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Sculpture of the 12 asanas of one form of Surya Namaskar[a] in Indira Gandhi Airport, Delhi.[1]

Surya Namaskar (Sanskrit: सूर्यनमस्कार IAST: Sūrya Namaskār), Salute to the Sun or Sun Salutation, is a practice in yoga as exercise incorporating a sequence of some twelve gracefully linked asanas.[2][3] The asana sequence was first recorded as yoga in the early 20th century, though similar exercises were in use in India before that, for example among wrestlers. The basic sequence involves moving from a standing position into Downward and Upward Dog poses and then back to the standing position, but many variations are possible. The set of 12 asanas is dedicated to the Hindu God Surya. In some Indian traditions, the positions are each associated with a different mantra.


Etymology and originsEdit

Sun Salutation at a public yoga event

The name Surya Namaskar is from the Sanskrit सूर्य Sūrya, "Sun" and नमस्कार Namaskār, "Greeting" or "Salute".[4] This identifies the sun as the soul and source of all life.[5]

Indian tradition connects the 17th century saint Samarth Ramdass with Surya Namaskar exercises, without defining what movements were involved.[6]

Ancient but simpler sun salutations such as Aditya Hridayam, described in the "Yuddha Kaanda" Canto 107 of the Ramayana,[7][8][9] are not related to the modern sequence.[10]

The anthropologist Joseph Alter states that Surya Namaskar was not recorded in any Haṭha yoga text before the 19th century.[11]

Patinidhi Pant, the Rajah of Aundh, (1868–1951; in office 1909-1947) popularized[12][13] and named the practice,[14] and it has been asserted that he invented it,[15] but Pant stated that it was already a commonplace Marathi tradition.[16]

The yoga scholar-practitioner Norman Sjoman suggested that Krishnamacharya used the traditional and "very old"[17] Indian wrestlers' exercises called dands (Sanskrit: दण्ड daṇḍ, a staff), described in the 1896 Vyayama Dipika,[18] as the basis for the sequence and for his yoga vinyasas.[17] Different dands closely resemble the Surya Namaskar asanas Tadasana, Padahastasana, Caturanga Dandasana, and Bhujangasana.[17] Krishnamacharya was aware of Surya Namaskar,[19] since regular classes, not then considered to be yoga, were held in the hall adjacent to his Yogasala in the Rajah of Mysore's palace.[20] His students K. Pattabhi Jois,[21] who created modern day Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga,[22] and B. K. S. Iyengar, who created Iyengar Yoga, both learnt Surya Namaskar and flowing vinyasa movements between asanas from Krishnamacharya and used them in their styles of yoga.[20]

The historian of modern yoga Elliott Goldberg writes that Vishnudevananda's 1960 book Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga "proclaimed in print" a "new utilitarian conception of Surya Namaskar"[23][24] which his guru Sivananda had originally promoted as a health cure through sunlight. Goldberg notes that Vishnudevananda modelled the positions of Surya Namaskar for photographs in the book, and that he recognised the sequence "for what it mainly is: not treatment for a host of diseases but fitness exercise."[23]


Surya Namaskar is a sequence of around twelve asanas connected by jumping or stretching movements, varying somewhat between schools. In Iyengar Yoga, the basic sequence is Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana, Uttanasana with head up, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, and then reversing the sequence to return to Tadasana; other poses can be inserted into the sequence.[4] In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, the type 1 sequence is Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana, Anjaneyasana, Dandasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Virabhadrasana I.[25]

A typical[b] Surya Namaskar cycle is:

1: Pranamasana
2: Hasta Uttanasana
3. Uttanasana
12: back to 1
4. Anjaneyasana
11. Hasta Uttanasana

5. Adho Mukha Svanasana
10. Uttanasana
6. Ashtanga Namaskara
9. Anjaneyasana,
opposite foot
8. Adho Mukha
7.Urdhva Mukha


In some yoga traditions, each step of the sequence is associated with a mantra.

In traditions including Sivananda Yoga, the steps are linked with twelve names of the God Surya, the sun:[26][27]

Step (Asana) Mantra (name of Surya)[26][27] Translation[26]
Tadasana Om mitraye namah (affectionate to all)
Urdhva Hastasana Om ravaye namah (cause of all changes)
Padahastasana Om suryaye namah (who induces all activity)
Ashwa Sanchalanasana Om bhanave namah (who diffuses light)
Parvatasana Om khagaye namah (who moves in the sky)
Ashtanga Namaskara Om pushne namah (who nourishes all)
Bhujangasana Om hiranya garbhe namah (who contains everything)
Parvatasana Om marichyaye namah (who possesses raga)
Ashwa Sanchalanasana Om adityaye namah (God of Gods)
Padahastasana Om savitre namah (who produces everything)
Urdhva Hastasana Om arkaye namah (fit to be worshipped)
Tadasana Om bhaskaraye namah (cause of lustre)

Indian tradition associates the steps with Bījā ("seed" sound) mantras and with the five chakras (focal points of the subtle body, excluding the sixth or crown chakra).[27]

Step (Asana) Bījā mantra[27] Chakra[27] Breathing
Tadasana ॐ ह्रां Om Hrāṁ Anahata (heart) exhale
Urdhva Hastasana ॐ ह्रीं Om Hrīṁ Vishuddhi (throat) inhale
Padahastasana ॐ ह्रूं Om Hrūṁ Swadhisthana (sacrum) exhale
Ashwa Sanchalanasana ॐ ह्रैं Om Hraiṁ Ajna (third eye) inhale
Parvatasana ॐ ह्रौं Om Hrauṁ Vishuddhi (throat) exhale
Ashtanga Namaskara ॐ ह्रः Om Hraḥ Manipura (solar plexus) suspend
Bhujangasana ॐ ह्रां Om Hrāṁ Swadhisthana (sacrum) inhale
Parvatasana ॐ ह्रीं Om Hrīṁ Vishuddhi (throat) exhale
Ashwa Sanchalanasana ॐ ह्रूं Om Hrūṁ Ajna (third eye) inhale
Padahastasana ॐ ह्रैं Om Hraiṁ Swadhisthana (sacrum) exhale
Urdhva Hastasana ॐ ह्रौं Om Hrauṁ Vishuddhi (throat) inhale
Tadasana ॐ ह्रः Om Hraḥ Anahata (heart) exhale


Many variations are possible. For example, In Iyengar Yoga the sequence may intentionally be varied to run Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Lolasana, Janusirsasana (one side, then the other), and reversing the sequence from Adho Mukha Svanasana to return to Tadasana. Other asanas that may be inserted into the sequence include Navasana (or Ardha Navasana), Paschimottanasana and its variations, and Marichyasana I.[4]

In cultureEdit

The scholar of religion Shreena Niketa Gandhi notes that some Christians in America, such as St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, Minnesota, name the asana sequence "Son Salutation", transferring the object of devotion from Surya (God of the sun) to Jesus (the son of God), in a practice they call "Yogadevotion".[28]

The founder of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, K. Pattabhi Jois, stated that "There is no Ashtanga yoga without Surya Namaskara, which is the ultimate salutation to the sun god."[29]


  1. ^ Incorporating Ashtanga Namaskara in place of Caturanga Dandasana
  2. ^ As shown in the Indira Gandhi Airport sculpture, above.


  1. ^ "Destination Delhi". Indian Express. 4 September 2010.
  2. ^ Carol Mitchell (2003). Yoga on the Ball. Inner Traditions. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-89281-999-7.
  3. ^ Jane MacMullen (1988). Yoga Journal: Ashtanga Yoga. September/October. Active Interest. pp. 68–70.
  4. ^ a b c Mehta 1990, pp. 146-147.
  5. ^ Krishan Kumar Suman (2006). Yoga for Health and Relaxation. Lotus. pp. 83–84. ISBN 978-81-8382-049-3.
  6. ^ Hindu Vishva. 15. 1980. p. 27. Sri Samarath Ramdas Swami took Surya Namaskar exercises with the Mantras as part of his Sadhana.
  7. ^ Guruji Murugan, Chillayah (20 October 2012). "Surya Namaskara -Puranic origins of Valmiki Ramayana". Silambam. Archived from the original on 3 October 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2013.[failed verification]
  8. ^, Aditya Hrudayam with English translation
  9. ^ Translation of Ramayana by Griffith
  10. ^ Mujumdar 1950.
  11. ^ Alter 2004, p. 23.
  12. ^ Singleton 2010, pp. 180–181, 205–206.
  13. ^ S. P. Sen, Dictionary of National Biography; Institute of Historical Studies, Calcutta 1972 Vols. 1-4; Institute of Historical Studies, Vol 3, page 307
  14. ^ Alter 2000, p. 99.
  15. ^ Alter 2004, p. 163.
  16. ^ Singleton 2010, p. 124.
  17. ^ a b c Sjoman 1999, p. 54.
  18. ^ Bharadwaj, S. (1896). Vyayama Dipika | Elements of Gymnastic Exercises, Indian System. Bangalore: Caxton Press. pp. Chapter 2.
  19. ^ "Surya Namaskar – an Ancient Sun Ritual". Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  20. ^ a b Singleton 2010, p. 175-210.
  21. ^ Donahaye, Guy (2010). Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K Pattabhi Jois Through The Eyes of His Students. USA: D&M Publishers. ISBN 978-0-86547-749-0.
  22. ^ Ramaswami 2005, pp. 213-219.
  23. ^ a b Goldberg 2016, pp. 329–331.
  24. ^ Vishnudevananda 1988.
  25. ^ "Surya Namaskar Variations: How it is done in these 3 popular yoga traditions". Times of India. 23 June 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  26. ^ a b c "Surya Namaskara". Divine Life Society. 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  27. ^ a b c d e Vaibhav, Amit; Shukla, Swati; Singh, Om Prakash (2016). "Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation): A Path to Good Health". International Journal of Pharmacological Research. 6 (7): 224–230.
  28. ^ Gandhi, Shreena Niketa (2017). Forbes, Bruce David; Mahan, Jeffrey H. (eds.). Yoga in Popular Culture | Controversies and Conflicts. Religion and Popular Culture in America (3rd ed.). University of California Press. pp. 342–343. ISBN 978-0-520-29144-7.
  29. ^ "Surya Namaskar in the words of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois". Discover the Purpose. Retrieved 20 July 2019.


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