The Yoga Path • Omaha, NE

Icon

{ Practicing Physical, Mental & Spiritual Health }

108 Sun Salutations

March is at an end. Any other year we would have done Sun Salutations together in class. The classic sequence would have offered a variety of teaching opportunities. We would have dissected the poses, explored ways to refine and improve our technique. Done them quickly in succession, slowed down to savor the energy being expended, practiced with our eyes closed, then faced the sun to surrendered our efforts to the cosmos. But this was not a typical March this year. Most of this was abruptly halted due to the reality of a collective corona contagion.

Yet some of you told me of your endeavor to continue on with the goal of 108 salutations. Some of you even let me know that you completed them. Some of you, finished just today. I congratulated all who finished, but am equally gratified by those who did what they wanted. But the true treasure here is doing them for yourself and for those who touch your life.

Some of you know this number 108 is considered sacred, and continues to pop up in not just in yoga, but in nature, spirituality, and mathematics.

Exactly how the yogis arrived at 108 is not quite certain, but it seems to be a number that connects us to our place in the cosmic order. The distance between the Earth and sun is 108 times the diameter of the sun. Around the time the ancient Vedic texts were being collected, far away Stonehenge was built—the Sarsen Circle is 108 feet in diameter. In Belize, during the era of the Mayans, the High Temple of Lamanai was erected at 108 feet tall—the same height as the funerary Tikal temple in Guatemala. And within the temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza in Mexico archeologists believe there to be a second pyramid inside measuring 108 feet wide. Is it possible that our ancient ancestors knew this? These temples, built to worship and to house the souls of great leaders upon their death, perhaps used this number to connect humans not just to our sun as a giver of life, but to the Creator.

In yoga, the number 108 refers to spiritual completion. It is why japa malas are composed of 108 beads. In other spiritual teachings beyond the traditional yogic texts, this number comes up repeatedly in the search for liberation. The ancient yogis believed that if we could align ourselves with the rhythm of the creation, we would ultimately bring an end to our cycle of reincarnation.

Hindu deities have 108 names, and India is said to have 108 sacred sites. In Jainism there are believed to be 108 virtues. In some forms of Tai Chi there are 108 moves. In Tibetan Buddhism there are 108 delusions. Many Buddhist temples have 108 steps representing the 108 steps to enlightenment. While in Japanese Zen Buddhist temples, a bell is chimed 108 times at the end of the year closing a cycle to serve as a reminder of the 108 earthly temptations a person must overcome to achieve nirvana.

In mathematics 108 brings a whole host of equations and possibilities most of which I can’t explain. But one simple examples is: if you square 2 you get 4 and if you cube 3 you get 27, and if you multiply 4×27=108. Galileo said the universe is written “in mathematical language”— that the mysteries of creation itself could be unraveled through numbers and equations. For the yogis, that code is 108.

Yet none of these numbers or what they symbolize are really to the point. Whether one does 108 or 27 or 2 squared, the most pertinent sun salutation is the one you are doing now. In moving from one pose to the next, you realize that you can embody the practice, this ancient teachings through movement. It doesn’t have to be perfect or precise. Surya Namaskar becomes beautiful when we take these poses, one after another, into our bodies in ways we never could by just talking or thinking. So when we walk away from having done them, we join with the mystics who offered a code for awakening, a code to our own nature.

Filed under: Education, Stories, Virtual Yoga, , , , , ,

How are Sun Salutations going?

“Asana, one of yoga’s most significant “tools,” help the sincere student develop physically and spiritually. The ancient sages believed that if you put your whole heart into your practice, you become master of circumstances and time.” BKS Iyengar

You knew I was going to ask. Now that classes are suspended, I can’t bug you in person before each class as to how’s it going with your 108 sun salutations? But now that we’re all distancing ourselves and settling into the new normal that is our life, the practice of yoga is now available in new ways. Surya Namaskara is the ideal entrance into a daily practice.

For those of you unfamiliar to the Yoga Path history, every March students and teachers at the Path commit to do 108 sun salutations for the month. The shared endeavor has been nicknamed “March Madness.” Some students talk about this event as early as the beginning of the year. Others avoid the subject with a quiet dread and contempt. Some rebel at the idea of keeping score, while the more analytic types, map out their plan to complete the goal on or before deadline.

I don’t remember how this tradition even got started, but was surprised and gratified to discover that, for some, they actually took their practice home. We created a card to track our progress with 108 squares. Some would even come to class earlier than usual to knock off a few before class started. One of my students reported that she would do a couple of them every evening, during the commercials while watching the news.

First completed card 2020

Some resist this regimenting of yoga with all their might. Some just don’t like the sequence. But whatever gets people practicing on their own, to me, is a good thing.

I usually encourage students to use surya namaskara as a starting point for practicing. Don’t worry about the amount you do, but how it feels while doing them. Sometimes the first couple don’t seem very worthwhile, like the beginning of run, but let yourself settle into the flow of the sequence. Or just start with a salutation, but leave it behind if the body needs to do other asanas.

Here is a sheet to see how we practice surya namaskara at the Yoga Path. However, as my teacher Margaret Hahn use to say, “the sun salutation is like potato salad. Everyone has their own recipe.: Just Google surya namaskara / sun salutations to get a couple of thousand variations on a theme. Below is pictured the Iyengar version from the Preliminary Course book.

Just practice it for yourself and for the others in your life. It can do nothing but good! You still have 10 days to go.

Filed under: Education, Uncategorized, Virtual Yoga, , , , ,

Enter your email address to subscribe to The Yoga Path Blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 660 other followers

Visit our Site