As of last weekend until graduation day, we will be doing 108 sun salutations every Saturday morning. For our first day of 108 sun salutations, we decided to go with Ashtanga Surya Namaskara A. I find it hard to describe what the experience was like, probably because I have very mixed emotions about it. A part of each one of us was overwhelmed by the number – 108 chaturangas, hovering into upward dog 108 times, jumping our feet together 108 times, and each one of us taking turns to guide the group with inhale and exhale cues. Here’s the breakdown of how we worked it out. There was 9 of us, including Peewee (our teacher). So, we divided it into 12 reps each. We moved with the breath – each asana was held for as long as one inhale or one exhale. Once in downward dog, we did not hold the pose for 5 breaths like what would normally be done when practicing ashtanga.
After the first 36 rounds, we started to feel tired, out of breath, and delirious. It was especially hard to move with the breath and continue breathing in ujjayi. It was even harder for the person speaking and giving the breathing cues to actually inhale and exhale as supposed to. What made it even more difficult, in my opinion, was the weather. It was particularly cold that morning in Dubai. But it was such a surreal experience: sharing it with everyone, accomplishing 108 rounds of sun salutations, the emotional ups and downs we went through, change in energy.. you could feel it all.
When I went back home, I went through the blogs I read regularly and was clicking away from one link to another. I came across an interview with Yasmin Fudakowska-Gow on http://www.yoppi.com, where she shared interesting information about the number 108 in yoga. Last year, Yasmin completed 108 sun salutations every day in 108 days. She then challenged the Guinness World Record for the longest yoga marathon and completed 32 hours of yoga, which broke the record. Here’s an interesting fact about the number 108, quoted from Yasmin’s interview on Yoppi.com:
“108 is a sacred and auspicious number. 1=divine power, 0=the space that holds everything together (the circle of life), 8=the symbol of infinity”
How interesting is that?! Did you know that yogis usually do 108 sun salutations on the birthday of their teachers as a sign of respect, or even on their own birthdays? There’s a very spiritual approach to practicing 108 sun salutations on one’s birthday – celebrating your existence, thanking the universe for the gift of life. After my 2 experiences, I think that practicing 108 sun salutations is a great pick-me-up – sweat out the stress, stretch out all the tension, and completing 108 sun salutations, which is an accomplishment because practicing 108 sun salutations, whoever you are, is not so easy. It affects you physically and mentally, perhaps even spiritually. If anyone would like to share their experiences, please do so. It’s always interesting to know the different feelings one goes through when practicing 108 surya namaskaras. Looking back on my two experiences (so far), I ask myself: is practicing 108 sun salutations a routine or a ritual to me? For my next practice, how will I choose to approach it? And if I so choose to look at my practice as both a ritual and a routine, how can I make the best out of it? So now I ask you, is practicing 108 sun salutations a ritual, a routine, or a one-time thing?
For our second 108 surya namaskara experience, we decided to go with Hatha-style. It was a different experience for all of us. Our bodies felt different, and so did our spirits. Here’s a video from last Saturday’s sun salutation practice.