My yoga group celebrated the winter solstice by doing 108 consecutive sun salutations. This is not a joke.
I don’t know the significance of the 108. Perhaps it’s an Upanishad thing. Perhaps it is the number of lifetimes you should devote to yoga before attempting a class like this.
The room was packed. There was Indian music playing, with two people, including one of our teachers, accompanying on drums. A table in the corner was covered with oranges and various yoga liquids (with Upanishaddy names), so that we could enjoy a half-time snack.
I was nervous, because 108 sun salutations sounds ridiculously vigorous, and I’m a beginner. I’m the only one in there not in Lulu Lemon, as far as I can see, and I have hamstrings that are shorter than yours or yours or yours.
Nervous, intimidated, and tighter than tightness itself both literally and pychologically.
To make room for the crowd, we squeezed our mats together until there was no room for a clear wingspan. The team sport feeling of this gave me a mild feeling of despair.
The class started with some chanting having to do with letting obstacles go. Also something to do with compassion. It sounded like moondy tada rama shakta, or something, to a simple tune. After a couple of rounds, we sounded really good. Let’s just keep doing this, i thought. Let’s do this 108 times.
Then the sun salutations started. During the first downward dog, to music and drumming, I felt the usual tightness in my left thigh and the stingy twinge at the insertion of my left Achilles tendon. Moondy tada rama whatever, i thought. Might as well be compassionate with myself, because i have 107 of these to go. That made me laugh.
I don’t remember much after that. Maybe I was too focused on following the others. Or maybe I was just stunned by it all. I do recall smelling a huge, collective sweat. (I liked it.) I do remember my legs loosening as I fell into the rhythm of the 108. I remember lots of thoughts passing through my head, briefly and easily, all to drums and music, none of them interfering with this happiness that started to grow inside my chest and gut.
I don’t know how to explain that happiness. My guess is it resulted from energy moving in my body and in the room. And people celebrating something together. It felt like something had changed direction. I don’t know. Ask a yogi.
Whatever it was, I was flying by the end. And completely spent. No more nervousness or intimidation or despair. I didn’t know how to drive my car afterward. The best celebration of the solstice ever.
Tomorrow the days begin to grow longer. In about 108 days, the crocuses will be finding their way toward the light.
I hope you’re celebrating your own change of direction today, your own moving toward the light.
Thanks for the conversation,