Posts

108 Sun Salutations

This is a repost from our friends at Sunburnt & Salty. www.sunburntandsalty.com

You can find the original blog of “108 Sun Salutaions: My First Experience” HERE

It was still dark out when I pulled up to the Lighthouse. I checked my phone – 6:27am – December 31st. It was the final day of 2014 and I was here to complete 108 Sun Salutations. Early mornings in Rincon are so peaceful – so quiet and still. And this morning it was a little bit cool outside, a nice relief to the tropical temperatures that we usually experience here. Dew covered the grass and the leaves of the trees that covered the park around El Faro. You could hear the grumble of the dying swell lapping the rocky coastline. Desecheo Island was barely visible off in the distance, resembling a giant sleeping upon the sea.

Now I’m not going to act like I wasn’t a little nervous about doing 108 Sun Salutations. It was my first time, after all, and I was a little unsure of what to expect. I mean 108… One hundred and eight!? That’s a lot. But I found that I was mostly excited about the challenge and looking forward to ending a good year on a positive note. So I found myself here, along with four other, amazing women at the Lighthouse in Rincon, overlooking the ocean, at 6:30am, on the last day of 2014, awakening our bodies with the rising sun as we said our goodbyes to the past 364 days. Now that’s some powerful shit.

It’s been a tradition in many styles of yoga to perform 108 Sun Salutations upon the changing of the seasons – usually on the days of the Summer & Winter Solstices and the Vernal & Autumnal Equinoxes – completing them as an offering. In our case, the five of us performed these Sun Salutations on the last day of the year as a way to 108release the old, to get grounded in the present, and to make space for what’s to come in the New Year. And you also may be wondering, like I did, why 108? I’ve always known that “108” was deemed an auspicious number in many different cultures and religions, but I never really looked into what it actually represented. Until now. Until I decided to actually participate in performing these 108 Sun Salutations.  If you want to look deeper into the number 108, check out this Elephant Journal article HERE or this Huffington Post article HERE. But below are a couple of facts, which I found to be pretty interesting, surrounding the propitious number:

  • 108 is the number of “Upanishads” comprising the “Vedic Texts” in Indian Philosophy
  • 108 is the number of names for the Hindu god, Shiva
  • 108 is the number of names for Buddha
  • 108 is the Chinese number that represents man
  • There are 108 beads on both a Catholic Rosary and Buddhist Mala Beads
  • There are said to be 108 Earthly desires in mortals; said to be 108 lies that humans tell; and that the Human Soul (Atman) goes through 108 stages on its journey
  • According to Joseph Campbell: 1 + 0 + 8 = 9, nine is the number of the Goddess
  • 11 x 22 x 33 = 108
  • 108 is a Harshad Number, an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. “Harshad” is Sanskrit for “Great Joy”
  • 1 :: God or Higher Truth // 0 :: Emptiness or completeness in Spiritual Practice // 8 :: Infinity or Eternity
  • There are said to be 108 energy lines converging to form the Heart Chakra
  • The diameter of the sun is 180 times the diameter of the Earth
  • In astrology, there are 12 constellations and 9 are segments. Both numbers have spiritual significance. 12 x 9 = 108
  • In astrology, there are also 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 x 9 = 108

Before we began our Sun Salutations we performed a quick Smudging Ceremony, led by Rose, to cleanse our bodies and our space of all the negative energies that may be trying to tag along as we move into the New Year. Following the smudging we joined in a group chant, “Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha,”to call upon the energies of elephant-headed diety, Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles and the Lord of New Beginnings. This mantra is said to awaken Shakti, or the manifesting energy of the Universe, which ignites the inner fire. After the smudging and the chanting, together, we began our Sun Salutations. Moving one pose at a time, breath by breath, moment to moment. At first, I allowed myself to be a little intimidated, worried about keeping count and thinking about the other 107 that I had left to do. But we broke the 108 Sun Salutations up into nine sets of 12 (how about some more lucky numbers!) to help keep track, and to make 108 appear a little less intimidating. We allowed ourselves to modify and to drop into a Child’s Pose as needed. And I found that after my second set of 12 I really started to find my flow. The sequences transformed from a set of poses into a moving meditation, where it was just me and my breath and the ocean. I felt like I had perpetual energy. I felt completely at peace. And the next thing I knew, I was on my final set of 12.

As I rested in savasana after my final Sun Salutation I felt a satisfying sense of accomplishment. I was really proud of myself. I also felt an overwhelming love and appreciation for my body, for my mind, and for this life. I felt humbled and grateful and inspired by these women that I got to practice next to, for the ocean that surrounded me, and for the rising sun which held the promise of another blessed day on this planet. It was an incredible first experience with 108 Sun Salutations. And I know it won’t be my last. And I think that each time I complete 108 Sun Salutations it will be a totally different experience, where I will release and realize and gain something new each time. If you’ve never performed 108 Sun Salutations, I highly suggest that you do it. Gather some friends, get out in nature, and get lost in your movements and in your breath. Thank you Rose, Devaki, Stephanie and Erica for sharing with me a positive and powerful way to say goodbye to 2014 and to welcome in the New Year. And here’s to a very positive and prosperous year in 2015.

caitlin

 

Caitlin Lawson is a yoga practicing, wave sliding, positive vibe warrior based out of Rincon, Puerto Rico. Caitlin is a RYT-200, WPA Level 1 Certified, and SUP Yoga Certified. She is the founder of Sunburnt & Salty Yoga Company – sunburntandsalty.com

Thirty Days of Sun

This past June, my wife and I decided to drive across the continent from Anchorage, Alaska and Long Beach, New York to visit friends and family. It was to be an epic endeavor! Besides the practical side of planning such a journey, we had one great concern.

What about yoga?

Both of us love yoga. I instruct at a local studio, and she has a rich and vibrant practice. The question of how to maintain and expand our practice while traveling?

First, we looked at our trip itinerary and the route before us finding the cities and population centers that probably had a regular yoga presence. Yes, we found studios that offered yoga classes. But, when we started thinking about it, did we really want to be in a different studio every day? What if the classes weren’t really what we were looking for in a practice? Could we really cover the cost of paying for so many drop-in classes on our trip budget? What to do?

Rather than despair, we saw this as an opportunity to expand our personal practice and set an intention to follow through with this desire. Since we would be traveling before, during and after the summer solstice, we decided to use the basic form of the sun salutation as a template for practice on the road. Wherever we found ourselves after a day on the road (campgrounds, hotels, parks, somebody’s home, whatever the context) we would rise and perform at least twelve sun salutations, letting our intuition flow and guide us into other poses and variations. To add a little extrinsic motivation, we created a Facebook event called Thirty days of Sun then invited our friends from around the world to join us in this sun salutation experiment.

Soon enough, the day came for our journey. We set off and the first night stopped in a random town near the border of Alaska and Canada. Early the next morning, we slipped on our Lululemon gear on and went behind the hotel looking for a place to practice. There, we found a random concrete slab that faced east. Perfect! Thus began our Thirty days of Sun. Every day we found a place to perform our poses and before we knew it our experiment had come and gone. We learned so much from this simple ritual that translates into life off the mat. Let me share the three most important lessons.

#1 A power resides within that will carry one through intentions. Through the act of daily commitment and action, an inner drive accepts this and rises up. It takes over and leads one forward. Maybe, it’s one salutation after another but this easily can be any endeavor. The drive becomes more powerful with practice and takes one further each time, eventually to completion then beyond. It teaches that we can follow something through to the end on the mat and in the world of our aspirations.

#2 Yoga is more than calisthenics! For sure, there are physical benefits that come with doing yoga on a regular basis. But through the practice of sun salutations something else emerged beyond the physical. A change comes, shifting the mindset from one of limitation to openness, through the joining of intentional movement with breath. This creates a flow of energy from the head to the toes which saturates the entire being (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually). After the last sequence, I stand on my mat in mountain pose completely grounded in the here and now. A perfect platform for whatever it is in life that rests before us.

#3 Daily returning to the same routine over the course of a period of time creates a consistent personalized practice. As with any action performed over a span of days, it starts to become an internalized habit that continues long after the initial need or external mandate. Once there, it becomes part of the daily experience, 032and a home yoga practice has been established. It may sound rather simplistic but after all as the maxim goes, “life is complicated; yoga is simple.” This can be a yoga practice or any other healthy habit, one wants to cultivate in life.

Perhaps, you will go on such a trip or maybe you just want to mix it up and try something new. Try setting an intention for thirty days, sun salutations, some other yoga routine or really anything for that matter. Why not? See what happens, enjoy the process and cherish the lessons.

Namaste

David Westlake teaches vinyasa style yoga in Anchorage, Alaska. He is fortunate to be able to do this as his life work and when not on the mat, he can be found sitting planning his next trip or adventure, especially to places that have warm beach. http://dmwestlake.blogspot.com/