This exercise is called surya namaskar because it is practiced in the early morning facing the sun. The sun is considered to be the deity for health and long life. In ancient days, this exercise was a daily routine in the daily spiritual practices. One should practice this at least twelve times by repeating twelve names of the Lord Sun. This exercise is a combined process of Yoga asanas and breathing. It reduces abdominal fat, brings flexibility to the spine and limbs and increases the breathing capacity; it is easier to practice asanas after doing surya namaskar.

Before students practice the more complicated and difficult postures, the spine should acquire some flexibility. For a stiff person, the sun exercise is a boon to bring back lost flexibility.

There are twelve spinal positions, each stretching various ligaments and giving different movements to the vertebral column. The vertebral column is bent forward and backward alternately with deep breathing. Wherever the body is bent forward, the contraction of the abdomen and diaphragm throws out the breath. When the body bends backward, the chest expands and deep breathing occurs automatically. This way, flexibility increases and breathing is corrected; moreover, it mildly exercises the legs and arms, thus increasing the circulation.

Swami Vishnudevananda
The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, Page 69

See a demonstration of Surya Namaskar in the video above. In all of our yoga classes, we practice Surya Namaskar in order to focus the mind, uplift our hearts and prepare the body for the yoga postures practiced afterward.

To learn in more detail how to do Surya Namaskar, consider attending one of our free trial yoga classes or enrol in one of our Beginner Yoga Course.