In-Kyung Kim LPGA Photo Shoot. Picture: Getty
Suryanamaskar can do to your body what months of dieting cannot. And it can do to your mind what no spiritual discourse can.
Not surprising, the world is going crackers over this ancient yogic tradition of worshipping the rising sun. What with the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham and Kareena Kapoor endorsing it over gym workouts and bizarre diets.
From improving your posture, strengthening muscles to whittling extra inches around the waist, the benefits of Suryanamaskar are many, provided you adapt it the right way. A set of 12 fixed, cyclic postures define Suryanamaskar which when performed repeatedly at an easy pace can bring a sense of well being, almost immediately. However, those with a heart condition, arthritis or slip-disk, need their doctor's consent before starting the routine. Suryanamaskar's surging popularity notwithstanding, jumpstarting a schedule is most definitely not the best thing to do for a fitness novice. If you have been gravely out of form in a way that you haven't stretched your muscles in ages, first give your body some time to open up, which you can do with some flexibility and stamina-building exercises before embarking on the more arduous 'Suryanamaskar'.
And once your body has registered a certain fitness level, you can begin with a set of three Suryanamaskars in the first instance and increase it to five then ten and more depending on your stamina. Anymore than clocking up numbers, it is important to get each posture right, for the very essence of this yogic ritual lies in perfecting every move. To say the least, it can be an uphill task for beginners. But our expert-backed warm-up exercises are sure to make Suryanamaskar less strenuous and ever so graceful.
1. Neck: Breathe in while you turn your neck to the right and breathe out as you come back to the starting position. Again, breathe in while turning your neck to the left and breathe out in the centre. Repeat this movement thrice. Rotate your neck first clockwise and then anti-clockwise.
2. Arm and shoulder: Stretch your arms out in front of your chest and move your palms up and down, then sideways. Further on, rotate your fist clockwise and anti-clockwise. To relax your arms, place your palm on your shoulder and move your shoulders first clockwise then anti-clockwise.
3. Knee: Bend forwards with your palms resting on your knees, join your knees and move forwards and backwards. End the routine by rotating your knees clockwise and anti-clockwise.
4. Stomach and back: Interlock your fingers over your chest and slowly raise your hands upwards while you breathe in and stand on your toes. Return to Position 1 as you breathe out. Repeat this cycle three times.
5. Legs and waist: Stretch your legs wide in standing position, touch you left toe with the right hand, then the right toe with the left. Keep your knees straight while you do so. Repeat a few times.
By now your body is suitably warmed up to begin the Suryanamaskar routine. Here is a step-by-step account of the 12 postures. Don't try this routine on a mat, you are better off on the bare floor or on the grass.
Posture 1# Stand erect, ideally facing the morning sun. Fold your hands in prayer close to your chest and chant 'Om Suryadevaya Namah' thrice.
Posture 2# With your hands together raise your arms up in the air while you breathe in. Bend over backwards forming an arch from the hands to your feet. The flexibility of the spine is ensured in this posture.
Posture 3# Bring your hands down while you breathe out to touch the floor on either side of your feet. In this posture, it is imperative to keep your knees straight as you bend forward from the waist, and your head as close as possible to the knee. This posture helps melt the excess fat around the stomach by aiding digestion.
Posture 4# While breathing in, put your hands flush with the floor and lower your hips and stretch your left leg back, allowing it to balance on your toes, and your right leg bent in a crouching stance. With your hands firmly on the ground and your arms straight as a die, raise your head upwards to face the sky. This one is for the flexibility of spine and leg muscles, and boosts immunity from diseases.
Posture 5# As you breathe out, let your hands stay firmly on the ground and push your right leg back parallel to the left. Make sure your feet firmly touch the ground and your hip raised high. With your arms and knees straight lower your head to face your navel.
Posture 6# Hold your breath as you bring your hips down while keeping your hands and feet in the same position, and stretch your whole body near the floor. With your face downward, bring your chest and knees to lightly brush the floor, and hold your hips slightly high. At this juncture, 8 points of your body are touching the floor - your palms, forehead, chest, knees and toes.
Posture 7# This posture is a mere extension of Posture 6, in that you breathe in and straighten your arms and lift your chest upward in an arching stance, and your head thrown back facing the sky. Your arms, at this point, carry the weight of your body, with you knees and toes resting on the floor.
Posture 8# Bring your body back to Posture 5 by raising your hips and lowering your chest and head. Keep your arms and knees straight while you do so, and place your feet flush with the floor. Then lower you head to face your navel.
Posture 9# As you breathe in, return to a similar position as Posture 4, only this time you will be crouching on the left knee and stretching back your right leg. Place your hands firmly on the ground, and with the weight of your body on your arms move your chest forward and arch your head up to face the sky.
Posture 10# From here, flow back to Posture 3 while keeping your hands flush with the floor and bringing your right foot side by side with your left one. As you straighten your knee, raise your back to arch in a standing position with your head as close as possible to the knee and your hands on either side of your feet.
Posture 11# Take a deep breathe and raise your arms up in the air as you straighten your back and gradually bend over backwards, akin to Posture 2. Your knees stay straight all the while.
Posture 12# Bring yourself to Posture 1 from here with your hands folded before your chest in prayer, and your spine erect, your knees straight and your eyes shut in meditation.
With Posture 12 you complete one full circle of Suryanamaskar. From here you can flow back to Posture 2 to continue the routine. However, always follow up your Suryanamaskar regime with Savasana, better known as Corpse Pose. In this posture, you lay down on the floor with your legs and arms apart, your palms facing the sky, and eyes deep shut. Breathe in and out heavily and try to focus your thoughts on something happy. Stay on this way for a few minutes and you will feel a sense of calm run down your body like a drug.
Weight loss is just one consequence; you can so much as put your life together with this ancient yogic tradition.