The importance of Surya
We practice Surya Namaskara to bring health to the body. Surya is the Sun God, also known as Dev or Rav. Surya is that which gives life on earth. Namaskara is the action of prostrating to Surya as a form of reverence, of giving thanks and as a symbolic way to acknowledge the light within ourselves. In India the day begins right before sunrise, during a time called Brahma Muhurta (about 1.5 one hours before sunrise), each household opens it's doors to the Surya by steeping outside and performing some sort of ritual that involves chanting, specific physical movements, holy basil, incense, water and chalk powder to draw a mandala on the doorstep of the house representing the energy of the family's deity of choice. The actions that make up this ritual are performed in the same order on a daily basis, there are no days off. Sunday, or Ravivaar, being the most important as it the day reserved for Surya (hence one of his names being Ran, short for Ravivaar).
Similarly sun salutations are a set sequence of specific movements meant to ritualize reverence, recognition of life within and without and connection to self, and that which holds life. Within the Ashtanga lineage they are performed daily as a way to open practice, in Ayurveda they are used as medicine to maintain optimal health of body and mind. Surya namaskara is optimally practiced at sunrise. It's like brushing your teeth. You do it daily upon rising and before sleeping. In our practice we open the practice by saluting the sun. We ignite our inner sun, that is our digestive fire or all organs and cell within the body that perform metabolic actions. Just like the sun heats the earth, through surya namaskara we create physical heat, warming up the ligaments and joints, priming our whole body in preparation for further asana practice, while the physical intensity prepares the mind to arrive here in stillness, present to the breath.
Traditionally we practice 5 surya namaskara a and 5 surya namaskara b. Making time to do a couple of sun salutations a day can make a big difference in your physical and mental health. Here is a short video of surya namaskara a and b, shot in a temple in Mysore India.
Surya has a birthday, just like we do. It’s known as, Ratha Saptami, “the birth celebration of the Sun of our solar system…In honor of this day we chant 132 mantras of the Aruna Prasna, also known as the Surya Namaskara Mantras. After each section is chanted, a prostration is done, similar to a sun salutation, but slightly abbreviated. The amount is not as important as your presence and awareness within the ritual".
Here is “Lord Surya is seen riding a chariot pulled by 7 horses. Ratha is nothing but our mind, and the horses are nothing but thoughts. We have all noticed how our thoughts pull our mind in various directions. Ratha Saptami is all about having pure and righteous thoughts (horses) that pulls the mind (chariot) towards divinity. Surya (Sun) is currently on his uttarayan transit which is the path towards divinity and this is the time when he gains momentum towards the divine.”
It is said that :
Taking a ritualistic bath on this day before Sunrise during Brahma Muhurta (1.5 one hours before sunrise) can help eliminate illness in our lives.
Wake up before Brahma Muhurta.
Before you put your foot down, chant the Bhumi Devi mantra 3 times.
While begining your shower chant this mantra
Meditate and chant your morning prayers.
Perform Sun Salutations
Meditate on the Suryashtakam chant.
Donate money to people who need it and to people with whom you do not have any connections.
Chant your personalized Surya Mantra based on the position of Sun in your natal chart.
Join me in practice live in Newburgh, on Retreat this summer in Mallorca or livestream!