The sun prayer, or the sun salutations surya namaskar, is a classical cycle of physical yoga exercises. It consists of 12 component movements. A feature of this cycle is the alternating stretching of the spine, bending predominantly forwards as well as backwards.
This portrayal is intended to show how the movement starts from a centring in the middle of the spine and then streams centrifugally outwards into the limbs. The lifting out of the middle of the spine is given particular emphasis.
Regenerating ether forces develop to a particular extent when this centre in the spine, which is located at around the level of the 10th thoracic vertebra, is raised right from the outset. A sense of lengthening is expressed in the movement.
Specific forms which lead from the centre upwards into a strong backward bend are recommended for advanced practice. However the practitioner should take care to avoid over-emphasising the arch in the lower back and should mobilise the flexibility in the thoracic spine.
The forward bends can also be extended by sliding the arms out in a particular way. The movement is given its dynamic from a middle section of the spine.
The dynamic in the leg movement can be developed a lot further in the half-moon forms, for example. In these movements the upper body should remain as light as possible and should slide weightlessly up into the half-moon. By taking the legs into the specific step actively and dynamically, pressure on the knees is avoided while the muscles of both legs remain highly active.
A specific form, which is very advanced, is the half-moon dove. The backward bend and the leg dynamic come together.
One round of the sun prayer normally takes about 20 seconds. However the time can be lengthened if one or more positions are worked at more intensively.
In all the cycles the breath is allowed to flow according to individual need and is not combined with the movement as it is in classical yoga practice.