Photo: Popular Science Feb 1944

The Burpee

In A Brief History of the Burpee in the Huffington Post, author Sally Tamarkin traces the origin of this fitness class staple to:

“Royal H. Burpee, a physiologist in New York City, invented a much milder (and less tormenting) version of the movement, intending it to be done just four times in a row as part of a fitness test.” In fact, he even spoke out against his movement being done in high volumes. Although there are only two remaining copies of Burpee’s thesis, we were able to get the low down on the origins on the burpee from the granddaughter of Burpee himself — Sheryl Burpee Dluginski.”

From A Brief History of the Burpee

According to his granddaughter, the movement Burpee invented in 1939 is known as a squat thrust with a simple four count. The original purpose was to evaluate the fitness of everyday people.

  • Squat down and place both hands on the floor in front of you.
  • Jump feet back into plank position.
  • Jump feet forward.
  • Return to standing.

Today’s signature jump at the top with arms raised, with optional pushups, double pushups, and mountain climbers at the bottom have been added to Burpee’s basic four count movement. The result is a core-strengthening, fat-burning, cardio-building exercise used by many to get and stay fit. It’s high intensity nature gives faster results in shorter workout times. Watch Audra demonstrate several variations used in Inferno Hot Pilates classes.

The Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)

There are many articles you’ll find suggesting the origins of Surya Namaskar dating back many hundreds, or possibly thousands of years, as a form of “Sun Worship,” with the practitioner prostrating to the sun during pilgrimage or in a ceremonial circumambulatory fashion. It was not until the late 1800’s when the King of Aundh, a small principality in British-ruled India, noticed that the Hindu ritual required so much muscular activity that in some cases could take the place of physical exercise. He required it to be taught throughout his Kingdom. At that time, Surya Namaskar was not considered to be yoga, and its postures were not considered asanas. Many well-known 20th century pioneers, including Yogendra and Sivananda, understood this to be an excellent form of fitness exercise.

Surya namaskar did not merge into yoga asana practice until the mid-1930’s. Research suggests influence from Western gymnastics and Indian wrestling exercises. In a 2016 article in Elephant Journal, “The Meaning & History Behind the Sun Salutation,”

“Krishnamacharya, the guru of Iyengar and K. Pattabhi Jois, was one among many prominent teachers who were using the sun salutation in their yoga routines in the 1930s, but he changed the form to the one best-known today.”

Elephant Journal, June 2016

Watch Marla instruct “Sun A” with some explanations and modifications.

Surya Namaskar in the Ashtanga Yoga Tradition

Surya Namaskar variations have been integrated into many Indian yoga asana systems, including the Ghosh Yoga tradition from Calcutta. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Bishnu Charan Ghosh, the younger brother of Paramahansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi), was a well-known physical culturist, influenced by bodybuilding, wrestling, gymnastics, and yoga asana. As part of the Ghosh Yoga College’s “84 Asanas System,” a version of Surya Namaskar is presented here by Mardy.

Surya Namaskar in the Ghosh Yoga Tradition

Whichever form of Surya Namaskar you practice, you get great physical and mental benefits. Coordination of breath with total body movement in a controlled, even graceful way, imparts muscle control while developing focus and concentration.

Finally, it is interesting to note some of the similarities between modern-day practice of Surya Namaskar (mid-1930’s) and the Burpee (1939). Practice both!

Getting Your Minimum Daily Exercise 

Harvey B. Simon, MD, Harvard Medical School, in his article published in the American Journal of Medicine, “Exercise and Health: Dose and Response, Considering Both Ends of the Curve,” recommends optimally 150 (vigorous) to 300 minutes (moderate) exercise per week. His conclusions summarized:

“Regular exercise is the most effective way to prevent disease; exercise also can help treat many of the chronic illnesses that plague America. Exercise is necessary for optimal health, and for health, moderate exercise is sufficient.

Edward Stanley, the Earl of Derby, got it right in 1873 when he said that those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

Harvey B. Simon, MD : American Journal of Medicine

3 Reasons to Start Your Day with PURE YogaTV

At PURE Yoga Texas, we’ve designed a short but effective, 30-minute morning Yoga + HIIT Fusion class that gives you more than just your minimum daily exercise. Here’s what you get?

#1: We become your alarm clock.

No excuses! Crawl out of bed and get on your mat by 7am every weekday to get an early start to the day. Working out with other inspiring people alongside you will give you energy to take with you the rest of the day.

#2: A way to participate in the “water cooler yoga talk.”

You can genuinely say, “Oh yeah, I love doing Surya Namaskar A, but that triangle pose really kicks my behind.”

#3: Drop and give me 20!

Do this every day for a month, and you’ll be able to knock out 20 pushups faster than people 10 years younger than you. Show your family and friends who the real boss is! Complementing the focused breath and movement of yoga with all-out, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), including the famous Burpee, will strengthen and tone your entire body!



WANT MORE? Jump start your weekday mornings (7am cst) with Yoga+HIIT Fusion on Check out our livestream membership option, which includes unlimited access to all of our livestream ZOOM and our 150+ On-Demand library of yoga and fitness classes.