The results of the study in the previous post are in line with expectations. Studies often raise more questions and the blog has received several questions on how to practice surya namaskar. I hope this answers the questions.
1. How does one define slow versus fast surya namaskar?
I don’t think that the study in the previous blog post refers to the extremely dynamic styles where you jump from one asana to another. These are not yet that popular in India as they are in the West. So “fast” to me means keeping a constant flow, without pause, taking 2-3 seconds from asana to asana. “Slow” could mean 5-6 seconds and more.
It would be helpful for the terms (including slow and fast) to be clarified in any study. As there are so many different styles, some explanation about what constitutes “aerobic” and what is “yogic” is also essential. How many rounds did the participants do? When were the various measurements made–immediately after the practice, or after a defined interval, or at the end of the six-month study? What time of the day did the children practice? Perhaps yoga research journal editors might see this post and think about these points when publishing articles!
2. Can one alternate between slow and fast surya namaskar?
Yes. Some days your body will tell you what it feels like doing.
As mentioned in the summer yoga blog post, I do not recommend surya namaskar in very hot summers. But if people still feel the need to do it, the practice must be done early morning and slowly. The body’s metabolism must not be overheated in the summer.
Conversely, in cold winters, fast surya namaskars are helpful in speeding the metabolism and balancing out the tamasic inertia with the rajasic activity. Fast surya namaskars can be very helpful for the winter blues, for depression, warming up the body, improving circulation, and sometimes increasing appetite.
3. Can slow and fast surya namaskars be combined?
Yes. I often taught a combination practice. Begin with a couple of slow rounds, then do two-three fast rounds, and then cool off with a slow round.
4. How does one incorporate mantras?
Surya namaskar is wonderful when practiced with surya mantras. This would be a slower practice. When done with bija mantras (seed sounds) it becomes a fast practice. The body flows effortlessly to the rhythm of the mantras and people find themselves being able to do more rounds with the mantras than they could without them. The only caution is to be careful not to overstretch. In my years of teaching, even if people have no idea of what the mantras mean, they still love the vibrations of the mantras and how their body/mind responds to them.
5. How should the surya namaskar practice end after several rounds?
It is essential to then practice shavasana and body awareness till the heart beat and breath have settled down completely–spend 5 minutes in shavasana.
This can be followed by a pranayama practice. There are some audio tracks on www.mahasriyoga.com/pranayama. A Yoga Nidra is also good and several audio tracks are on www.mahasriyoga.com/meditation. Particularly around the holidays, Candle Flame Trataka can be an effective practice–the audio track is on the website as a meditation track. All content and audio tracks are free.