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May my heart be grateful and filled with light, and may I share this gratitude and light with others. This is the intention that infuses my morning practice of Sun Salutation, an age-old yoga practice of respectfully honoring the sun for the life sustaining energy and warmth it provides each of us on this earth.

When we see ourselves as part of something bigger we develop humility and this feeds our sense of gratitude

At its core, the practice of Sun Salutation, also known as Surya Namaskara, is a practice of gratitude and humility. In this study on “The Role of Gratitude in Spiritual Well-Being in Heart Failure Patients,” by Paul J Mills Ph.D et.al. the authors state:  “We found that more gratitude in these patients was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health.”

A Series of 12 Movements

The Sun Salutation is a series of 12 movements woven together like a dance that captures the sense of ease, grace and gratitude we strive to embody in our lives.

The practice itself creates heat and builds stamina in the body while stretching many of the major muscle groups. In addition, it can deepen and slow down the breath, encouraging us to relax. It is a reminder of our relationship to the sun and to the universe itself. Without the sun we couldn’t exist on this planet. It is this kind of humility that teaches us about the interconnectedness of our existence.

Most important, it is a practice that connects us to our own inner light. With each of the twelve movements, we are reminded that we embody these qualities of radiance, brilliance, warmth and generosity that come from the sun.

In the very first movement, we bring our palms to our heart as we imagine the light of the sun filling our own heart. We then reach up toward the sun and we let our hearts fill with prana, the Sanskrit word for energy or life force. Since the arms are what carry the energy of the heart into the world, the arms draw that energy into the heart. We can imagine the molecules of the sun filling our hearts and illuminating our whole being.

Sun Salutation Position One Sun Salutation position 1A

In the second movement we bend forward as if to humbly bow in the presence of this mighty force of nature. Humbling ourselves is something that helps us develop gratitude. When we see ourselves as part of something bigger we develop humility and this feeds our sense of gratitude.

Sun Salutation Position 2

We continue to come even closer to the earth in the next couple of movements until we are face down on the earth, which is the most humble position in the practice.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 9.04.13 AM Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 9.04.18 AM Sun Salutation Position 2A Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 9.04.51 AM Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 9.05.06 AM

We then slowly find ourselves reaching back up and reconnecting our hearts to the light of the sun. In closing, we return our palms to the heart in deep reverence, which can remind us that the true sun is within us.

Sun Salutation Position One

There are many ways to practice Sun Salutations and it can be adapted to every person according to his or her personal circumstances and conditions. It can even be practiced while sitting in a chair. For those who choose to do a standing version, you may find that over time that you can do it with a more aerobic approach. This approach can be as beneficial as exercise. Some people have even adopted it as a daily aerobic routine doing up to 15 salutations, which can take about 20 minutes.

A  2014 study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that that yoga may benefit heart health as much as aerobics, and the researcher site using the sun salutation for this practice. Remember it’s important to use the calming and relaxing version of sun salutation if you want to reap the benefits of stress management. No matter how you practice your sun salutations, you can rest assured that every bit of gratitude you initiate from your heart can transform your life and your health. See you on the mat.

 

Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

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