Surya Namaskara is the technical name that is given to a sequence of practice which is popularly known today as the Sun Salutation. Some people also do a variation and call it as the Candra Namaskara. Many Yoga teachers and students ask me the question of where is the origin of these sequences, what are the effects, especially the differences in the effects between the two.
The origin of these two sequences is relatively unknown. There are many texts that do not talk about these sequences, especially the Yoga texts. It is my understanding that these sequences have been borrowed from what is called as the “Sastanga Namaskara”, the normal prostration done in the Indian tradition.
What makes this sequence as the Sun Salutation or the Moon Salutation is not the sequence itself. In traditional times these sequences were not done as a physical practice but rather as a spiritual practice with the inclusion of Mantra that honour the deity. So, when they chanted the Sun Mantras – the Surya Namaskara Mantras the sequence came to be what is called the Surya Namaskara. When they chanted the Moon Mantras the sequence became known as the Candra Namaskara.
The Sun Salutation or the Surya Namaskara is much more common and popular for many reasons. Firstly because of the importantance of the Gayatri Mantra which is a part of the procedure “Sandyavandanam” that is done three times a day where we are doing the sequence with the Sun Mantras and therefore we are invoking the Sun. That is why the Surya Namaskara is much more popular in today’s context. The effects will depend on the Mantras that are used because the Sun has different sets of Mantras, the Moon also has different sets of Mantras. But normally speaking the Sun Mantras are much more stimulating , heating and energizing than the Moon Mantras. So the difference is not in the sequence or position but the difference is in the Mantras that are used during the practice.
This is the difference between Surya Namaskara and Candra Namaskara.
Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher
Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation, Chennai, India.