Hello, Youthful Yogis!
Well, it's official: spring is in the air and the days are getting longer. I'm guessing this has everyone thinking about flowers, fishing, cookouts and canoeing...right?
Or maybe you're massively inspired to clean out your closet and update your wardrobe. Spring is about renewal, after all!
As for me, when the days get longer I get to thinking about...the sun, of course! The sun, as you know, is with us every day and is responsible for life as we know it: the sun keeps us warm, provides us with light, allows plants to grow which helps fill the atmosphere with Oxygen...and due to the gravitational pull of the sun, our friendly little planet earth stays in place, thank you very much!
|"We're a perfect distance apart, and that's why we get along so well!"|
Over the course of history, many cultures have honored the sun: the Egyptians believed in Ra, the god of the sun and the "bringer of light." The Greeks had Helios and the Aztecs had Huitzilopochtli...say that ten times fast! I'm sure you know where I am going with this, Youthful Yogis: if we're talking gods and goddesses, I just have to bring up Hindu Mythology!!
One of the most important deities (gods) in Hindu mythology is Surya, also known as the Sun God or "the supreme light." Surya is fantastic! Take a look:
Surya is often shown riding on a chariot drawn by 17 horses. He can also be seen riding with one horse who has seven heads! I read that the seven headed horse represents the colors of the rainbow, as well as the seven chakras, or energy centers, that illuminate the human body (I'll write more about the chakras another time.)
|Surya and his seven headed horse|
In Hinduism, Surya is worshipped at dawn when the rising sun fills people with a sense of strength and renewal. There are even temples throughout India dedicated to Surya. One very famous temple is in Konark, near the Bay of Bengal. It was built way back in in the 13th century...check it out:
|"Ancient?...you bet I am!"|
Here are a few more interesting things about Surya, the Sun God...he is often shown holding a lotus flower in both hands:
...but sometimes he is shown with four hands!
Also, Surya is said to have had three queens. One of the queens, named Saranyu, could not stand Surya's extreme radiance. Seriously, he was just too bright! So Saranyu created another version of herself from her shadow; the shadow was able to act as queen in Sarnyu's place and, as far as I know, this kept everybody happy.
|"What can I say?...I am naturally brilliant!"|
Youthful Yogis, I'm sure right about now you are looking at the sun sinking low in the sky and wondering if I am ever going to get around to explaining if Surya, the God of Light, has anything to do with the poses that we practice on our yoga mats.
Funny that you should mention it (well, OK...I just did)...here are a couple of ways that you can bring the warm, bright energy of Surya into your yoga practice:
1) Try Surya Namaskara, also known as a Salutation to the Sun. Surya Namaskara is often practice in the morning to--you guessed it!--honor the rising sun. It is a sequence of eight different asanas (postures) that are practiced one right after the other. Sun Salutes are nice to practice both in the morning and late in the day; many people like to work up to practicing twelve rounds at once. Here is what Surya Namaskara looks like:
Here is another view:
And one more (I can't resist):
Of course, not everyone is comfortable doing all of the poses included in a traditional Sun Salute. A good yoga teacher can show how to practice Surya Namaskara in a way that is safe and satisfying for everyone.
|"That Sun Salute looks like something I should try!"|
2) Another way you can bring light and warmth into your practice is with Surya Mudra. Mudras, as you may remember, are gestures that we make with our hands. They are said to help direct the flow of prana (life force energy) within the body.
Mudras are very ancient and there are many to choose from. Here is one example of Surya Mudra:
Here is another way I've seen Surya Mudra done (if your fingers are a little stiff, this way might be best):
Surya Mudra increases Agni, the digestive fire within us. It brightens the mood, improves digestion and can help us to feel more alert. It is important not to practice Surya Mudra if you feel over-heated or angry...it might make you feel worse!
I love mudras and use them a lot in my own yoga practice. Your can read more about mudras online, or in a great book called Mudras..Yoga in your Hands. Here is what the book looks like:
3) Last, but not least, you can honor the sun in your practice by listening to or chanting the Gayatri Mantra. The Gayatri Mantra is one of the most lovely and well known ancient mantras in Sanskrit. It honors the sun which, as it rises and sets, is known as Savitri (Surya is the name for the sun when it is above the horizon.) Here are the words to the Gayatri Mantra:
Aum Bhur Bhuva SvahTat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo Yo Naha Prachodayat
I'm sure you'll enjoy listening to the Gayatri Mantra as well...simply click on the words "Gayatri Mantra" below to find a link to a lovely version of the chant. The link will take you to a YouTube site, so please check with a parent or adult to make sure that is OK!
It's been lots of fun talking with you about the sun today, Youthful Yogis. I hope you will take time out to appreciate the warmth and radiance of "Surya" as it illuminates our lives everyday. Give Surya Mudra a try, and consider showing Sun Salutes to your friends and family. When you're done, you can relax and enjoy the lovely sound of the Gayatri Mantra.
Have fun and I'll see you again soon!