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Sunday, February 25, 2007

the auspicious 108

The new home of Yoga Blend:
1921 West Magnolia Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91506
(818) 954-YOGA (9642)
website: www.yogablend.com

Well, we did it! Yoga Blend has moved to our new home at 1921 W Magnolia Blvd! I would like to thank all of your for your support, patience and for being so amazing. We could not have done this without you. I know that change can be very uncomfortable, but as we all know, it is also inevitable. In yoga and in life, we practice embracing change instead of resisting it. Thank you for all having such a beautiful practice and so warmly opening up to change. I am so honored and blessed to be a part of your path.

Please check our website and come to one of our events this weekend which are all donation only. Feel free to stop by at anytime during the Drum Circle and Open House. All other events have a specific start time, so please be mindful of that.

With infinite love and gratitude. Namaste, Christy

quickly scanning down the list of open house events on the yoga blend website, my eyes stopped when i read this:

108 Sun Salutes - No mat necessary, but do bring a towel!
That's right! Because we will be facing all four directions throughout the Yoga Mala (108 Sun Salutes), we will not be using mats. BUT, you will need a towel. Come prepared to sweat! Please arrive a few minutes early as we will start promptly at 2pm! No late arrivals please!!

i'd heard all about these marathon yoga sessions and had wondered if i would be able to do all 108 surya namaskars without crashing and burning. these rituals, often referred to as yoga malas (after the string of 108 prayer beads), are often performed to celebrate auspicious dates such as the solstice, the equinox, or the start of a new year. but for one reason or another, i hadn't been able fit one into my schedule. until now. and the timing couldn't have been any better. with my training for next week's LA marathon just about done, i was in prime condition; i knew how to get past pain and fatigue to reach my goal.

by the time i had shown up at yoga blend in burbank, there was already a roomful of anxious yogis waiting to get started. i found a spot at the back of the room, placed my belongings on the floor by the wall, and sat down. i looked around to scan the faces. there were a few familiar ones, but i couldn't remember where i had seen them before. i guess that's one downside of being a yoga studio hopper :(

christy marsden greeted our group as she walked into the room. she asked everyone to move their water bottles to the cubbies along the side, which raised a moment of panic among the group. what, no water?!? she explained that besides the bottles possibly getting in our way, she didn't want us to douse the fire that we would be building within our bodies. not being a water bottle junkie, i had no problem with that, although i realized that i had to move my purse and flipflops which were still sitting on the floor. so i joined the crowd as we moved around and cleared our surroundings.

basically, the logistics of our yoga mala were as follows: starting with a pile of 13 counters (in our case, eye pillows) on the floor by christy's feet, we would face the front of the room, which looked west, and do our first sun salute. then we'd do a quarter turn, face north, and do the second. then face east and do the third. then south and the fourth. the west again and the fifth. then we would turn in the opposite direction, face south again and do the sixth. then east and the seventh. then north and the eighth. when we found ourselves facing west again, christy would move a counter from the original pile to another to mark off that group of 8. we would repeat the procedure until all counters were moved. at that point, since we had completed 13 x 8 = 104, we would do the last four facing the front of the room.

simple enough. there were, however, some minor details that had to be worked out as we went along, like how to do all those surya namaskars without hitting the person beside you with your hands, or worse yet, your feet. or how to keep your towel accessible to wipe your sweat from the floor without it getting in your way or that of your neighbor. or for those who were water-dependent, how to work your way through all the bodies to get to your water bottle at the other end of the room. not to worry, though; we had two hours to figure that all out.

christy then did a quick run-through of the sun salutation sequence to make sure we were all on the same page, queued up the music, and off we went.

and what a ecstatic journey it turned out to be! accompanied by an eclectic mix of music ranging from sanskrit chants to eminem, to the beatles, to thievery corporation, we continued to move in a somewhat synchronized fashion, following christy's lead. over and over again, we repeated the following sequence:

1. with hands together in prayer, stand in tadasana (mountain pose)
2. raise arms to urdhva hastasana (upward hand pose)
3. swan dive down to uttanasana (standing forward bend)
4. lengthen spine to ardha uttanasana (half standing forward bend)
5. step carefully back into plank pose
6. lower into chaturanga dandasana (four-limbed staff pose)
7. pull up and forward into urdhva mukha svanasana (upward-facing dog)
8. push back into adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog). hold there for three breaths (abbreviated from the usual five in the interest of time)
9. lightly hop (or step) feet between hands and extend to ardha uttanasana
10. fold back down into uttanasana
11. reach arms out to the side and up to urdhva hastasana
12. then return to tadasana.

and before i knew it, christy moved the last eye pillow to the top of the growing stack. i found it hard to believe that i had completed 104 at that point and still had enough energy to spare for the last four! excited that it was almost over, i added in the jumpbacks to get into plank (although landing on the hard floor was a bit jarring on my toes). and when it was all over, i was tempted to raise my arms over my head and jump up and down, just like rocky did at the top of the steps of the philadelphia museum of art. flying high now!

with our last chance to express gratitude (and relief) that it was finally over, we lustily chanted a round of oms, then wished everyone, especially christy, a big namaste!

as for the significance of the number 108, besides it being the number of beads on a mala, here are a few facts listed on the flyer christy handed out after class:

9 times 12: Both of these numbers have been said to have spiritual significance in many traditions. 9 times 12 is 108. Also, 1 plus 8 equals 9. That 9 times 12 equals 108.

Powers of 1, 2, and 3 in math: 1 to 1st power=1; 2 to 2nd power=4 (2x2); 3 to 3rd power=27 (3x3x3). 1x4x27=108

Harshad number: 108 is a Harshad number, which is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits (Harshad is from Sanskrit, and means "great joy")

Sanskrit alphabet: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.

Upanishads: Some say there are 108 Upanishads, texts of the wisdom of the ancient sages.

Sun and Earth: The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.

Moon and Earth: The average distance of the Moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.

Pranayama: If one is able to be so calm in meditation as to have only 108 breaths in a day, enlightenment will come.

and while i may still have a long way to go before reaching enlightenment, after calmly completing those consecutive 108 sun salutes, i feel like i'm a step closer!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on 108 Surya Namaskar. I am in Australia and our Yoga Centre of which I am a new teacher will be doing the 108 on Sept 22 2007. I am currently building myself up for it by adding 12 to my sequence each week.

I will be updating our website in a few weeks. Come check it out.

4:06 PM  
Blogger joni said...

hi steven --

good luck on completing those 108! you should do just fine, as long as you remember to pace yourself as you build up to the end :)

5:01 PM  

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