The significance of Surya Namaskar

What is oldest in the yoga practices we are doing today? It is Surya Namaskar. The sun is a very important symbol in Indian philosophy. We do our Surya Namaskars most of the time thinking they are some kind of exercise for our bodies.. just to warm up. Actually this is one of the the oldest elements in the modern yoga we are practicing today. Even if we try to pile on chocolate, goats, beer or any number of other things, the sacred element of the sun remains.
What is this sacred thing in the sun? I wanted to know. So I sat every day without fail chanting mantras at the moment of dawn until the light of 1000 sunrises has struck my face. From what my teachers taught me and from the direct experience that I have had observing the sun and its affects on my mind, here is what I have learned so far..
In yoga philosophy sun is considered the positive terminal of the world we live in. It represents purusa or consciousness, knowledge, awareness, intelligence and spirit- the soul. It represents life force, the bright and the good. It corresponds with that bright beautiful thing we all have inside of us. The essence of who we are. It is the halo around the saint- all saints and deities are often depicted in this way. It is our good side. Our happy side, our bright side. Our place of joy and gratitude and grace. Om Mitraya Namaha. This is the first of the ancient Surya mantras associated with Surya Namaskar. Mitraya means "friend to all." A person who is in touch with their own goodness or bright place inside will be friendly and kind to others. They will be open and positive. That bright warm vibe cuts through everything. Whether it is a Christian preacher in a 3 piece suit, a Brahmin priest with colorful markings on his forehead, a shaman with feathers and beads, or any other religious person of any culture, or just a regular sort of person sitting on the couch watching television, we all share the same brightness. The same life force, the same need for love and connection, the same challenges and opportunities to evolve. When anyone discovers that brightness inside their self and begins to take steps in life to cultivate it and keep in touch with it and stay in that state- they become a spiritual person and take on character traits that are loved and respected in all cultures. Yoga is about finding that brightness inside of ourselves and merging with it. Staying in that state. The techniques for staying in that union are yoga. Yoga is a practice and yoga is a state. Each of us has a little piece of the sun inside of us . Some call it our soul. So here's to the sun, both outside and inside! The Indian teachers sometimes call it the "soul of the universe."