“Stay in the center of the circle and let all things take their course.” -Lao Tzu
Happy Summer! Happy International Day of Yoga! Happy Wednesday!
The Summer Solstice occurred yesterday, June 20th at 11:23 CST. Many people are celebrating the first official day of summer today, June 21st. Regardless, both yesterday and today have the longest daylight hours of the year. It is a time of passion, creativity and gratitude. It is a time to reconnect with our fire side, yang side, and let our light shine brightly. It is a time to cultivate the seeds we planted in the spring and allow our goals to bear fruit. It is time to celebrate!
For the past 5 years in my yoga practice, I have been celebrating the quarterly milestones of the year with 108 Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar). This includes the summer solstice, fall equinox, winter solstice and spring equinox. I have often gathered a group of yogis together for a donation or dedication based practice. I use the yearly cycle to reconnect with the earth, my relationships, my physical body, and my spirituality.
108 is a auspicious number and has appeared all over the world in various religions, spiritual practices and in science. Here are a few of places you can find 108:
-There are 108 beads on a Mala which is used for meditation and counting mantas. The Mala, and variations of, can be found in many eastern religions.
-It is said that once a being reaches enlightenment he/she needs only 108 breaths a day.
-The diameter of the Sun in 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
-The average distance of the Moon to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the moon.
-Human Error: Old yogis would aim to do 100 sun salutations or repetitions during meditation, but instead would do 108 just to make sure they didn’t miss any due to human error while counting. Also, the last 8 can be done as an offering to the gods.
-Religion: In Hinduism there are 108 deities, in Islam the number 108 refers to God, and in Buddhism some Buddhists carve 108 Buddhas on a walnut for good luck.
When I practice 108, I separate my practice into three groups: dedication to self, dedication to others, and dedication to the world. I separate the 108 into 9 malas, or sets of 12. Thus, 3 malas–36 salutations–for each category. I find this dedication allows the practice to be more then just a work out for the body, but rather a work in for the mind and spirit. It makes each movement more profound. It allows me to step outside myself. It centers me as I enter each new season. I remember. I reflect. I pray. How can I be true to myself and living my dharma? How can I be loving, honest and caring in my relationships and with every person I meet? How can I be a responsible global citizen and where do I need to direct my prayers of peace?
This year I practiced solo outside in the sun. I felt the heat on my skin, strength in my bones and fire in my heart. It helped me remember that despite the constant changes, uncertainties and fluctuations that life throws at us, when we are in our dharma path, open to grace and dedicating our lives to something bigger than ourselves we can find peace and purpose.
How can you shine your light this summer? How can you direct your passion, creativity and gratitude to improve your relationship with yourself, others and/or the world?
Peace, love and Namaste,
P.S. There is a ripple going on today in the yoga community about doing #yogicactofkindess on this International Day of Yoga. After my 108 practice, I decided to do something else. This summer, I am challenging myself to do a random act of kindness everyday. I think we find ourselves doing this when we open a door for a stranger, make small talk the elderly at the grocery store, or stop for pedestrians in the car. However, I want to set an intention and make it a daily practice. I want to be aware of my actions and interactions. With all the suffering, terror and fear that is going on in the world, I want to start acting on a local level to promote kindness, peace and love. Perhaps this light will eventually spread and start to shine at the global level. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti!