Last Friday (21st June) marked the summer solstice and the official start of summer. And for its third year, it was also the UN International Day of Yoga. Yogis over the world took to their mats in celebration.
With various events around central London, including yoga outside Parliament itself, there were plenty of opportunities to roll out my mat. I decided to have a quiet day preparing for 108 Sun Salutation challenge (Surya Namaskar) in the evening. To be honest, I didn't actually plan to complete all 108. The challenge popped up on Facebook, it was outdoors at a local schools and so I just thought, "why not?" In fact, I didn't think any of us would be able to complete it in the allotted time which was only two hours. It turned out I was wrong - it is possible to complete in two hours!
So why 108? Well, it is an auspicious number in yoga philosophy and anything "auspicious" gets the thumbs up. The organisers kindly sent out some background information including the reasons behind 108 which involve, among others, the belief that 108 energy lines converge to form the heart chakra, one of which leads to the crown chakra and self realisation. There are also several mathematical equations resulting in the number 108.
Whatever the reasons, 108 Salutations is rapidly gaining popularity as the "go to" challenge for 21st June and it's certainly an impressive number.
I arrived at the school with nine other apprehensive yogis, all them much younger than me. The mats were laid out in a circle with jelly beans and energy drinks available. I'm not a jelly bean fan but found myself strangely drawn to them at the end of each round of ten salutations. I was surprised how easy it was to do the first set. The plan was to break after each ten and I was relieved to discover that each side (left foot forward etc) was being counted as a round. I'd expected to do both sides which would have meant 216 salutations! The others were mostly doing the Ashtanga version jumping forward with both feet and lowering in chattaranga. I took the easier option stepping through either side and lowering into eight points (knees first, bottom in air).
Twelve jelly beans and 90 minutes later all twelve (students and leaders) completed the challenge and finished with stretches and savasana under the setting sun. I'm glad I took part and, now I've done it once, I'll definitely do it again. The focus was very much on the physical (manomaya kosha) and next time I'd like to savour each round more, visualising the chakras and maybe self realisation won't be so difficult to attain! Certainly I felt energised afterwards and my muscles survived the experience. My only "injury" turned out to be a very aggressive knat bite!
Fortunately I still had energy left for the rest of the weekend celebrations. I spent Saturday with the local BWY where three experienced "Wheel" teachers put us through our paces starting with gentle yoga for lower backs (Anna Semlyen who runs a full programme dedicated to people living with back pain in York), followed by Gill Pendreich, Hatha Yoga and Relaxation. Gill has taught yoga for many years, coming to it herself through chronic back pain when she was a young woman. She is now in her eighties and still teaching. Her class was masterfull and reminded me why I'm so glad to be a British Wheel member (even though teacher training is Dru). We finished by forming a Peace Circle to the strains of John Lennon's "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance" - timely, timeless and very moving!
After lunch and time to wander around the stalls outside, Ian Burgess, another British Wheel elder, shared his chanting expertise with mantras and OUM.
I returned home physically and spiritually uplifted clutching a new pair of bamboo leggings and a pile of books and CDs.
If you missed the day itself don't worry - many more events are planned this summer including Omfest in Shoreditch in a couple of weeks time. Check out the Events page of my website for details and links.
So how did you celebrate the summer solstice? Let us know.
Fancy doing the 108 Sun Salutation challenge? Or have you already done it? Share your thoughts and experiences. If enough people are interested I will organise a Dru version where we gradually build up to 108 over a period of weeks.
Looking forward to your comments below:
This is my first blog entry for the new website. With a full strawberry moon rising in the evening sky and the summer solstice due at the end of the week it seems like an auspicious time to start this new venture.
I'll keep it short and simple today with an action plan from the Every Day Matters Diary 2019 (one of the many I share with my class in the last stages of savasana):
"This week "plant" positivity. Identify six good things in your life - say, the people and experiences that lift you up - and schedule time each day to focus on one of them. If gardening makes you feel good, spend at least a little time one day pulling up weeds, if connecting with a friend makes you smile, the following day give that person a call, and so on."
So how have I planted positivity this week? Reading on the train, cuddling my cat, sharing yoga in the park, coffee with friends, holding hands with my husband and listening to my son's plans. I get enormous pleasure from each one and feel blessed by these simple pleasures. How are you planting positivity? Let me know ...
I qualified to teach in 2015 but my yoga journey started much earlier, way back in the 1970s. Here I share my experiences and passion about everything yoga.