Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation, is an ideal exercise to keep yourself at an optimum level of fitness, according to researchers from the Department of Physiology at M.R. Medical College (MRMC) in India.
What are the five amazing health benefits of Surya Namaskar? According to a clinical study from MRMC published in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, healthy women and men who complete 24 cycles of Surya Namaskar, 6 days per week for 24 weeks can:
- Significantly decrease body mass index (BMI)
- Significantly increase lower body muscle strength
- Significantly improve endurance
- Increase upper body strength in your triceps, deltoids, and pectoralis muscles
- Reduce percentage of body fat (in women)
Surya Namaskar Basics
Although there are several versions of Sun Salutation to accommodate the needs of beginner through advanced yoga students, every version follows these common principles:
- It’s a cyclical series of 10 to 16 yoga poses, although more typically 12.
- You perform the same set of asanas consecutively, flowing from one pose to another.
- You follow a specific breathing pattern of inhalation, exhalation, and retention — which depends on the asana your performing. Mostly, you alternate inhaling and exhaling.
- It’s time to quiet the mind, focus on your breath and engage in movement meditation.
- The series begins and ends in pranamasana, prayer pose.
How Can Surya Namaskar Produce So Many Health Benefits?
The yoga poses of Surya Namaskar offer benefits both collectively and individually.
Health benefits as a result of performing the asanas in a consecutive series include:
- You burn about 3.79 calories per minute, or 14 calories per cycle.
- It’s a cardiovascular exercise.
- Low-intensity exercise, such as Surya Namaskar, burns more fat than high-intensity exercise.
Each individual yoga pose in sun salutation brings its own benefits to the mat:
- Prayer pose provides a still moment of calming, introversion.
- Hasta uttanasana stretches your core and strengthens your back muscles.
- Standing forward bends stretch your hamstrings and massage your internal organs.
- Plank and ashtanga namaskara, or knees-chin-chest pose, tone your abs and thighs.
- Cobra pose, bhujangasana, strengthens your arms and back.
- Downward dog, Ardo Muka Svangasana, strengthens your arms and chest.
Bench Press, Shoulder Press, & Surya Namaskar
After six months of practicing Surya Namaskar, the participants significantly improved the amount of weight they could lift during bench press and shoulder press exercises. The bench press activates your pectoral, deltoid and triceps muscles. The shoulder press activates your deltoid, triceps, and latissimus dorsi.
The women increased their bench press weight by 2.66 kilograms – 5.86 pounds – and their shoulder press by 2 kilograms – or 3.57 pounds. The men increased their bench press weight by 6.63 kilograms – 14.61 pounds – and their shoulder press by 3.57 kilograms – 7.87 pounds.
Increase Lower Body Strength with Surya Namaskar
After six months of practicing Surya Namaskar, the participants significantly improved their leg dynameter results. Women had an increase of 10.01 kilograms – 22.06 pounds – and men had an increase of 5.67 kilograms – 12.5 pounds.
What is a leg dynameter?
Increase Back Strength with Surya Namaskar
After six months of practicing Surya Namaskar, the participants significantly improved back strength, as measured by a back dynameter. Women had an increase of 7.07 kilograms – 15.58 pounds – and men had an increase of 4.24 kilograms – 9.34 pounds.
References for 5 Amazing Health Benefits of Surya Namaskar
1. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine; How Effective Is Sun Salutation in Improving Muscle Strength, General Body Endurance, and Body Composition?; Milind V. Bhutkar, et al.
2. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine; Hatha Yoga Practices: Energy Expenditure, Respiratory Changes and Intensity of Exercise; Uday Sankar Ray, et al.
3. Top End Sports: Isometric Leg Strength Test
Photo credit: Neil M.