Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations is a very popular Yoga Exercise. Most people know it to be the sequence of 10, 12 or some such number of poses. Most people also know Surya means Sun that we see in the sky. But, what is the relation between the Sun in the sky and this Yoga Exercise?
Some say that we are doing Salutation to the Sun using this exercise. Why would one have such a weird way of Saluting? Will we salute different Gods/Deities with different types of Yoga Exercises? One person even invented Moon Salutations ( I know she is from U.S.A. We always do things of the British Left on our Right, and British In on our Out, etc.!) for that matter.
Some even sing Mantras or Prayers while doing Sun Salutations Yoga Exercise. Why is it that we do not do prayers when we do Garudasana, a prayer to Garuda, a vehicle of the Lord Vishnu? Why not we do a prayer to Tree (extremely important for environmental safety) while doing a Tree Pose?
Different people have different and possibly weird answers to such common and non-weird questions. So, let me add my bit!
Of course, Sun gives solar energy and light. A human being knows from ages that the Sun’s rays are essential to the very human life. Even the plants know this and they turn their leaves and branches towards the Sun. The Sunflower faces the Sun. Cultures all over the world have always respected the Sun, adored the Sun, and spent times watching the rising Sun and the setting Sun with great emotion.
In some cultures such as India, where the Yoga originated for sure, people even worshipped the Sun as a deity. Actually, there are two Suns, one the Deity Sun called Savitru (the creator), and the planet Sun that gives the solar energy. The deity is the real Sun and the planet is the expression.
The earliest prayers in India are definitely the Vedas, or the Vedic Mantras. The Gayatri Mantra is one of the first prayer to the Sun Deity (Savitru, and not the planet Sun) in the world. (om bhuh bhuvah svah, tat savituH varenyaM……). Here they are praying to the Savitru and meditating also.
Later, they developed many other prayers, such as Aditya Hridaya. While doing such prayers, they take a shower, generally in the river, and offer water oblations to the Sun with prayers or mantra chanting. No Exercise! These are the real Sun Salutations!
Later, people developed Yoga, Yoga Philosophy, and also much later they developed Yoga Exercise, and even after that Sun Salutation Exercise that exercises body in a very integrated way!
Now, it is obvious that one does exercise when they are not exhausted, and when they have completed the rest and are having empty stomach. This time is obviously after the night sleep is over. At this time, the Sun rises. So, when they do the Yoga Exercise, the Sun also rises. They also get some benefits from the Sun’s rays. But, that is besides the point. They naturally combined the Sun worship with this integrated exercise and part of that exercise shows prayer poses. So, the exercise itself was called Sun Salutation and they also sing Mantras while doing that exercise, which they were chanting even earlier without the exercise.
Other than that Mantras do NOT have anything to do with the Sun Salutation exercise, such as effects on chakras, etc. That is mostly a crafted crap! In fact, there is no need to call the exercise Sun Salutation unless you are really Saluting the Sun mentally.