NAMASTE! When I took my kids’ yoga teacher training with Kidding Around Yoga, the fun and energetic Sargeant Saluations (their version of Sun Salutations) quickly became a favorite part of the curriculum. And then I attended my first weekend of 200-hour yoga certification, and the Surya Namaskar was introduced. What?! I remember during my kids’ training that the Sergeant Salutation was linked to the Sun Salutation, but I didn’t realize that there was a serious history behind the sequence of yoga poses.
History: First, let’s break down the name: Surya is the Hindu name for the sun, and Namaskar stems from namas which can be translated as “to bow to” or “to adore”. The fact that the sequence begins and ends with hands together at the heart is not without purpose. Ultimately, we know truth in our heart, and the sun’s centrality in the human existence can be likened to the heart’s centrality in each human’s personal journey. The exact age of Surya Namaskar is disputed, and there are many variations, but the basic poses include:
- Prayer Pose
- Upward Salute
- Standing Forward Bend
- Low Lunge
- Plank Pose
- Four-Limbed Staff Pose
- Upward-Facing Dog Pose
- Downward-Facing Dog Pose
The inhale/exhale breath that corresponds with the movement from pose to pose is another thoughtful aspect of the sequence. We all know the importance of pranayama in our yoga practice. It’s essential!
My understanding of Surya Namaskar is that it was developed by the original postural yogis as a sequence that could be practiced every morning, as a warm up to the day. Mantra and Chakra practice can be incorporated with the Asana and Pranayama practice as well. An evening version developed over time, as a warm down to the day. The sequence is practiced facing either the rising or the setting of the sun, depending on the time of day.
The purpose of the sequence in a child’s yoga class: If we analyze the placement of Sun Salutations in a child’s yoga class, we understand that it’s a sequence that warms us up. It readies our bodies for deeper movements and more energetic activities.
Creative ideas for Classes : In my kids’ teacher training, we practiced our Sun Salutations in a call-and-response way. The teacher announces the pose and the children loudly repeat the pose name as they get into the posture. We called it Sargeant Salutations and it works well for class-management, posture recognition, and for building strength, stamina, and flexibility.
Here are some other ways to use Sargeant Salutations in your class:
· Let each child lead a round of the salutation. What better way to impress the poses into their growing brains? Great idea for a class that you may be under the weather for, too!
· Relay the honoring of the sun that occurs during a Surya Namaskar sequence to a larger discussion of how important the sun is to our existence. We cannot live without the sun! And yet we need to be mindful of the sun’s power as well.
· Tie the idea of the sun being a star to self-confidence. While in savasana, guide your kids through a journey to the stars, and how each is unique and brings his/her own light to the world. This part of the class allows us to plant our seeds of wisdom with the kiddos.
· Prepare a sun craft. Give the kids an image of the sun with twelve rays (the number of poses that are performed in an official Surya Namaskar sequence), and have them write twelve things about themselves that they love! I might just do this with my children this week as an exercise in self-love.