Last year, as we all got confined to our homes during the pandemic lockdown. An important question was raised by many: can we actually achieve all our fitness goals without going to the gym? If we were to believe ashtanga vinyasa trainer Nidhi Mohan Kamal, the answer is “yes.” According to her, a dedicated Surya Namaskar routine and a good diet can help you achieve your goals. That said, it is way more profound than just being a workout routine. It is an entire philosophy that can change your life.
Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations is a much-celebrated yoga practice consisting of 12-asanas sequence. From Shilpa Shetty to Kareena Kapoor, some of the fittest B-Town celebs swear by its many benefits. Studies show that this dynamic practice, in fact, yields immediate results and can drastically improve your strength if done the right way.
As per a study conducted by the International Journal of Health Sciences & Research, Surya Namaskar “balances the respiratory, circulatory, reproductive and the endocrine system. The moves and postures of the asana help all our internal organs function better. It helps combat insomnia, regulates menstrual cycles, and makes childbirth easier.”
Nidhi, Founder of NidSun Wellness, has been practicing and teaching this holistic yoga routine for over 11 years. She ranks it among some of the most efficient full-body workouts. In a recent conversation with POPxo, Nidhi acquainted us with the nuances of this wonderful workout routine and how it can transform your entire life.
From an improved posture to increased Vitamin D levels, there are a plethora of benefits you experience if you do Surya Namaskar regularly. But let's open with how it impacts your menstrual cycle especially for those who experience severe cramps. A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine shows that Surya Namaskar indeed has a positive impact on the "menstrual cycle, reduces BMI (obesity) and hair fall."
Further elaborating on the benefits, Nidhi adds, "It’s a full-body workout and it helps builds stamina and develops body flexibility. But, in regular practice, it is also excellent as a warm-up to go into deeper poses and stretches. It involves a lot of forward bending, so it really lengthens the posterior chain of muscles like hamstrings and back. It strengthens your shoulder and arms and works on improving your posture. It also gives you a stronger, more flexible body, that’s agile."
Yes, Surya Namaskar can definitely make you lose weight. "It is a full-body workout and would be effective for weight loss," says Nidhi. However, she insists that just like it is in the case of any other workout routine, your food and nutrition play a huge role in determining your overall shape and size. She explains, "But when it comes to changing the shape and overall body fat percentage of the body, the contribution of food and nutrition is 85%, so unless you work on a good diet, it wouldn’t be as effective."
That said, according to Nidhi, "You would still be fitter than 90% of people if you break down all the poses in Surya Namaskar." She herself practices Ashtanga-style Surya Namaskar every day and her well-chiseled body would more than convince you that it works like a charm if you are dedicated and consistent. The Ashtang-style Surya Namaskar is a heavy-duty routine and consists of push-ups, lunges, squats, burpees and is like a typical circuit workout you would do in a gym or in CrossFit. Essentially, it has all the body movements that work your full body.
Okay first things first: Before digging into the step-by-step break up of Ashtang-style Surya Namaskar, we need to understand that:
And now that we have established the basics, here's how to start your Surya Namaskar routine:
Step 1: Inhale- Arms up extension on spine
Step 2: Exhale- Arms down on the floor while lengthening the spine to press hands on the floor and drop the upper body done.
Step 3: Inhale- Press palms down, look up (opens the shoulder and chest)
Step 4: Exhale- Jump/walk back to a plank and go into Chaturanga (push up) strengthening the arms and shoulder
Step 5: Inhale- Flip your toes, press the shoulder blades together, knee caps off the floor look up, into an upward facing dog (deep chest opener and backbend)
Step 6: Exhale- Downward Facing Dog, an extension on hamstring and strengthening of arms
Step 7: Inhale- Step forward into half lift
Step 8: Exhale to forward fold
Step 9: Inhale to return to arms up ( starting position)
Here's how beginners can follow a Surya Namaskar sequence
As Nidhi says, "Once your foundation is perfect, you wouldn’t make a mistake." Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Lastly, it is important to understand that the real benefits of Surya Namaskar would come with working on the little details. Before you dive in, understand each pose and what feeling you should get on each muscle. And now that we know that a full-body workout is very much possible at home, it's time we stop making excuses and go chase our fittest versions!
Featured Image Courtesy: Nidhi Mohan Kamal