Surya namaskars have become an essential part of many people’s fitness routines. While they definitely help tone the body (and also have many other health benefits), it is important to understand that surya namaskar, or the series of 12 yoga postures is not a full-fledged cardio workout unless done at a quick pace. “Rather, it is a warm-up exercise and needs to be supplemented with a good yoga routine or cardio workout for better results,” said Ira Trivedi, a yoga coach, in an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com.
“Surya namaskars are a warmup and not a cardio workout. But it is good exercise to increase the metabolism of the body. Therefore, either it needs to be done at a faster pace or needs to be followed up with yoga poses, or a cardio routine,” Trivedi added.
Why do it then?
Surya namaskar, called ‘Vinyasa’ in Sanskrit, links the breath with movement in a continuous flow, and therefore, makes for a “great body and mind workout”. “The exercise helps stretch and contract different muscle groups without causing any strain (if done under guidance and with proper posture); increases flexibility and stamina; cleanses the respiratory system through deep breathing, and helps attain flatter abs, stronger spine, and firmer muscles. It also helps one feel calm and relaxed,” Trivedi said.
How many calories does it burn?
There are no set calories that one can define because it depends on the practitioner’s pace, said Trivedi. “If you do it slowly with control where your heart rate is not increasing so much, then you may not burn as many calories. But if you do it faster, you may burn more due to it being a cardiovascular workout. In my understanding, from the yoga point of view, it is extremely important to do surya namaskars steadily — neither too fast, nor too slow,” said Trivedi.
Agreed Himalayan Siddha Akshar, founder of Akshar Yoga Institutions, and mentioned that sun salutation, when performed slowly, helps one burn roughly around 20 to 30 calories in 5-10 minutes. “This is also dependent on the breathing pattern you follow. This is because speed plays an important role in the amount of calories you burn. Additionally, when you have understood the correct breathing pattern and the alignment of the different poses to be followed while practicing Surya Namaskar, it greatly increases the calorie burn,” he said.
How many calories you burn also depends on various other factors such as age, which influences the rate of metabolic activity in your body, Akshar added.
“Those between the ages of 20 and 40 years will have a higher rate of calorie burn and may also reach up to 40 to 50 calories within 5 to 10 minutes of practicing sun salutations. Practitioners who are slightly more athletic with their practice will definitely burn more than 50 calories in 10 minutes. It must be noted that the amount of calories one expends during practice will rely on the usage of appropriate breathing techniques,” he said.
So, what is a good number?
Since it is a good way to increase the metabolism of the body, Trivedi recommended that instead of “doing 108 Surya Namaskars” which is “not good for the back”, one can do six rounds of Surya Namaskars, taking about 10 minutes.