(first published in January 2020)
Yesterday, I completed my yearly 108 Sun Salutations (or Surya Namaskar in Sanskrit) with extremely motivated yogis, whom I got to guide along their preparations and practice. Find out more in this article.
The Sun is considered to be the main source of energy for our planet. So when we are in tune with its cycles, we may feel healthy, filled with energy and vitality. The Sun Salutations (SS) is a sequence of postures which is traditionally practiced in the morning, at sunrise, and thus stimulates energy in the body. It alternates forward folding and back bending postures in order to awaken and stretch the spine as well as to provide the entire body with a deep stretch and a warm up to lay the foundations for the rest of the practice/class. Each posture and its counter posture allow to maintain a balance between flexion and extension. In this sequence, one must synchronize his/her breath with his/her body movements.
There are three conventional Sun Salutations:
The Classical Sun Salutation, which you'd practice in Hatha Yoga
The Sun Salutation A, which you'd practice in Ashtanga Vinyasa and Vinyasa Yoga
The Sun Salutation B, which you'd practice in Ashtanga Vinyasa and Vinyasa Yoga
In this article, I'll not be detailing the benefits nor counter indications nor sequencing of the Sun Salutations as there are plenty of information available online. However, I'll be sharing our experience with the practice of 108 Sun Salutations in a row.
The number 108 is considered sacred by many eastern believes and thus practicing 108 SS has become a yogic challenge for many of us nowadays. Beyond the intense physicality of this practice, there are many other challenges (mental and emotional) that we get to work with in order to evolve, here are some examples:
Before the practice: It requires a certain will power and mental strength to sign up to such a class as the most common reaction for people being exposed for the first time to this practice is "... I'm already exhausted after 3 Sun Salutations in a regular classe, so I'd die before 108!" - with a touch a humor obviously 🙄.
Preparation: We often disregard and underestimate the impact of a good preparation. Thus it is easy to postpone or even skip it as we get lazy and busy with other things. However it is crucial to any growth and accomplishment. The preparation for 108 SS will not only get your body ready physically (e.g. getting used to be on your hands and wrists for long period of time, etc.) but will also allow you to overcome your fears. Mental strength through preparation will ease your anxiety and make you feel more confident.
First half of the practice: Once the fear is overcome and the motivation found, there is another impediment coming at us and a big one: our mind's boredom! Indeed, repeating over and over the same moves can get pretty annoying and boring for the mind, which is used to constant change in this fast paced society, to keep itself entertained (i.e. scrolling through social contents, zapping TV programs, having lots of different games/books/movies/music to choose from, or even the need for a different yoga flow each class, etc).
Second half of the practice: Then and when it's time to listen to your body and actually stop the practice in order not to harm the body, comes the ego! Indeed, it requires humility and contentment to stop a practice before "the end". At some point in the practice, the ego can kick in and tell us not to stop because of the imaginary « peer pressure » from our fellow yogi, or simply for the pride / shame that comes along with finishing or not a "challenge".
It can be difficult at first to understand who is whispering to our ears between the body, the mind, the ego. Getting to know and understand which one is speaking is an innate but lost ability that we can learn again through our yoga practice.
These examples can easily be taken off the mat and applied as life lessons or motto:
Do not let your fears stop you
Be ready for it !
Do not let your mind rule you
Do not let your ego rule over you
Back to our practice of yesterday, I am really impressed by how far each of me fellow yogis got. They had no expectations of reaching 108 SS, yet got there. Every single SS was a win to them and step by step, breath by breath they went far beyond what their mind thought they were capable of. They all had personal reasons which could have prevented them from coming and practicing with me but they came. They took modifications and breaks when the body was asking for it and stopped when they felt like it was enough for the day, being yet very happy of their own practice. I am extremely grateful for the safe atmosphere which was created by the group in order for everyone to feel free to be who and where they are. #Discipline #Detachment #NonViolence #Contentment
Very quickly after we started, the room got hot and humid from our bodies warming up, but the energy it created was magical. I was dripping yet felt so empowered. Not once my mind wanted to quit. I was super energized and felt strong, healthy, joyful (that I almost cried!) and thriving. It went by so fast that I could have kept going past the 108. Overall the practice took us between 1h45min and 2h30min.
Today we all have common symptoms 😂: sore arms and hamstrings ! But it was so worth it that we will do it again !
I would like to congratulate my fellow yogis for their practice. I am grateful for being able to share the teachings of yoga with others.