Yoga for better sleep
If you want to be getting some good quality zzzzz’s every night and sleep deeply, roll out your yoga mat in the morning while the sun’s rising!
According to Ayurveda, and now science, the morning is the best time to exercise.
Every morning, I start my day with the sun salutation as part of my practice. I’ve been doing it for so long now, I can’t imagine my life without it. I look forward to it as soon as I wake up in the morning. Honestly, it’s true! Maybe you can’t imagine wanting to jump onto your yoga mat as you hit that snooze button for the sixth time!
The key is to get into the groove. Health and good sleep are all about being in rhythm with nature. As a nation, we may be trying to do the right things, but from an Ayurvedic health perspective, we’re doing the right things at the wrong time!
Try to go to bed at the same time every evening. By 10pm is best, after having eaten lightly around 6pm, you’ll feel so much better in the morning.
This is the classical sun salutation
The sun salutation is far more than a few postures. It embraces the whole solar tradition of India. It honours the sun with all it’s various attributes and it’s best practiced at sunrise.
There’s a powerful story with each of the postures relating to a certain aspect of the sun. It includes a particular mantra or sound that evokes a certain type of energy. As you move through each posture there is also an emphasis on a particular chakra…and more! Here we are just touching the surface!
The sun salutation is a symbolic practice.
Surya Namaskara means ‘salute to the sun’ in Sanskrit. It’s a symbolic worship of the sun and a beautiful way to give gratitude to the source of life and creation. You’re also getting healthier and more relaxed at the same time.
The sun salutation is designed to awaken the solar aspect of the individual and create pranic (divine) energy, hence, it’s practiced in the morning. Solar yoga dates back to the earliest traditions of ancient India.
There are twelve postures in total done either side which means you’ll be doing twenty four postures for each round. The three considerations in this practice are form, energy (breath) and rhythm.
You’ll be giving your internal organs a welcome morning massage, clearing your head and waking up the body so you can get the best our of your day.
Now, I’m going to tell the story of Surya Namaskara!
Pramanasana – Prayer pose
Start in Pramanasana with your hands in namaskara mudra (prayer pose)
Take your awareness to the heart (Anahata chakra)
Offer your respects to the sun as a universal friend that gives infinite light, heat and energy.
Take a few breaths here with your eyes closed.
Mantra: Om Mitraya Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to the friend of all
Hasta Uttanasana – open yourself to the sun
Inhale moving your arms up and stretch the whole being upwards. Slight backbend without shooting your hips forward, open the heart from the chest.
Feel like you’re opening up a communication with the cosmic fire. Connect yourself to your own extraordinary potential and spiritual strength. Start a new conversation with the sun as you receive it’s blessings.
Put your attention in the throat (Vishuddha chakra)
Mantra: Om Ravaye Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to the shining one
Padhastasana – bow to the sun
With the force you gathered in Hasta Uttanasana, bow down into Padhastasana,
In this pose you’re saluting to the aspect of the creator of activity.
The sun is a symbol of consciousness, and the element of fire is the sun’s representative on earth.
Use the force of gravity as you surrender to the earth keeping your attention in the darknesslow the navel (Swadisthana Chakra).
Mantra: Om Suryaya Namaha
Meaning: Salutions to he who induces activity
Cetakasana – Horse pose
Step back into cetakasana
Bring the energy up with you to give you the courage to listen to your inner voice. That’s not always easy!
Look up, be proud. Put your attention in the third eye (Ajna Chakra). The sun represents the guru, every morning, the sun removes the darkness and brings us light. Mentally put the intention out to look beyond the darkness with the help of your internal guide.
Mantra: Om Bhanavae Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to he who illuminates
Parvatasana – mountain pose
Now with the courage you gathered in cetakasana, retreat into the mountain pose, Parvatasana.
This is a posture of stability. Move your attention to the throat (Vishuddha chakra) and connect with truth with courage.
We measure time by the movement of the sun. From this position of stability and truth, we can look towards progression in our live.
Mantra: Om Khagaya Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to he who moves quickly in the sky
Ashtangasana – eight corners on the earth
The sun is the constant giver of strength and nourishment
Here we surrender down into Ashtangasana offering our whole being to the earth. We are asking the universe for physical, mental and spiritual nourishment.
Bring your awareness to the belly button (Manipura chakra) and intensify the sensation of fire, strength and transformation.
Mantra: Om Pushne Namaha
Meaning: Salutions to the giver of strength and nourishment
Bhujangasana – cobra pose
As we emerge into Bhujanasana, we give birth to creativity and the potential of manifestation.
Bring your awareness to the area below the navel (swadisthana chakra) the centre of procreation.
Here we move from ignorance to wisdom with the dynamic energy of the sun before we continue our journey towards the energy of illumination.
Mantra: Om Hiranya Garbhaya Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to the golden cosmic self
Parvatasana – mountain pose
As we move back into mountain pose ready to emerge into the light, we seek meaning, purpose and truth in our life.
Here we pray for the ability to distinguish between the real and the unreal.
Mantra: Om Marichaye Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to the lord of the dawn
Chetakasana – Horse pose
Step forwards into cetakasana
Here we are saluting the cosmic mother who is boundless and inexhaustible. She’s the creative power from which all power comes from.
Mantra: Om Adityaya Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to the cosmic mother
As you come back into Padhastasana, you are getting ready to participate and rise into the stimulating energy of the day.
Bring your awareness back to the area below the navel (Swadisthana Chakra).
This is the step just before you move into the main waking activity of the day. Imagine you are getting in touch with the seed of that energy.
Mantra: Om Savitre Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to the stimulation power of the sun
Hasta Uttanasana – open yourself to the sun
Bend your knees, inhale as you come back up into Hasta Uttanasana. Stretch the whole being upwards once again. Slight backbend without shooting your hips forward, open the heart from the sternum.
Bring your awareness back to the throat (Vishuddha chakra) and connect and offer respect to the source of the sun’s energy.
Mantra: Om Arkaya Namaha
Meaning: salutations to he who is fit to be praised
Pramanasana – prayer pose
Return to prayer pose and bring your awareness back to the heart (Anahata chakra)
In this last pose, we offer respect to the sun as a symbol of transcendence and spiritual truth. In this posture we pray that this pathway is revealed to us.
Mantra: Om Bhaskaraya Namaha
Meaning: Salutations to he who leads us to enlightenment
If you’ve never done Surya Namaskara before, you need a teacher and guide. Feel free to contact me, or come to one of my workshops or retreats.
I’d love to share the mantra sounds with you. My dear Friend Radha Rani recorded the mantras and this track is part of her album Darshan. You can listen to the mantras here. Enjoy.
You can buy Radha Rani’s whole album here.