Surya namaskar represents the cycle of any life, from the unmanifested embodied in matter, to the return to the unmanifested that has reached a higher consciousness.

It symbolizes the general path of Yoga

This salutation illustrates the cycle of life, from birth to death: the energy there is in every being develops a higher consciousness through life. Richer from this experience, it comes back to its source, like a promise of perpetuate life. In the West, the sun salutation is practiced as an exercise of wonderful efficiency, bounding us with life, composed of a series of 12 movements, some of which to be repeated, in reverse (12 means — among other things — the revolution of the earth around the sun in 12 lunar months).

Each of the 12 movements is related to a particular symbol

Surya namaskar begins with a posture of unity, of self-centeredness (Samasthiti) representative of the plenitude of emptiness, the gathering of all potentialities. The palms of the hands pressed together (namaste) express the undetermined energies, united. Held with empty lungs, it is the expression of immobility and waiting. Nothing is expressed yet. It is the time before fertilisation, before  the ‘’big-bang’’.

Then the first inhalation leads to the first movement — the opening, the birth of the human being: on the cosmic plan, this is the beginning of manifestation. The appearance of duality, polarities are expressed through the separation of the arms; the being is still oriented toward the transcendental as the palms and the gaze toward the sky indicate. The material world has still little impact. The vital strength slowly begins to act.

The front bending (Uttanasana) shows the step to materialization. Hands touch the earth. The action is more concrete. During this long exhalation, the focus of attention in the abdomen allows the roughest energies to nest there in order to increase the physical vitality necessary for the subsequent steps. Consciousness slowly makes progress into matter. During the warrior salutation, the benevolent hero (Virabhadrasana), man uses his physical and spiritual energies with a dynamic inhalation.

It is the tribute to the light that lives in our world

The bend knee to the floor means humility, respect from the man to the creator, whereas the opening of the chest expresses the generosity that is supposed to govern any action. The straight look to the fore symbolizes honesty.

In the ‘’downward facing dog’’ (Adhomukha svanasana), man is strongly in support on the floor to build their posture, as their life. This is wrestling with the world of matter that needs to be domesticated, transformed. The feet (symbolising contact with realities) and the hands (expressing an idea of possession, of affirmation) will work together allowing the head to come closer to the floor, so that spirit guides matter. This awareness is essential to reach the stage of maturity. The stretching of the western part of the body, relating to the non-conscious being, leads to the awakening of intuitive intelligence.

The deep exhalation and the look directed to the abdomen increase the leading role this area’s specific energy, useful to positivate our own lives.  The fetus posture (Garbhasana) is the second grouping of being in this part of the cycle of life. Corresponding to the end of an exhalation, and then to a new inhalation, it symbolizes at last the fertilisation of matter by the universal spirit.

Man is ready to express himself totally in the world

The prostration: during the next exhalation, the snaking has allowed the translation to the posture flat on the stomach, an attitude of perfect humility. The whole front of the body as well as the forehead are in touch with the visible world. This is the stage of the incarnation necessary to the manifestation of consciousness. This attitude can be found in some of initiatory or religious practices where they mark the surrendering of the ego, the prostration.

Finally, the climax of the cycle is reached with the cobra posture (Bhujangasana). The firm push of the body against the floor allows the chest and the head to straighten up proudly, without any risk. The brave look, the open chest and the inspiration illustrate the harmony  established between the world of action and the world of spirit, between the acting and the welcoming. The desired balance between earth and heaven can be translated by the rooting of the pelvis to the floor and the vertical direction of the upper vertebral axis (chest, throat, head). The three lower chakras related to the rough energies are stuck to the earth whereas the subtler energies chakras are related to space, clearly meaning that the major purpose of life is the connection between the energy of the matter and the spiritual dimension.

The rest of the salutation is the sequence of postures n°9 to 12, which is the same as the previous sequence (n°2 to 5), done in a reverse order and closed by the return to posture n°1. We can break Surya Namaskar into two parts made of alternations, openings, and closings, of movements headed to the sky and others to the earth, of firm postures, tonic postures, and then relaxation and integrating moves. These two phases, symbolically distinct, express themselves with mutual figures that are in reverse around the central figure, the cobra. The progressive descent of consciousness in the manifestation, in the incarnation reached its climax; the contact with the earth is full. Then the alliance with the spirit is complete and the return to the spiritual dimension, the relief of the being leads the body to straighten up, it is the return to verticality. The essential unity is reinstated.

The sun salutation achieves a physical and spiritual revolution through which, with a wider consciousness and refined senses, man will be able to perceive cosmic energy, the absolute One which animates him.

Stéphane Chollet

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