Suryanamaskar also know as Sun Salutation is a dynamic sequence of poses which is done as a ritual before starting the asana practice. The practice of these sequential poses is a form of dynamic meditation, which also helps in strengthening the limbs and increases the awareness of the body.
Suryanamskar is a way to pay respect to the Sun God ‘Surya’, which sustains and preserves life. The Sun God is depicted riding a chariot with seven horses, which represents seven days of the week. The twelve wheels of his chariot are a representation of the twelve months in a year. ‘Surya’ with his bow drives away the darkness and gives light of life and knowledge. The Sun God was the teacher of great Sage Yagnavalkya and granted him Vedic wisdom.
Lord Hanumana was the mighty general of Lord Rama’s army and led him to victory in his war against King Ravana. He was born with extraordinary strength and powers.
Since childhood he was spellbound by the radiating energy and light of the sun and almost consumed the sun thinking it was golden glowing fruit, when his mother stopped him. When Lord Hanumana grew up he was curious to learn everything about the world and gain knowledge about all that existed. Lord Hanumana kept searching for a teacher who could help him learn and satiate his quest for knowledge and wisdom. Much dejected he went to his mother and asked for her guidance. His Mother ‘Anjana’ asked him to reach out to the Sun God and seek wisdom from him, because the sun sees everything that happens in the world and that ‘Surya’ would be able to share everything he had observed.
Following his mother’s advice Lord Hanumana went to Sun God and put forth his request to learn everything Sun had observed. But ‘Surya’ declined Lord Hanuman’s request stating that he was too busy as he was always moving and he if stopped to take out time to teach, the world would fall out of balance. Hanumana was so eager to learn that he convinced ‘Surya’ that he would not be required to stop to teach. Hanumana told him that we would travel with him and the Sun God could continue teaching him as he moved. Hanumana decided to ride alongside the Sun God’s chariot everyday so that the Sun God could teach him as he travelled. ‘Surya’ reminded Hanumana that the heat and glare will be unbearable if he stayed close to him, but Hanumana was determined to learn from his teacher was willing to make the sacrifices for gaining knowledge and wisdom from the Sun. Sun God was overwhelmed with Hanuman’s devotion and started teaching him. Both spent years together and ‘Surya’ would teach Hanumana each day as the travelled together. And then came a time when Hanumana had gained immense wisdom from his teacher and was ready to leave and take on his duties.
Before leaving his teacher Hanumana requested Surya if he could do anything for his teacher in return of the knowledge that was given to him. Surya asked Hanumana to use all his wisdom, knowledge and strength for the benefit of the world and that would be his ‘Guru Dakshina’ (a fee or a gift that a student gives his teacher out of love and respect for making the student wiser).
Hanumana felt so indebted to ‘Surya’ his teacher for all the teaching that he performed an elaborate ‘Namaskar’ (a gesture of respect made by bringing the palms together before the chest and bowing) as mark of immense respect for his teacher. This elaborate sequential namaskar came to be known as Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutation) as it was performed by Lord Hanumana to pay respect to his teacher the Sun God.
The Suryanamaskar reminds us to stay humble each day, because there is always something to learn towards becoming better. Lord Hanumana was born with supernatural strength and powers beyond the ordinary yet he chose to learn from Surya and took up all the challenges that came along the way because he was keen to learn. True learning happens when the ego is set aside and one submits oneself to one’s teacher with faith and devotion.
By Ankur Tunaak
Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India. Portrait photography by Ankur Tunaak.