Surya Namaskars (Sun Greetings or Prayers)
A limbering, all-round exercise in which breathing and movements are synchronized. Should be practiced in the early morning facing the sun as it rises, but it can be done at any time and without the benefit of the sun.
1. Face the sun; legs together, body erect, palms touching in the traditional Indian form of greeting.
2. Inhale deeply, raise the arms above the head and bend back.
3. Exhale, bend forward till the palms are on the floor and your head touches your knees. Keep the knees rigid, though if too stiff you can bend them till your limbs grow supple.
4. Inhale, take a long step back with the left leg and bend back your head. Your right knee should touch your chest.
5. Hold your breath, move your left leg back into line with the right, keep both feet together, with head, body, thighs and legs in a line.
6. Exhale and lower the body so that toes, knees, chest and fore-head touch the floor. This position is known as 'sastanga namaskar', or eight-curved prostration, because two feet, two hands, two knees, chest and forehead touch the floor. Stomach and nose are off the floor.
7. Inhale, drop thighs and legs to the floor, raise your chest and bend back your head and spine as far as possible.
8. Exhale and raise the body in an inverted V, keeping knees and arms rigid.
9. Inhale and bring the right foot up to the level of the hands as in position 4.
10. Exhale, bring the left leg into line with the right, keep knees rigid and touch your knees with your forehead as in position 3.
11.Inhale and rise, fling your arms upwards, bend back as in position 2.
12. Finally, exhale, lower the arms and relax.
Do the namaskar again this time stepping back with the right leg. Repeat half a dozen times, increasing to a dozen.
Benefits: The twelve positions are of especial benefit to the elderly and those approaching middle age who no longer pray games and have given up regular exercise, and whose backs are growing stiff. The whole body is exercised. All the limbs of the body, therefore, become elastic, symmetric and strong. Surya Namaskars increase suppleness and the circulation and exercise the entire body.