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The One Thing to Start Doing This Spring

Spring is here - the time for new beginnings and fresh change. We all want to be healthier and have more energy, look more vibrant and youthful, and feel good inside and out. But with hectic schedules and little time for ourselves, it's tough for most of us to fit in a consistent fitness or yoga class, much less a daily practice.

But there is one practice you can do every day in as little as 5 minutes that, according to ancient yogic texts, can provide more benefits than almost any other activity.

Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation, is a series of 12 postures done in sequence with proper breathing. It takes about 30 seconds to complete one round.

(Image: follow poses moving clockwise to complete one round)

Surya Namaskar can be practiced at any time of day, but best done in the morning after emptying bowels and on an empty stomach. One can begin with doing 2 sets (4 rounds) the first week, and increase by one set every week, working up to 6 or 12 sets (12 or 24 rounds). Alternate movement of right and left leg with each round.

You will notice immediately a feeling of freshness and energy, and within a few weeks you'll see increase in strength, flexibility and stamina, no matter your fitness level.

Prof Mahesh Joshi and wife Dr Swati Joshi (Chinmayam members and volunteers) joined yoga classes at Chinmaya DC last year. Maheshji states, "Before I started Surya Namaskar, I used to experience shortness of breath, lethargy and laziness. Now as part of my routine, my breath is under control and my workouts have improved. My life has become more lively and energetic and therefore more purposeful." What he didn't mention, and what I've noticed as his teacher, is significant change in his strength and flexibility, which seems to improve with each class.

The benefits of this age-old practice are many. Here are the top 15 :

1. Strengthens the entire digestive system (including stomach, pancreas, intestines, liver, etc.) and cures, and prevents constipation.

2. Invigorates the nervous system (including the brain, spinal cord, lower plexus, and cures brain-fag, forgetfulness, worries and other forms of mental derangement.)

3. Invigorates the heart and will cure and prevent blood pressure, palpitation.

4. Develops the lungs, gives you more oxygen and prevents tuberculosis.

5. Improves the quality and circulation of the blood. Active circulation of the blood is the first law of health.

6. Stimulates glandular activity; gives a new vivacity to the glands. The thyroid gland is stimulated and any tendency to goiter is obviated.

7. Improves the color and function of the spleen by enabling it to eradicate toxic impurities through profuse perspiration and to absorb vital energy from the atmosphere.

8. Strengthens the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, fingers, back, stomach, waist, abdomen, intestines, thighs, knees, calves and ankles.

9. Improves and develops the chest, i. e. keeps it hard, firm and elastic;

10. Improves the uterus (womb) and ovaries removes menstrual disorders such as dysmenorrhea and consequent pain.

11. Helps improve sleep.

12. Increases blood flow to extremities thereby removing cold hands and feet.

13. Proven to halt falling of hair, and its tendency to grayness and prevents baldness by increasing nutrition to the hair and scalp, and the bonding of the neck backward and forward, insures good circulation to the head.

14. Helps improve focus and concentration due to increased blood circulation to head.

15. Reduces redundant fat, especially the fat about the abdomen, hips, thighs, neck and chin.

"Surya Namaskar will, in short, unlock the door to glorious health, strength, efficiency and longevity, which God intended for you. You will thus see that the Namaskars possess the unique feature of coordinated actions of all the vital organs, nerves, muscles and other parts of the system, which are stimulated, developed and strengthened simultaneously, a result not achieved by any other single exercise."

(--Raja of Aundh, a kingdom in the modern state of Uttar Pradesh in North India)

The best way to learn how to practice Surya Namaskar and do it correctly for life is to attend a traditional Hatha Yoga class where the instructor can observe and correct your alignment. While the practice is safe for most people, one must perform it correctly to avoid possible injury. (Consult with your physician before starting.) Chinmaya (DC) holds classes Sundays at Noon. More information.

To your glorious health! Hari Om !

--Amita Jain

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