Happy International Yoga Day! You may have read many posts on Yoga today or be inspired by PM Modi and be all fired up to try it out yourself. If your enthusiasm could last beyond this day and you actually try yoga, you’d inadvertently hear about Suryanamaskars. So, read on:
As I write this post after doing 108 Suryanamaskars at a local yoga event, I wondered how many of the participants (it was a marathon for suryanamaskar) would never have done yoga before. Regardless, everyone looked so enthusiastic and willing to include yoga (particularly suryanamaskars) in their daily routine.
Before we go further, it should be acknowledged that “Yog” is not just about exercise or breathing. It’s a way of life, being as much of a psychological and spiritual experience as it is physical. What we discuss here is one of its popular exercise modality, Suryanamaskars , also known as Sun salutations, which many people start as a go-to exercise to overall health
Why Suryanamaskars are a great add in any fitness routine
A key reason is that Suryanamaskar explores full range of movement for most of our joints, be it our spine, hips, shoulders, ankle and wrists. It can improve flexibility and performance and decrease associated injury risks. It is also a good upper body strength and muscular endurance workout, especially for less stronger individuals like women and old adults. With so many benefits, why is it still a bad idea to start doing yoga with Suryanamaskars?
Calculus for Kids?
As it is pretty evident from the picture above, Suryanamaskar is a 12 stage flow of different movements and positions. On top of it, you have to make sure your breathing is right with every stage. Inhale as your go in full extension, exhale as you touch your toes. Exhale as you do the downward dog, inhale as you go into bhujangasana. The people starting out on their yoga journey are pretty much like 4th grade school kids and a flow like that is like calculus being taught when they can hardly do arithmetic.
Doesn’t it make sense? You wouldn’t try and do a clean and press on your first day in the gym. Heck, people aren’t prepared to do it when they have been lifting weights for months. It is a great exercise but it is a complicated lift and so are Suryanamaskars. Why start with a complicated exercise?
In the local yoga event I went to, I saw so many people with little to no thoracic mobility (upper back) and yet sweating it out, struggling to complete their pledged number. Many people were cheering for them too. This is exactly the problem we see with marathoners. How many kilometers? In what time?
But, what about the quality of movement? What about how many Suryanamaskars you did without any pain? Shouldn’t this matter?
It’s A Thousand Year Old Practice. How Dare You Badmouth It?
Technically the word “Suryanamaskar” doesn’t come into any script till 1930 when Sri T. Krishnamacharya introduced it as it is seen in modern Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (Yoga has many forms too, depending upon gurus and origins). However what are mentioned in ancient literature prior to that are many individual asanas like Bhujangasana and Parvatasana (Downward dog) which are a part of Suryanamaskar.
This pretty much goes with the same ideology that before moving on to flow of movements, one should first focus on individual movements and master them first. Links of many of them are in the following discussion.
I Am Not into Yoga, Should I Still Care?
If you’re not into it, this is still pretty useful to add. Sports coaches have been using those movements like Parvatasana and Pada Hastasana for decades to improve lumbo-pelvic flexibility of their athletes. There is nothing better than cueing upper back muscle engagement than Bhujangasana for a strong bench press, a common gym exercise. We, at Psi Fitness, use inchworms (similar flow, but less complicated) for our clients as a lower body drill to loosen up the hips. After all, movement is movement. Let’s use what is within our capacity and serves our end goal of being healthier and more athletic. As Bruce Lee said, absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.
In Lucem Scientiam