Surya Namaskar, or the Sun Salute is not a formal part of traditional hatha yog, though it is composed of a series of twelve yog asans performed in sequence. However it is of so much value that it has now accepted as a part of Hatha Yog. In fact many people use it as a warm-up before the asan practice. If there is a shortage of time, some people just do Surya Namaskar in lieu of the actual asan practice and still derive substantial benefit.
It is typically performed in the open air, facing the sun, at sunrise.
Surya Namaskar is not just a physical exercise. For each of the postures, there is a particular breathing pattern to be followed inhalation for the backward bends and exhalation for the forward bends. Further the concentration has to be focussed on a particular chakra for each posture and a particular mantra- name of the sun has to be chanted for each pose, as per details below:
1. Pranamasan - (Namaste Pose)
Normal Breath -
Om Mitraaya Namaha (Salutations to the Friend of All)
2. Hasta Uttanasana (Arch your back)
Om Ravaye Namaha (Salutations to the Shining One)
3. Pada Hastasana (Toe touch)
Om Suryaaya Namaha (Salutations to he who induces activity )
4. Ashwa-sanchalan-asan (Horse pose)
Om Bhaanve Namaha (Salutations to he who illumines)
5. Parvatasana- (Downward facing dog pose or Mountain pose)
Om khagaaya Namaha - Salutations to one who moves through the sky
6. Ashtanga Namaskar (Push-up pose)
Hold breath -
Om Pooshney Namaha - Salutations to the giver of strength and nourishment
7. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)
Om Hiranayagarbhaaya Namah - Salutations to the Golden Cosmic Self
Om Mareechibhyoh Namaha - Salutations to the Rays of the Sun
Om Adityaaya Namaha - Salutations to Sun of Aditi (the Cosmic Mother)
10. Pada Hastana
Om Savitre Namaha - Salutations to the Stimulating power of the Sun
11. Hasta Uttanasana
Om Arkaaya Namaha - Salutations to he who is fit to be praised (arka= energy)
Om Bhaaskaraaya Namah - Salutations to the one who leads to enlightenment
Surya Namaskar can be done slowly for spiritual benefits and quickly for physical benefits. If doing it quickly, you might find it easier to chant these "bija" or seed mantras for the first six poses
1. Om Hram
2. Om Hrim
3. Om Hroom
4. Om Hraim
5. Om Hraum
6. Om Hrah
And then repeat the six mantras again for the next six poses.
The full cycle of 12 poses leading with the left foot and 12 with the right foot, make one round. You can start with as many rounds as you can do, without getting out of breath. Try to work your way upto twelve rounds
Some persons chant one mantra per round, and then, at the end of twelve rounds, chant
Shree Chhaya Suvaryalaamba samet Shree Surya narayan Swaminey namah. Om namoh Narayanaay
Further there are at least three variations of Surya Namaskar. Here we will cover the basic version. Intermediate and advanced versions are also available.
For explanation of the actual exercises, please see the site mentioned in the links section alongside. The animated gif file at the top of this page will also give you an idea.