Tag Archives: nature

108 Sun Salutations

Every three months, the seasons change. The weather begins to shift, and a new kind of energy moves into the world. Society, at large, has lost a lot of touch with these transitions simply because of how we tend to interact with nature. That is, we don’t tend to interact very much. Many pagan religions mark the coming of a new season with rituals, and indigenous tribes do the same. However, for the ‘modern’ world, many of the changes go unnoticed, as central air and electricity mean that we can get the ideal heat whenever we want, and the setting sun becomes secondary when it comes to illuminating our pastimes.
This strikes me as unfortunate, and possibly unhealthy. One of the ways that we, as humans, keep in touch with the reality that everything is a cycle, and everything changes, is by observing that very dynamic in the way nature moves. Without this, I think there is a tendency to lose sight of the death—and rebirth—inherent in every single moment. Life is death is life.
For the Spring Equinox, I decided to partake in a ritual practiced by thousands of yoga practitioners all over the world: 108 sun salutations.
The number is significant on multiple levels, across several cultures.
In Hindu mythology, it is said that Lord Shiva—the creator of Yoga—lived 108 lives before being reincarnated as a god. The number 1 represents the Divinity that is in all of us, 0 represents nothingness and also the eternal cycle of life, while 8 represents eternity. There are 108 beads on a male, 108 Upanishads (ancient sacred Hindu texts), 108 sacred sites in India, and 108 sacred points on the human body. Buddhist texts enumerate 108 temptations one must overcome in order to reach enlightenment. The number 108 is reached by multiplying the six senses (taste, touch, smell, feeling, sight, and consciousness) by the three types (painful, pleasant, or neutral) by their origin (internal or external) by time (past, present, or future). Thus, 6 x 3 x 2 x 3 = 108. There are references in literature, in Japanese mythology, even in sports and card games. (Uno has 108 cards.)

chakra stones

If you’re familiar with yoga asana practice, you know that 108 sun salutations are no laughing matter. What better way, then, to ring in the new season than with a physical, mental, and spiritual challenge. Because a sun salutation is not just an exercise, it is a prayer.
To keep track of my salutations, I turned to my daily practice of reciting the 12 names of Surya Bhagavan, the Sun God. I repeated the cycle 9 times, keeping track with my chakra stones, as well as a lovely wire flower a street jeweller made me in Cusco and a stone heart given to me by someone near and dear to my own heart.

12 Names Of Surya Bhagavan (Om…namah essentially means ‘I bow to you’)
Om Mitraya namah (The friend of all)
Om Ravaye namah (Praised by all)
Om Suryaya namah (The guide of all)
Om Bhanave namah (The bestower of beauty)
Om Khagaya namah (Stimulator of the senses)
Om Pushne namah (The nourisher of all)
Om Hiranyagarbhaya namah (The creator)
Om Marichaye namah (Destroyer of disease)
Om Adityaya namah (The inspirer)
Om Savitre namah (The purifier)
Om Arkaya namah (The radiant)
Om Bhaskaraya namah (The illuminator)

I set up my mat, Nestled My Lord Shiva murti next to my Lord Ganesha murti, said a prayer asking for guidance and illumination in the coming season, and got to work. The whole process took about two hours, including a couple short breaks and a nice, yummy savasana. In the beginning, I told myself that if I needed to stop, or needed to modify at any point I would. This wasn’t a means of torturing myself, but a way to push me beyond what my preconceived notions of my own limitations.

before and after

 

It worked. I surprised myself. I didn’t give up. I didn’t modify. I grew tired, but at the same time, I felt myself move into a space of body prayer, where every movement was a humbling of myself to something far greater than I could ever imagine. My bedroom became a temple, my music became songs of worship, and my body became a voice lifted to God.
It’s so clear to me when I look at the pictures I took of myself before and after, that a true change occurred. There’s a softness and a light there, that don’t appear in the before picture. To me, it seems like a little bit more of that Divinity that lives in me—that lives in all of us—is able to shine through.
When I woke up two days later, I couldn’t touch my toes. As close as I get to God, I am still living this human experience. Which means my hamstrings still get sore! Still, a small price to pay. I’ll be going back to this practice for the Summer solstice. I hope you feel inspired to try it out, too, or to mark the change with some ritual of your own.

 

Written by Sarah Hirsch, edited by Bethany Naylor. If you’re interested in reading about Sarah’s time in India you can check out her time in Arambol here, or read her comparisons of Christmas in India alone, and Peru with a boyfriend here!

 

How to do a sun salutation
How to do a sun salutation
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The Sun rises in the East

Evenings spent by a lake by Port Leucate, South East France

You wake up at first light, back aching from weeks of sleeping a centimetre off the hard and rocky ground. Your feet are bruised and bloody from hundreds of kilometres crossed in shoes you’ve had no time to break in. There have been times when you felt like giving up. But when you take your first step out into the cool, sharp dawn, none of it matters. The sun is in the long, slow process of breaking over the horizon, and the only sounds are the gentle rise and fall of the waves lapping at the shoreline ten feet away from where you stand in your boyfriend’s old shirt and the bikini you haven’t taken off for a week. There are no time limits, there are no goals. There is just one simple plan – live. You are free.

 

Define freedom in one photo or less
Define freedom in one photo or less

 

The two months I spent hitch-hiking over 1000km between Barcelona and La Rochelle, was the most rewarding, exciting, and challenging experience of my life, one which changed my entire perspective and even my personality more than anything else I have ever experienced. Waking up to sunrise on the beaches of the east coast, and watching the sunset from the beaches of the west give you a profound respect for nature. Walking through the lower peaks of the Pyrenees, almost hallucinating from lack of food, water, and sleep, give you great fear. At this point, I had to ignore everything I’d ever been told, climbing into the back seat of the first truck to go past. I was driven away to safety, and that I will never forget.

I was given food by strangers, driven for hours by families who had no reason to trust me, and given worldly advice by people generations ahead of me. I was even given forty euros, breakfast and a tour of Toulouse by a 70-year-old German man, who the previous day had driven me to a canal to camp. Before this dramatic yet stabilising period of my life, I was questioning my faith in human kindness. Some of my experiences on the road had left me drained, exhausted of all feelings of empathy. The generosity and understanding that I experienced in those weeks on the road proved to me that I have much left to discover about human nature.

 

A canal near Villefranche, half-way between Carcassone and Toulouse
A canal near Villefranche, half-way between Carcassone and Toulouse

 

At this point in my life, there is nothing I long for more than the freedom and hope that comes from exploring this planet, not as an enemy  but as a friend of beauty. In this day and age, so many see nature as simple statistics – a percentage of rainforest destroyed or a disappearing coastline – and they cannot fathom this loss. To sit by a silent lake, kept warm by the fire you made yourself from the kindling you found in a nearby forest, listening to crickets and the birds singing their evening chorus, is an experience without which humans would never have developed to what we are today. Settled atop an old wall of an abandoned monastery, at the peak of what had seemed like an insurmountable climb only that morning, staring across at the patchwork of forests and farmland, the town you left only days before  invisible in the evening haze. Only there, when you have abandoned all that made you who you were, when you have ignored and dismissed all of society’s rules and regulations, can you appreciate the truth. We are a part of nature, we are simple animals, living in a world that we share with many others, a world full of beauty and experiences, if only you go out and seek them.

Written and edited by Beth Naylor

Originally posted on the Wayfaring Student

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