5 Important Reasons You Should Never Skip Sun Salutations
Have you ever felt like starting your yoga practice by jumping straight into your favorite pose? Sometimes we are so excited – or crunched for time – to get into our asana practice that in the process, we skip the practice of sun salutations.
Many yoga practitioners have experienced some form of injury from their yoga practice. While some yogis accept this as part of the practice, others wonder what they are doing wrong. Injury often happens due to inadequate warm-up before jumping into forward and back bends and other demanding poses. There are many reasons why traditional yoga classes begin with Surya Namaskara, or Sun Salutation.
Here are five reasons you should think twice about skipping your sun salutations:
1. Give your body a complete warm-up
Warming up is essential to reduce the risk of injury. A sun salutation can be performed 5-15 minutes depending on the total length of your yoga practice, and provides a complete warm-up for the entire body. As rule of thumb, it should be performed for about 1/10 the time of your total practice. Depending on your physical fitness and the intensity of the sun salutation, the duration can vary.
Another way to measure the right amount and duration of a warm-up is that you should be perspiring lightly, your breathing slightly faster. Yet you should not be catching your breath or already feel exhausted.
Sun salutations include cardio, stretching, and core strengthening movements, and increase the blood circulation and body temperature. This helps the muscles get warm and receive fresh oxygen. A warm muscle contracts more forcefully and relaxes faster, which increases the overall strength and function of the muscle.
Sun salutations also increase the blood flow in the spinal cord which results in increased nerve transmission and muscle metabolism. This increase in nerve transmission activates the deeper muscles and tissues. Sun salutations also prepare the heart for increased activity and prevent rapid change in blood pressure by activating the baroreceptors.
2. Increase overall flexibility
Sun salutations lubricate the joints, decrease muscle tension, and increase elasticity of the muscles and the connective tissues, which increases the range of movement around the joints. This decreases the risk of injuries like strains and pulls, as well as soreness after.
The intervertebral discs get massaged and stimulated, and in turn lubricated from the forward and backbending motions which results in a healthier spine. The overall strength and flexibility of the spine is increased with a regular sun salutation practice.
3. Increase strength and endurance of all muscles
When the muscles get warm, the temperature of the blood travelling through these muscles also increases. When the temperature of the blood increases, oxygen becomes more easily available to the muscles, which improves the overall endurance of your muscles.
Due to the increase in body temperature during sun salutations, the body increases the secretion of hormones (epinephrine and norepinephrine), which are required for the oxygenation process. These hormones increase availability of additional fatty acids and carbohydrates for converting oxygen into energy. Muscles need this energy to cope with the extra tension and load of any physical exertion.
4. Increase body-breath coordination
Sometime we tend to hold the breath during challenging poses (or any challenging situation in life). In a traditional sun salutation, the movements are coordinated with the breath, and each movement lasts a full breath. This helps improve body-breath coordination. Such coordination is useful for maintaining the proper breathing pattern throughout your yoga practice, so you can maintain the one breath to one motion flow for optimal safety, concentration, and performance.
5. Prepare and focus your mind
Due to the complexity of the movements and breath coordination during Surya Namaskara, concentration and focus is required. Your mind gets tuned and prepared for the upcoming asana practice when you start with sun salutations. It is easy to get injured if the mind is in an unfocused or stressed state. Sun salutations increase your overall awareness and concentration, which is essential for a fruitful yoga (and meditation) practice.
There are many compelling reasons to make sure you include sun salutations in your physical yoga practice. They build physical strength and endurance, they warm up the entire body, and they help cultivate presence in your practice. Sun salutations have been practiced for thousands of years to celebrate the life-giving energy of the sun, and to acknowledge that same energy within yourself. Namaste!