Pose: Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salutation A)
Every season, on the day of the solstice, yogis practice 108 sun salutations. They do it to mark the changing seasons and our trip around the sun. We reach high to honor the sun and bow low to the Earth– yoking the two together–much the way we move our body through yoga poses to yoke the mind to the body.
But, why 108? Vedic mathematicians viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. This unique fact created a series of rituals around the number 108. According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India. And there are also 108 Upanishads and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body.
Malas have 108 beads, plus one “guru” bead around which the other beads rotate, like the Earth around the sun. Malas as used to mark the repetition of a mantra while meditating. Our power yoga practice, while seemingly physical in nature, is actually meant to be a moving meditation. We move the body through a series of familiar asana, poses, activating and fatiguing the muscles, forcing your mind to focus only on the next breath. It is that intentional, focused, ujjayi, breathing that takes our physical practice to the level of meditation.
The mantra we offer during meditation must be given sincerely, full of feeling, devotion and attention. In our power practice we use the Yamas and Niyamas to guide our thoughts. The Yamas and Niyamas are the first two of yoga’s eight-limbed path. There are five yamas, restraints, and five niyamas, observances. These ten ethical guidelines are the foundation to living our yoga. They help us gain the skill to choose our thoughts, attitude and ultimately our actions; Taking ownership of our lives and directing them toward fulfillment.
The Yamas focus on the world around us and our relationships with others guiding us to see past our own external needs to find harmony and peace in our own unique life. The Niyamas ask us to take an inward focus and strengthen our relationship with ourselves.
The Yamas: Restraints, Attention to External Behaviors
Ahimsa= Non-violence, respecting our body and extending that respect and kindness out to others.
Satya= Truthfulness, being honest with ourselves and others.
Asteya= Non-stealing, respect the time and energy of others, being mindful of what you take compared to what you give.
Bramacharya= Non-excess, do not let your senses rule your behaviour so you are not urge driven.
Aparigraha= Non-possessiveness, letting go and packing lightly for this journey on this planet.
The Niyamas: Observances, Drawing Inward
Saucha= Purity, to cleanse our body and our thoughts.
Santosha= Contentment, to be a peace with our circumstances.
Tapas= Heat, the intensity needed to change, much the way fire burns and alters what it touches.
Svadhyaya= Self-study, being aware of who we are and what we do and recognizing our limitations.
Ishvara Pranidhana= Surrender, letting it go
We build a well-rounded yoga practice by weaving our physical asana in with this philosophical ideology. We make the choice to practice and we can decide how much we put into and take out of our practice. We build it piece by piece, we make it our own and over time, the ideas, the meditation and the peace become the practice. On the mat and off.