Yoga & Sun Salutation: history, tips and benefits

Yoga & Sun Salutation: history, tips and benefits

If you have ever attended a yoga class, you have probably practiced this sequence of postures on your yoga mat: the Sun Salutation. Practised as a warm-up or as a guideline throughout the session, this sequence can be found in almost every class. But not only that: many practice it every morning and/or evening to thank the sun for its benefits.

Nowadays we even speak of Sun Salutations in the plural because there are many variations to the traditional sequence. With the arrival of yoga in the West and its modernization, many great masters and yoga teachers have significantly modified it in order to adapt it either to their teaching or to the evolution of the practitioners.


The Story of the Sun Salutation

The Sun Salutation is called “Surya Namaskar” in Sanskrit. Literally it is a prayer practiced as a sign of gratitude to the sun god named Surya, but also in order to thank the spiritual light that we all have in each of us. We are therefore far from the popular vision of a simple sequence of postures on the yoga mat to warm up at the beginning of the class.

However, no written text or source really specifies the date of creation or even the composition of the very first Sun Salutation. For purists, it cannot be considered as yoga because of its non-existence in the ancient texts that founded yoga. According to many yoga masters, it was inspired by a practice dating back thousands of years, when ancient Indians performed daily rituals involving the chanting of mantras and prostrations before the Sun God.

The origin of the Sun Salutation is therefore recent, and is due in particular to the modernisation of yoga and its arrival in the West. In his book “Yoga Body: the origins of modern posture practice. Mark Singleton, a researcher in modern and traditional yoga, even states that it was an Indian bodybuilder named Pratinidhi Pant who invented the modern Sun Salutation around 1900, as a warm-up for weight training. We are therefore far from the daily gesture of gratitude to the sun god. For others, it would be a pure invention of the Raja of Aundh (ancient Indian state) in the first half of the last century who wished to strengthen the people on the physical and spiritual levels thanks to a series of postures.

But it is notably under the influence of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and his master Krishnamacharya, both creators of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, that the famous Sun Salutation practised on a yoga mat as we know it today became popular, and this only in the 1960s. These two great figures of yoga are notably responsible for the creation of two variants: Surya Namaskar A and B.

For Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the Sun Salutation embodies the cycle of life, from birth to death. Each posture in the series has a particular symbolism and meaning, making Surya Namaskar more than just a fitness routine performed on a yoga mat.


Description of the Sun Salutation

There are as many variations of Surya Namaskar as there are yogis on earth, but the basis and structure of the series remains much the same.

In general terms, the Sun Salutation is a sequence of several yoga movements and postures, 6 to 8 on average. These postures, called Asanas, are linked in a precise order and in a fluid way, like a dance, and this 2 times, in a cyclic way: the starting posture will become the ending posture, and so on (more details on the postures in our free Ebook “The Sun Salutation”).

There are no strict rules about how to practice it. There are no strict rules about how to practice it, or even about the intention behind the practice.

You can practice the Sun Salutation every morning on your yoga mat, but be careful to do it away from breakfast so as not to alter your digestion. But this is not a strict rule, you can enjoy the benefits at any time of the day, whether in the afternoon or evening. However, be careful not to exercise too dynamically late in the evening so as not to disturb your sleep.

It can be done at the beginning of a session to warm up the body and prepare it for the practice, especially during the faster and more intense Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga classes.

It can be practiced alone in a more or less dynamic way, as a session in its own right, by linking it several times in a continuous manner.

The Sun Salutation can even be used as a guideline during an entire session, where other postures will be interwoven to form a balanced and harmonious sequence.

It can be practiced slowly by breaking down the movements and holding each posture for a while. For some, the Sun Salutation can even be a meditation exercise. The movement and the breathing become one, the attention is only focused on the present moment and what is happening in it: the breath, the physical sensations, the subtle sensations (feelings, emotions, awareness of passing thoughts…).


The benefits of the Sun Salutation

Benefits to the body:

Provides flexibility and mobility
Strengthens muscles
Improves posture and balance
Improves breathing and oxygenation of the body
Ensures better blood and lymphatic circulation
Supports optimal functioning of the immune and endocrine systems
Strengthens the digestive system and helps with weight loss

Benefits to the mind :

Reduces stress, anxiety and helps with depression
Improves sleep and fights insomnia
Improves concentration and memory
Helps to gain self-confidence

Now you know (almost) everything about this famous sequence of postures that wakes up thousands of yogis on earth every morning. If you wish to know more, and in particular to know the details of the postures which make up the Sun Salutation, click on this link to download our free Ebook “The Sun Salutation”. You can also help yourself with yoga accessories (yoga blocks and yoga strap) to carry out this sequence of postures.

In the meantime we wish you a great practice, Namaste!

Enjoy your reading,



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