What is Surya namaskar?
Surya Namaskar is a method of worshipping Sun as God practiced by Hindus generally based on their religious belief. It comprises of Yoga in which a number of asana are practiced.
Sun is referred to as Surya in Indian mythology. Worshipping sun is to pay respects to fire, one of the five elements. Vedas consider Surya or Sun as the custodian of inexhaustible energy.
Hindu sastras shows three ways of worshipping the Sun God. The three ways are Mantra Japa, Namaskar and Pranayama.
All the three ways are believed to enhance the health of the body and the mind (1).
The SUN is the provider of energy which enables all forms of life in sea land or air to thrive. We know Sun is the source of heat and light. It is the source of eternal and prime energy.
Surya namaskara need not be considered as belonging to a particular religion. In fact it energizes the body as well as mind of those who practice it irrespective of the race, age or gender. But with its strong and deep spiritual content it leads to a strange and powerful dimension of awareness in the person who practice it, as preached by all religions.
Sun plays a vital role in providing relief by performing the exercise. Since the exercise is performed under the sun light, the body get vitamin D essential for the health of bones. Vitamin D in combination with calcium make the bone stronger (2).
Surya namaskara can be performed by men and women from the age of six years. It is performed either at the sunrise time or sunset time. It is preferable to perform it in an airy place where there is sunlight. The worship is done by facing east or west direction based on the position of the Sun at that point in time so as to feel and experience its radiance. The morning worship need to be done before breakfast while in the evenings it is performed at sunset time when the stomach is generally empty.
The process of worship must be learnt from a teacher and practiced by chanting the appropriate mantras. Mantras need not be understood as Vedic mantras. The mantras to be chanted while performing Surya namaskara are based on breathing techniques coupled with appropriate sound effects. It is the occult nature of the worship that make it necessary and important to learn it from a teacher to start with and then practiced without guidance. It takes quite some time to thoroughly understand the significance of each posture to enable practicing without guidance.
Twelve postures of Surya Namaskara are designed and each posture provide specific relief to the body as well as the mind.
Arthritis is a disorder mostly affecting elders characterized by pain, swelling and inflammation in the joints. The disorder affects the joints and also the tissues surrounding the joints. A number of rheumatic disorders are known to affect the joints. Only four of them, namely osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and gout are the common forms of the disorders prevalent.
Osteoarthritis is caused due to wear and tear of the joints. Other three forms rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and gout are caused due to overactive autoimmune system of the body.
In all forms of arthritis genetic as well as environmental factors are involved. Based on the causes and the symptoms that surface the disorder is diagnosed and relevant treatment method is adopted.
While modern medical treatment involves medications and physical exercises including physiotherapy, Surya namaskara is a treatment form practiced since ancient times as a preventive and curative method for the overall health of the person. But it is known to provide specific relief from different types of arthritis if practiced as per the teachings of a Guru.
Importance of learning from a teacher should not be undermined as each of the twelve postures that is practiced while performing surya namaskara has significant effect on the physique of the person. This point can be well perceived by looking at each of the postures as to how the body is tamed.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is considered to be a bone and joint disorder for which there is no absolute cure. Modern medicine has been successful in mitigating the ailments to some extent by administering various types of medicines over a period of time. If the problem persists even after such treatments surgery including replacement of the damaged joints are undertaken. However it is confirmed that even replacement may provide relief for about ten years only and the problem may surface again.
It is in this context we tend to rely upon the alternative treatments which include surya namaskar.
This form of treatment is aimed at cleansing the body and the mind. It involves the practice of yoga. As many as twelve different sets of asanas are performed under surya namaskar. All the postures or asanas make the body to subject itself to various movements by stretching along with chanting of the appropriate mantras.
In doing so breathing exercises are also carried out which supplements the physical relief derived through the different postures.
What is Surya namaskar?
Surya namaskar essentially involves stretching of the whole body. Each of the twelve postures is unique in providing distinct benefit to the body. But one common feature in all of them is that the knees plays an important role in doing the exercises or asana.
Even though in Arthritis all joints may be inflamed or weakened, the knees are the commonly affected joints which restrict the overall movement of the person including standing, walking or folding the legs.
Looking at the stretching of the body in each asana will throw more light on their effectiveness in strengthening thee knees which in turn provide significant relief from arthritis initially and cure the disorder totally over a period of time.
The postures of the asana are:
Sthitha prarthanasana: Here with folded hands before the chest, keeping the heels and standing straight, yet standing in a relaxed mood with long and deep breath tones up the limbs and improves the flexibility of the joints.
Oordhwa namaskarasana: this posture involves tilting the head and upper trunk backwards even as stretching the arms above the head and inhaling while raising the hands. It enhances the performance of abdominal organs and enable the person to lose weight essential in the treatment of arthritis.
Hasta padmasana: Bending the whole body forward making the fingers of the hand touch the floor and trying to touch the knees with the forehead. Contracting the abdomen before bending and exhaling while bending forward bring flexibility to the spine.
Ardha bhusangasana: Placing the palms on the floor and stretching the right leg backwards while bending the left knee so as to keep a firm foot on the floor. It strengthens the leg muscles.
Dwipad prasarasana: Keeping both the foot on the floor and bending the body forward so as to raise the seat portion upwards while placing both hands on the floor with head between the arms. The whole posture will take the form of a perfect triangle. It strengthens the arms, muscles and legs.
Saashtaanga namaskara. The whole body lies down with only the chin, chest, knees and toes touching the earth. It ensures better cardiovascular health.
Bhujangasana (Cobra like pose): Lie down keeping the toes on the floor, bend backwards so as to raise the chest and head backwards
Bhudarasana: This is somewhat similar to dwipad prasarasana. The difference is here while raising the hip one has to exhale while in the other posture inhaling took place.
Ek pada akarshana: It is also similar to Arsha bhusangasana. This posture strengthens the legs and the arms.
Hasta padasana: It is a repeat of Hasta padmasana
Ooordhwa namaskarasana: It is repeat of the second posture.
Sthith prarthanasana: Standing erect with both hands folded and placed before the chest.
Brief details of the postures are mentioned and one has to understand and learn the complete format from a teacher before venturing into performing the Surya namaskar.
Since arthritis involves pain, swelling and inflammation of the joints, by performing surya namaskar significant relief can be derived in curing arthritis. The exercises lead to overall strengthening of the body including the legs and heart besides the targeted organ, namely knees, in the case of arthritis.
Since knees play very important role in performing every asana, yoga or exercise, it is necessary to investigate the cause and symptom of the disorder before commencement of the namaskar.
Surya namaskar is not an exclusive remedy to cure arthritis. It is one of the attentive benefits derived. Enhancement of overall health of the body and mind are the primary benefit from Surya namaskar and relief for arthritis is one of the specific remedy obtained by the way.
It may not provide quick relief but performing the namaskar over a period of time is bound to provide significant relief. Acute cases of the disorder has to be necessarily diagnosed clinically undergoing appropriate tests and treated accordingly.