surya namaskar for weight loss
Weight Loss Workouts

Surya Namaskar for Weight Loss

Have you been bitten by the yoga bug? Are you a sun salutation junkie? If so, you may be wondering if these flowing sequences can help you torch calories and fat. The good news is that they can! Doing sun salutations, or Surya Namaskar, for weight loss on a regular basis can definitely add to your daily burn.

What Is Surya Namaskar?

More commonly known as sun salutations in the West, Surya Namaskar is the sanskrit name for the flowing sequence typically performed at the beginning of a practice to warm up the muscles, joints, and mind. According to India-based Isha Yoga Center, Surya Namaskar means to bow down to the morning sun. As the sun is the source of life and growth on the planet for everything you breathe, drink, and eat, you must learn how to “digest” it and integrate it into your system.

Huh? Ok, this requires you to open your mind a little and imagine the connectedness of everything in the universe. Ancient yogic wisdom believes that realizing and internalizing this interconnectedness can help you live a more spiritually satisfying, healthier, and happier life.

I believe this, and I believe that this is important to your overall health and weight management.

surya namaskar for weight loss

Surya Namaskar for Weight Loss: Does it Work?

Isha Yoga Center notes that people, especially Western cultures, typically see Surya Namaskar as a form of exercise, which it is. It’s a full-body workout—a complete exercise system with no equipment needed. But Isha also notes that, more importantly, Surya Namaskar is a tool to help you break free from compulsive cycles and patterns that govern human lives.

Hey, this is sounding really beneficial for our aims! Let’s dig into the physical practice and find out how you can use Surya Namaskar for weight loss in your regular fitness routine.

The physical practice of sun salutations involves flowing from pose to pose, and linking your breath with your movement. Each pose strengthens and stretches different muscles of the body. Building muscle is crucial for a healthy metabolism, as lean muscle burns requires more energy (calories) to maintain than fat.

Building strength and flexibility is also important to allow you to move freely and without pain. Keeping your body strong and healthy enables you to engage in other physical activities to keep fit and burn fat.

Aside from becoming stronger and more flexible, sun salutations can also help you burn calories. Flowing from pose to pose without stopping can really get your heart rate up and your lungs working hard—especially if you do it for an extended period of time.

In ashtanga yoga, the opening sequence consists of 10 Surya Namaskar in a row (both A and B—don’t worry, I’ll explain the differences later). I’ve done special yoga classes where you do 108 sun salutations in a row! That is a lot, and it can take several hours to complete all of those.

I’m not suggesting you do 108 on a regular basis. But 10 is a great start that you can add to over time.

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How to Do Surya Namaskar

There are two types of Surya Namaskar commonly practiced: A and B. You will sometimes encounter Surya Namaskar C in a yoga class, but it is not common, and you can get everything you need from practicing A and B.

Here is the sequence for Sun Salutation A:

  1. Standing Mountain Pose (Tadasana): Stand with your feet together and arms at your sides. Draw your shoulders back and down and rotate your palms forward. Exhale.
  2. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana): Inhale and raise your arms out to the side and up over head. Touch your palms and gently lean back to stretch the front body.
  3. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana): Exhale as you fold forward at the hips, keeping your back straight and bending your knees slightly if needed to get your nose close to your knees. Bring your palms to rest on your shins or the floor next to your feet.
  4. Half Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana): Inhale as you lift your torso halfway up, parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and rest your fingertips on the floor or your shins.
  5. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana): Exhale as you step or jump back into Plank Pose, with your shoulders aligned over your wrists. Keep your body in one straight line as you lower towards the floor. Keep your elbows tucked in to your sides. You can also drop your knees to the floor for support. Lower your body until your chest is a couple inches from the floor and your elbows make right angles.
  6. Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana): Inhale as you lift your chest and straighten your arms. Draw the chest forward slightly, press your shoulders back and down and lift your chest to the ceiling. Press through the tops of your feet and engage your thigh muscles to keep your legs lifted off the floor. If this is too challenging at first, you can leave your legs resting on the ground.
  7. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Muka Svanasana): Exhale as you press through your palms and lift your hips up, rolling over your toes so your feet are flat on the ground. Press back through your hips and try to bring your heels as close to the ground as possible. You can keep a microbend in your knees if that helps.
  8. Half Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana): Hop or step forward and repeat Step 4.
  9. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana): Repeat Step 3.
  10. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana): Repeat Step 2.
  11. Standing Mountain Pose (Tadasana): Return to the starting position (Step 1).

Here is the sequence for Sun Salutation B. You will see that many of the poses from Sun Salutation A are repeated, so you can refer to the instructions for those poses above.

  1. Standing Mountain Pose (Tadasana): Refer to Sun Sal A.
  2. Chair Pose (Uthatasana): Inhale and bend your knees deeply. Bring your hands and arms up next to your ears and rotate the palms inward. Try to keep your knees over your toes and sit your hips down and back. Maintain a straight spine.
  3. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana): Sun Sal A
  4. Half Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana): Sun Sal A
  5. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana): Sun Sal A
  6. Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana): Sun Sal A
  7. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Muka Svanasana): Sun Sal A
  8. Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I): Inhale as you raise your right leg and step the foot forward between your hands, close to your right thumb. Turn the left toes out and place the heel on the floor. Keep your feet hip-distance apart rather than in one line. Raise your arms up overhead, bringing your palms together and gazing up at your hands.
  9. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana): Repeat Step 5.
  10. Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana): Repeat Step 6.
  11. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Muka Svanasana): Repeat Step 7.
  12. Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I): Repeat Step 8 on the left side.
  13. Repeat steps 5, 6, and 7.
  14. Half Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana): Hop or step forward and repeat Step 4.
  15. Chair Pose (Uthatasana): Repeat Step 2
  16. Standing Mountain Pose (Tadasana): Return to the starting position (Step 1).

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Other Benefits of Surya Namaskar for Weight Loss

Building muscle and burning calories isn’t the only way Surya Namaskar can help you lose weight. Yoga, in general, is a practice that has many benefits for mind-body wellness that is crucial to a healthy lifestyle and weight.

Here are a few:

Stress relief—Stress is a leading contributor to weight gain and problems losing weight, according to Mayo Clinic. Stress and worry makes it harder for you to make healthy choices. You are more likely to snack and overeat at meals, especially high-calorie junk foods. It can also be a trigger for emotional eating. Numerous scientific studies have shown that yoga has therapeutic effects and helps reduce stress and anxiety when practiced regularly. Cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart rate up is also a great stress reliever. When you do multiple rounds of Surya Namaskar, you will definitely feel your pulse quicken and get all the benefits!

Deep breathing—The exhalations and inhalations are a very important part of Sun Salutations. They help you stay centered and control your heart rate. It is important to take deep, slow breaths instead of short, shallow breaths. Slow, measured breathing can also reduce stress and anxiety and calm the mind. Try doing a few Sun Salutations when you’re feel upset about something; focus on the breath and see how you feel afterwards. You’ll likely feel a lot calmer.

Meditation—You’ve probably already heard of the benefits of meditation for calming the mind and reducing stress. Sun Salutations and all types of flow yoga can be a sort of moving meditation, which is great if you find sitting meditation difficult or boring. While you are going through your rounds, focus on the breath and don’t let your mind wander. If it does, bring it back to the breath.

The best thing about Surya Namskar is that it can be done anywhere, anytime. Do a few rounds in the morning to wake up your body, or do them before your weight training workout to warm up all your muscles and get your heart pumping. You can also do them as a standalone workout—try doing Sun Salutation A for 10 minutes and then switching to Sun Salutation B.

And, when you’re ready, you can try 108 Sun Salutations in a row. Not for the feint of heart, this is a vigorous practice typically performed to mark the change in seasons. You can sometimes find a special class at a yoga studio, or you can try it on your own. It’s definitely more fun and motivating to do in a group environment. Be sure to carve out a few hours for this practice!

Have you tried Surya Namaskar for weight loss? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jody Braverman, NASM-CPT, NASM-FNS, PN1

Jody Braverman is a certified nutrition, fitness, and weight loss expert who has been working in the health & fitness industry for over two decades.

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