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The series of postures in a suryanamaskar works the entire musculo-skeletal system thus ensuring overall fitness

Can you improve your overallfitness with just a 20-minuteworkout everyday? The answeris yes. And we're nottalking about some new fitnessfad. This exercise routine hasbeen around for a few thousandyears - the surya namaskar.

The series of postures in a suryanamaskar works the entiremusculo-skeletal system fromhead to toe (neck, shoulders andarms, chest and stomach, thighs,hips and buttocks, legs and feet),systematically stretching andstrengthening.

It also improves coordinationbetween the left and right sides ofthe body, something that mostmodern exercises don't do. Whenyou do surya namaskars, bothsides are worked on symmetricallyand simultaneously, and thismakes you aware of imbalancesbetween the two sides of yourbody, in terms of flexibility andjoint range and motion.

By comparison, consider thecase of the man who is sufferingfrom pain in his left shoulder andright hip, and is taught exercisesto strengthen these regionsalone. He keeps working outthose portions of his body, withoutbeing aware of what it'sdoing to his posture as a whole.

In general, the surya namaskaris very beneficial in improvingposture. Your back iscomposed of several short musclesthat run all along the spine.The surya namaskar contractsand relaxes them in a propersequence from head to tail, helpingyou maintain the `neutral'back position (the ideal posture).

The surya namaskar can alsobe tailor-made to meet individualneeds. The regular series ofpostures helps you develop allfour aspects of fitness -strength, endurance, flexibilityand coordination - but you canadd certain components to enhancecertain effects. For example,you can integrate lunges,push-ups or squats into the suryanamaskar to create a singlechallenging routine that helpsincrease your strength and endurance.

Similarly, it can bemodified to improve flexibilityintroducing additional stretches.The different postures of thesurya namaskar use gravity andvarying internal body pressure tostrengthen the smooth musclesof your internal organs. Whencoupled with regular breathing,the surya namaskar also becomespratyahara, an exercise in sensewithdrawal.

That is, as you payattention to the breathing patternfor each step, it helps clearyour mind of distractions. This isa precursor to meditation.Because of its holistic nature,it ensures that you're workingthe entire system as a single unit.

This enables you to do morechallenging routines such as vinnyasas(flow of postures) or evenweight training with greater ease.You don't need any additionalequipment to do these exercises,and they can be done anywhere,anytime. You will find an improvementin your overall fitnesswith just 12 sessions of 20 minuteseach.

(The writer is a trained physiotherapist and a yoga instructor.)A. VENKATAGANESH




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