Saluting the Sun – How to live in Harmony with Nature
“In the olden days, people would wake up in the morning, bow down to Mother Earth, and then, facing the sun, they would chant prayers and perform Surya Namaskarah. The whole time they were praying they were exposed to the rays of the rising sun.” —Amma
It was an idyllic time. They lived life in communion with Nature and her rhythms. People understood the context of their lives within the whole of Creation. Their routine was constant awareness and worship. Their lives existed in harmony with the cycles of the Universe. Because of this, people lived healthy lives.
We no longer live this way. We fall out of bed, grab a coffee and jump into a car. We live stressful, fragmented lives. We think there is no alternative way to live. Amma encourages us to regain our balance with Nature; and one of the tools She has given us is yoga.
What is Surya Namaskarah?
Surya Namaskarah is one of the oldest and most popular asana sequences. Surya means sun, and Namaskarah means salutations. The sun or ‘Lord Surya’ represents the universal Supreme Consciousness that illuminates everything. By saluting the sun, we offer reverence to the Divine, the underlying principle in all of creation. Surya Namaskarah is a complete sadhana or spiritual practice. It incorporates many aspects:
- asana – a posture performed with awareness
- pranayama – awareness of the natural breath and the movement of energy in the body
- mantra – a sacred sound chanted aloud or internally to purify the mind
- bhava – a sacred mood with a divine feeling
- dhyana – a meditation practice is an attempt to reach a natural state of deep awareness
The sequence of the asanas is very auspicious. It reflects the rhythms of the Universe and the biorhythms of our bodies.
Exercise and Sunlight
Amma spoke about the benefits of yoga on the first International Day of Yoga, June 21, 2015. She continues to recommend yoga, sunlight and a healthy lifestyle. Surya Namaskarah in the morning sun cures diseases caused by vitamin D deficiency. In many countries, six or seven out of ten people have a vitamin D deficiency. Studies have shown that this may be one of the factors causing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Countries that have little sunlight have a higher incidence of depressive disorders. Where it is not possible to practice Surya Namaskara in direct sunlight, the practice itself will still be found to be potent. Its general healing and regenerative effects cannot be underestimated. Yoga reduces our cholesterol, maintains cardiac health, and increases bone strength. This is especially important as the incidence of arthritis and osteoporosis is on a steep rise. Yoga even improves memory.
“It is important to do a balanced exercise for at least ten minutes a day. We also need at least 10 minutes of sun exposure a day. These days, we go from air-conditioned homes to air-conditioned cars, and to air-conditioned offices. We are isolated from our natural environment. Amma has heard that parents will buy their child a fifty thousand dollar car to drive two miles to a gym that costs a thousand dollars a year for membership. This may sound unlikely but it is not. It would be better to walk to the gym. If people could walk outside for at least a mile or two a day, they wouldn’t need to spend all that money. They would get the same if not better exercise. Walking in a park would give them fresh air and exposure to sunlight. All in all, they would be healthier. They would also conserve fuel and reduce harmful emissions. This is one way to protect the environment. Too much of anything is a problem. People in tropical countries may suffer heat stroke or skin cancer, so we all need to find a balance.” —Amma
Amma has also said that yoga creates physical beauty: “Yoga creates powerful spiritual vibrations. These vibrations affect us positively, as well as others. It is like entering a perfume factory. Even after emerging, the sweet fragrance will remain on our body, pleasing both to ourselves and others. When we perform yoga with complete awareness, it purifies each and every cell in our body.”
Amrita Yoga Classes, Workshops and Retreats
Amma has demonstrated her commitment to preserving the tradition of yoga. She has made it accessible to everyone. All Amrita institutions teach Amrita Yoga: primary and secondary schools, university, and the various centers and satsang groups around the world.
Amrita Yoga Kids’ Retreat
Amrita Yoga has a wonderful form of Surya Namaskarah for children, ages three to teens. It enacts the worship of Hanuman, the great monkey king devotee, to his beloved Lord Rama in the form of Lord Surya. It is taught for kids at Amrita Vidyalayam schools and at Amritapuri. Amrita Yoga teaches kids in a playful manner. Children, already in a natural and spontaneous state, are engaged when they play. This is the true goal of yoga!
Surya Namaskarah is an ancient technique that goes deeper than asana practice. It combines Amma’s teachings and mantra. Practiced regularly, this sadhana gives energy, strength and flexibility. Our connection to others and to all of Nature will improve. We can merge deeply with God and live in harmony with Creation.
“The purpose of yoga is for our inner well-being. It does not belong to any particular faith or religion. It was passed on to us by the ancient seers for the well-being of humanity. Yoga helps us to reconnect with nature and eventually become one with God.” —Amma