Monday, 31 October 2011

Surya Namaskar - A Prayer to the Light

In yoga, one of the most challenging and active practices is a series of flowing movements known collectively as The Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar.

Although many schools of yoga focus on this series as a central practice, others consider it a warm-up to the asanas, a way to heat and stretch the body to improve flexibility and lessen the chance of injury.

What many modern yoga students in the west do not realize is that it is actually an ancient and timeless prayer to Surya, the Sun. 

photo from

It is traditionally performed at sunrise with awareness and devotion, honoring various aspects of the Sun's divinity and our own radiance. 

Many yogis begin each day facing east, repeating this series of asanas 3, 9, 12, 54, or even 108 times!

Special mantras accompany each posture.  Chanting them sharpens the intellect and helps us to grow in reverence for the brillance of nature - both external and internal.

According to the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre Kirtan book, here are the mantras and translations which accompany each posture.  In the diagram below, position one is depicted just above the posture at the far left, with hands together in Namaste.

Sun salutation

Position 1:  Om Mitraya Namaha, Prostrations to Him who is affectionate to all.
Position 2:  Om Ravaye Namaha, Prostrations to Him who is the cause of change.
Position 3:  Om Suryaya Namaha, Prostrations to Him who induces activity.
Position 4:  Om Bhanave Namaha, Prostrations to Him who diffuses light.
Position 5:  Om Khagaya Namaha, Prostrations to Him who moves in the sky.
Position 6:  Om Pushne Namaha, Prostrations to Him who nourishes all.
Position 7:  Om Hiranyagarbhaya Namaha, Prostrations to Him who contains all wealth.
Position 8:  Om Marichaye Namaha, Prostrations to Him who possesses rays.
Position 9:  Om Adityaya Namaha , Prostrations to Him who is the Son of Aditi.
Position 10:  Om Savitre Namaha, Prostration to Him who is fit to be worshipped.
Position 11:  Om Arkaya Namaha, Prostrations to Him who is the reproducer of everything.
Position 12:  Om Bhaskaraya Namaha, Prostrations to Him who is the cause of luster.

If you'd like to hear these mantras pronounced, you can check out this kind-of-scratchy but cool, old-school recording at Geet Ganga by clicking here.

Last summer, at a particularly challenging point in our lives, my Mom and I composed the following prayer together to encourage ourselves and our yoga practice. 

It is a liberal translation of the original Surya Namaskar mantras written in affirmation style.  For us, it personalizes and embodies the feeling-vibration of each mantra and its accompanying position. 

Just like the Sanskrit version, we chant each line mentally (or out loud with the drone of the Shruti Box) as we move through the asanas.

It is very close to our hearts, so truthfully, it is with some hesitancy that I post it. 

I generally prefer to keep it to myself, or include it only orally as part of live teachings to promote a more traditional and intimate understanding of the Philosophy of Yoga.  But so many of you in Yoga teacher training programs in the last year have requested it, that I offer it to you with thanks and love, here in writing now. 

I hope that by doing so, you will be encouraged to salute and radiate your own highest Self regardless of what's happening (or not happening) in your life today. 

A Prayer to the Light

I am a friend to all.
I open myself to change.
I bow to the Light.
My inner Light shines.
I move through life with Grace.
I am helpful to all.
I am generous, warm, and open-hearted.
I am strong.
I am part of Divine Creation.
I like who I am.
I am growing.
I radiate Peace.

- Colleen and Tara Woltjen, August, 2010

The following mantra may be chanted at the end of Surya Namaskar practice to reiterate the benefits:
ādityasya namaskāran ye kurvanti dine dine
āyuḥ prajñā balam vīryam tejasteśān ca jāyate

आदित्यस्य नमस्कारन् ये कुर्वन्ति दिने दिने
आयुः प्रज्ञा बलम् वीर्यम् तेजस्तेशान् च जायते

By performing Sun Salutation day by day,
your age, consciousness, strength, essence of humanity
and glow will never fade away.

Om Hraum Mitraya Namaha - May the light of friendship shine, drawing noble companionship!  


  1. suryanamaskar is really useful . As it increases the flexibility and stamina of the body . I personally experinced the magic of suryanamaskar.

  2. Dear Tara and Colleen
    I have some time and so came to your blog and some past postings. Thank you so very much for sharing your Sun Salutation prayer. I remember hearing you recite it last summer, I know the vulnerability of which you speak, and accept this with the deepest love and highest regard for you both.

    1. Thank you once again for your encouragement Katharine! We're both looking forward to spending some time saluting the sun with you this summer! Love, Tara