Friday, September 25, 2009

108 Sun Salutation Relays 26 Sep 09

Why Sun Salutations?

Sun Salutations is a yoga practice that involve a series of yoga postures (asana) . This exercise helps in endocrine systems and the chakra (the vortexes through which vital life energy – or prana – is channeled. Helping to build strength and flexibility.

In many cultures, light has long been a symbol of consciousness and self-illumination. "The world begins with the coming of light," wrote Jungian analyst Erich Neumann in The Origins and History of Consciousness (Princeton University Press, 1995). "Opposition between light and darkness has informed the spiritual world of all peoples and molded it into shape."

Our primary source of light is, of course, the sun. When we look at our closest star, we may see nothing more than a big yellow ball. But for thousands of years, the Hindus have revered the sun, which they call Surya, as both the physical and spiritual heart of our world and the creator of all life itself. That's why one of Surya's many other appellations is Savitri (the Vivifier), who, according to the Rig Veda, "begets and feeds mankind in various manners" (III.55.19). Moreover, since everything that exists originates from the sun, as Alain Dani巐ou wrote in The Myths and Gods of India (Inner Traditions, 1991), it "must contain the potentiality of all that is to be known." For the Hindus, the sun is the "eye of the world" (loka chakshus), seeing and uniting all selves in itself, an image of and a pathway to the divine.

One of the means of honoring the sun is through the dynamic asana sequence Surya Namaskar (better known as Sun Salutation). The Sanskrit word namaskar stems from namas, which means "to bow to" or "to adore." (The familiar phrase we use to close our yoga classes, namaste?i>te means "you"梐lso comes from this root.) Each Sun Salutation begins and ends with the joined-hands mudra (gesture) touched to the heart. This placement is no accident; only the heart can know the truth.
History and Practice

There's some disagreement among authorities over the origins of Sun Salutation. Traditionalists contend that the sequence is at least 2,500 years old (perhaps even several hundred years older), that it originated during Vedic times as a ritual prostration to the dawn, replete with mantras, offerings of flowers and rice, and libations of water. Skeptics of this dating maintain that Sun Salutation was invented by the raja of Aundh (a former state in India, now part of Maharashtra state) in the early 20th century, then disseminated to the West in the 1920s or 1930s.

However old Sun Salutation is, and whatever it may originally have looked like, many variations have evolved over the years. Janita Stenhouse, in Sun Yoga: The Book of Surya Namaskar (Innerspace Map Studio, 2001), illustrates two dozen or so adaptations (though several are quite similar). Our sequence here consists of 12 "stations" composed of eight different postures, the last four being the same as the first four but performed in reverse order. In this sequence, we'll start and end in Tadasana. (Station 12, not pictured, is the same as station 1 on p. 91).

Since the sequence is, in essence, a humble adoration of the light and insight of the self, it's essential to practice Sun Salutation in a spirit of devotion and with your awareness turned always inward toward the heart. Make each movement as mindful and precise as possible, especially as you near the end of your rounds, when fatigue can lead to sloppiness.

Taken fr Yoga Journal