Every other time I’ve been invited to try out the infamous “108 Sun Salutations Challenge” I politely (or deliberately) have declined. First of all, that is a lot of work. Second of all, WHY?! Well, I finally gave in after being guilt-tripped by fellow teacher trainee, Mike Kaney, who is always up for death-by-yoga challenges… and let me tell you folks- those are the friends you need to have!
I walked into the studio surrounded by four other brave souls ready to face the challenge with our only tool seeming to be a group of numbered popsicle sticks. Okay, WAY less intimidating than having to remember how to count to 108 without losing your place.. all the work would be moving sticks all while flowing through the same movements over and over… and over and over… again. Ready, set, start.
At first I felt really strong. We did the first couple together and right away I connected with my breath and fell into the rhythm of the music. Even as we took over to go at our own pace, I felt confident that I could do maybe at least half… then the mind games took over. There were 14 popsicle sticks in front of me, numbered once at the top (1-14) and then again at the bottom (15-27)… we would each stick twice to complete one set… 4 sets of 27 and we would be at the magic number 108.
The first two sets went by fairly quickly, it was a little harder to lower down into chatarunga than it was to begin with, but I felt strong and like I was accomplishing something. Not only is this a physical practice, but its emotionally and spiritually moving as you think about what you’re working through/working towards. The winter solstice signifies the darkest day of the year and a turning point in the seasons so that we are now in “Winter”. As someone who has long struggled with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) the sun not making much of an appearance is a real struggle. The energy this challenge brought to me was awesome and a great time to reflect on the fact that wherever you’re at in life, good or bad, nothing stays this way.
The third set was certainly the most challenging. I was sinking back into child’s pose every few sun sal’s to catch my breath and felt like I really wouldn’t be able to finish. We were all having light hearted conversation during the time which helped keep our minds off the burning in our shoulders and legs… but 108 is a big number. By the fourth set however I felt a sense of empowerment that can only come from the brink of certain death. Kela reminded us of our modifications and to not sacrifice my form.. I quickly dropped to my knees for the “lower down Chatarunga” portion and utilized child’s pose when necessary. I reminded myself that yoga is not only a physical workout, but a full body and mind experience.
the 108 Sun Saluatations Challenge is something I would recommend to anyone! Its a CHALLENGE, but the more you’ve done your homework (aka practiced) the easier it will get, and I can’t wait until next time to see how different my body feels. After completing the challenge I felt refocused and like I could conquer whatever life (or yoga) throws at me. This is all so temporary- experience as much as you can and be in the moment– even if its a struggle at the time, its an amazing experience! Merry Christmas!!