What’s the spiritual significance of practicing Sun Salutations?
The significance of practicing asanas (yoga postures) lies beyond the obvious benefits on the body level, and this is even more true with the practice of sun salutations. When we practice sun salutations, we are not just honoring the Sun but all of Nature, including ourselves, as we are also part of Nature.
In order to experience the powerful spiritual experience of sun salutations, a proper attitude is needed when practicing. The proper attitude is three-fold:
‘I receive so much from Nature. I am grateful for it.’ We can think of lots of reasons to complain but we can also think of lots of reasons to be grateful for. For now, we remember gratefulness.
‘I am part of Nature.’ Like the trees, mountains and rivers, we are also part of Nature. Our bodies are made up of five elements that Nature exhibits; Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. When we feel that we are part of Nature, our minds expand into infinity. The smallness disappears.
‘I am connected to everyone.’ The five elements in Nature bind us all together. The Earth connects us together. We share the same Water, Air and Sun. Even the Space that creates an illusion of separateness, in fact, it connects us no matter how far apart we may be. On the subtle level also, it is the same one life that flows in us all, and connects us together.
This cultivated feeling of gratefulness and oneness helps us in experiencing the union between the inner and outer, and the gross and subtle. It helps us in getting rid of negative emotions such as fear, worry and jealousy.
A yogi remains in this state of oneness not just during the SS practice but always.
Can Sun Salutation be practiced in the evenings?
Yes. The Sun is always there:)
How many rounds of Sun Salutation one should practice?
One round of sun salutations consists of doing the sequence twice, first leading with the right side and then the left side. It is up to you how many rounds of SS you practice. I personally practice 6-8 rounds, followed by other asanas . Some people practice many more, even up to 108 rounds. If you are one of those people, it is important to become even more aware that you are using both sides of the body equally throughout the practice. After a few rounds of sun salutations, as your mind may start to wander more, and as you start feeling fatigued, the stronger side of the body may take over to compensate for the weaker side, and thus causing misalignment in the body. Remain mindful of this and practice only as many rounds as you can without distorting balance and symmetry in the body. Also, leave time for doing other postures. For proper body fitness, practicing just sun salutations alone is not enough.
At what speed should Sun Salutations be practiced?
If you are practicing sun salutations as a part of your warm-ups, you can use somewhat faster speed. When you practice as a part of the asana practice, you can use slow to medium speed. I mostly follow a medium speed and it takes me about four minutes to do 6 rounds.
How do we incorporate Sun Salutations mantras with the sequence?
The mantras are powerful divine sounds which, when recited with feelings of devotion and trust, affect our consciousness in a positive way. There are 12 positions in the sun salutation sequence and there are 12 mantras that we recite to praise and honor the Sun. These mantras along with their meanings are given in the Sri Sri Yoga manual, and you can also find them on the web. Each mantra is attributed to a different quality of the Sun.
You can recite the mantras either verbally or mentally, but the inner feeling of gratefulness and oneness should be maintained. If you are going to be doing 6 or more rounds of sun salutations, then you could recite a mantra each time at the beginning of the sequence and maintain the proper attitude throughout the practice. On days when you practice just one or two rounds of sun salutation, you can recite a different mantra for each different position of the sequence as you go into that position. After you have recited all 12 mantras once, then just be in that space of oneness.
The feelings behind reciting the mantra are more important than the proper pronunciation of the mantras, but I still recommend that you learn to pronounce the mantras properly. It will make you feel good about yourself…that you can do it!J
Learn the sun salutation sequence and other asanas properly. Let someone observe and correct you. Practice at slow speed first, paying attention to balance and symmetry.
You may come across different variations of sun salutation sequence. They all are basically the same with only some small variations. It is okay to practice different variations as long as you are mindful of balance and symmetry, and are maintaining the feeling of gratefulness and oneness.
Do your asana practice regularly. It is better to practice daily for 20 minutes than to practice for an hour occasionally.
When you practice Sun Salutations, don’t just expect sunshine. Welcome the rain also! They both support life.
A Sun Salutation Story:
I have many personal stories from around the world related to Sun Salutations. Today I will share one with you.
About four years ago I was conducting Sri Sri Yoga TTC at the Art of Living Centre near Montreal. As we were practicing Sun Salutations in the afternoon inside the hall, outside it was thunder storming with heavy rains. Being in that space of honoring the nature, I felt inspired to go out in the rain. I quietly went out and started to practice SS on the deck.
The students also followed me, some with joyful enthusiasm, and others with reluctance. After a few rounds of SS we all felt so happy and started singing and dancing. It was then that we experienced something magical. The sky was covered with dense clouds, but for a little while a small cloud right above us cleared and Sun came out displaying its full splendor. It was unbelievable. The sky, filled with clouds, rain, wind, thunders and sunshine, looked amazingly majestic and beautiful. We just stood there silently in awe. We felt that all the elements of Nature had come together to bless us, and we truly felt blessed.
Was it a coincidence or was it a spontaneous play of Nature just for us? Believing in the later makes me feel closer to Nature. It makes me feel protected and loved! Yogic wisdom tells me to be with the experience without labeling it.
The wonder lasted only a few minutes but its effect on us remained for the remainder of the day. I had never seen Antoine, Jennifer, Al, Adam and many others so happy before! The singing and dancing continued…