Soorya Namaskar (Sun Exercise)
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This exercise is called soorya namaskar because it is practiced in the early morning facing the sun. The sun is considered to be the deity for health and long life. In ancient days, this exercise was a daily routine in the daily spiritual practices. One should practice this at least twelve times by repeating twelve names of the Lord Sun. This exercise is a combined process of yoga asanas and breathing. It reduces abdominal fat, brings flexibility to the spine and limbs, and increases the breathing capacity; it is easier to practice asanas after doing soorya namaskar.

Before students practice the more complicated and difficult postures, the spine should acquire some flexibility. For a stiff person, the sun exercise is a boon to bring back lost flexibility.

There are twelve spinal positions, each stretching various ligaments and giving different movements to the vertebral column. The vertebral column is bent forward and backward alternately with deep breathing. Whenever the body is bend forward, the contradiction of the abdomen and diaphragm throws out the breath. When the body bends backward, the chest expands and deep breath is corrected; moreover; it mildly exercises the legs and arms, thus increasing the circulation.

There are twelve positions making one full round of soorya namaskar. Repeat twelve times daily.

Position 1 : Face the sun. Fold the hands. Legs together, stand erect.

Position 2 : Inhale and raise the arms. Bend backward.

Position 3 : Exhale and bend forward till the hands are in line with the feet. Touch the knees with your head. In the beginning, the knees may be slightly bent until the head can touch them. After some practice, the knees should be straightened.

Position 4 : Inhale and move the right leg away from the body in a big backward step. Keep the hands and left foot firmly on the ground, bending the head backward. The left knee should be between the hands.

Position 5 : Inhale and hold the breath. Move the left leg from the body and, keeping both feet together and the knees off the floor, rest on the hands (arms straight) and keep the body in a straight line from head to foot.

Position 6 : Exhale and lower the body to the floor. In this position, known as sastanga namaskar or eight-curved prostration, only eight portions of the body come in contact with the floor: two feet, two knees, two hands, chest and forehead. The abdominal region is raised and, if possible, the nose is also kept off the floor, the forehead only touching it.

Position 7 : Inhale and bend backward as much as possible, bending the spine to the maximum.

Position 8 : Exhale and lift the body. Keep the feet and heels flat on the floor.

Position 9 : Inhale and bring the right foot along the level of the hands; left foot and knee should touch the ground. Look up, bending the spine slightly. (Same as position 4)

Position 10 : Exhale and bring the left leg forward. Keep the knees straight and bring the head down to the knees as in the third position.

Position 11 : Raise the arms overhead and bend backward inhaling, as in position 2.

Position 12 : Exhale, drop the arms, and relax.

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