Sorry for the lack of blog posts the past two weeks. The holidays had us in Pennsylvania, traveling after tornadoes, and party hopping New Years Eve weekend. Super fun, but this introvert has been exhausted. I spent a good chunk of yesterday on the couch, watching TV, recharging, and napping. (It was glorious.) I hope you all had a lovely holiday season and are enjoying 2016 so far!
I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish this year. Not a resolution, really, just goals to work towards. If I don’t complete them by 2017, I won’t be upset. I’m just interested to see how the journey goes. I’m all about that journey. A few of those things include no longer eating meat, holding crow pose for more than 3 seconds, and getting back on a bicycle again (I haven’t been on one since I broke both of my wrists mountain biking in 2008!). Small, attainable goals. That’s how I roll.
One thing I really wanted to try this year was doing 108 sun salutations on New Years Day. I know a few people who do this every year, and my yoga studio in Austin, Texas, would host this in studio on January 1st. I was too afraid to go do it last year in a studio, but I wanted to see if I could do it on my own this year.
So, I did it. I woke up New Years Day and stayed in bed a lot longer than I intended. (I’ve been doing this a lot lately. Must be the winter weather slowing me down.) We had a party to get to that afternoon, so I was slightly disappointed in myself for not getting up earlier and doing it. But, I set my mind on doing it and I wasn’t going to not do it. After a quick breakfast, I set up my mat and music and got to work. I have seen people on instagram count their 108 salutations with pebbles or crystals, having 10 and moving them to one side after completing 10 rounds of sun salutations. I didn’t have that, but I had hair ties. I put 10 hair ties on my right wrist and after I completed 10 rounds of salutations, I moved a hair tie over to my wrist. I knew when I moved my last hair tie I only had 8 salutations left. Not the easiest way to count, I’m sure, but it was all I could think of .
I’ve heard a lot of people doing this and they all talk about how rejuvenating and refreshing it is. No one ever tells you how challenging it is. Because, people, it is challenging. I did my first 10 salutations just fine, concentrating on my shoulder alignment in chaturanga every single time. I felt good. I was breathing. The next ten were the same. But oh man, enter sun salutation 21 and enter the excruciating mental game. My mind started to wonder and I had to keep bringing my brain back to my counting. Even counting to ten was becoming a challenge for me. I started to lose myself in the rhythm of my breathing and the salutation, closing my eyes and just letting it all go. But then it got sweaty and hot in my bedroom, where I practice at home. My throat was dry and my shoulders were aching. “Am I gonna be able to do this?” I thought. “If I give up now, no one will really know I didn’t complete all 108.”
Why do our brains do this to us?! When the road starts to get tough, we try to talk ourselves in to an easy out.
“No way! I’m doing this!” My inner guru kicked in. I modified a set of salutations around set 40-50. Instead of doing chaturangas, I went straight to downward dog from forward fold. Salutations 50-60 were just me bending in to forward fold and back up to tadasana. Round 70-80 was alternating full salutations, chaturanga included, and just forward fold/tadasana. But it was modifying the salutations that got me through it. I do not think I would have had the mental capacity to get me through 108 solid sun salutations. My shoulders and legs ached by the end. I was dripping in sweat. But my mind was empty. I spent the whole time focusing on my movements and my breath that I cleared my brain completely of stress or worries or obligations. It was marvelous.
And now, I get it. I get why people do this every year, even every solstice. The thought of going in to a new year with a clear intent and solid focus is refreshing. I have always thought of new years as a new chapter in my book of life. Why wouldn’t I want to start this chapter off with such clarity?
So now, it is in my goal list for the year to complete 108 sun salutations at the beginning of each season, and any other time I feel like I need this mental refresh throughout the year. Maybe the next time I complete 108 rounds, I’ll have the physical capability of doing them all with chaturanga. Maybe I won’t. And it won’t really matter, because that’s not quite the point. I’m not sure 100% what the point is, but who cares? I learned something about myself on January 1st, while counting and sweating and pushing past my limits. I’m still figuring it all out, but it’s a beautiful thing, this ride called life.
Like I said, it’s all about the journey.
How do you count your 108 sun salutations? What are some tips you have for pushing beyond your limits to accomplish a goal you set for yourself?
If you want to learn more about the yoga magic number 108, you can read about it in this article from Yoga Journal.