, a simple and yet powerful addition to the sun salutation practice can simply spend a moment to firstly give thanks to the ego for its support in our reactive daily life, asking it to ‘stand down’ and begin to simply feel our bodies, head to toe, feet into the Earth etc.

Conscious Breath, More Focused Mind.

Connecting with the breath, awareness on the inhale and exhale can then simply put, begin the shift from the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight response, stimulated daily by stressful modern living, to the parasympathetic nervous system and a more relaxed, introspective response. We can become more focused on conscious breathing calming the monkey-mind chatter in our head and restoring some balance to manic or depleted energies in our body.

Love and Lineage.

Our inner awareness can be brought to the teachers that have gone before us, the one guiding the practice today, the teacher inside ourselves, any particular deity you feel aligned with or wish to experience more directly. Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, all in recognition of the purpose of the yogic journey, to shine with this higher energy reflected back at us in symbolic form.

Photo by Daoudi Aissa on Unsplash
Finally, we can give thanks to the most magnificent higher reflection of our solar nature shining back at us, the sun. Reflecting its humbling message of illumination and compassion, shining for us all, irrespective of how we may as humans divide ourselves.

All this before and during the asana practice of Surya Namaskar, Sun Salutations guides us to a more blanced understanding of ourselves and the yogic technologies.

Also, check out the Gayatri mantra for its devotional message and meditation to the sun. Here’s the Deva Premal and Miten version. Enjoy.

Originally posted at the Yoga Professionals website