Happy Summer Solstice! Saturday, June 20th is the the longest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere, with approximately 17 hours of daylight. The word "solstice" comes from the Latin solstitium, which means "sun stands still".
For centuries, people observed this this day as an opportunity to leave the dark and move into the light.
Many yogis love to do 108 Sun Salutations to celebrate the solstice, considering it to be a reverent opportunity.
Why 108? There are a number of interpretations about the significance of 108 in yogic philosophy:
Our bodies have 108 marma, or vital energy, points.
There are 108 Upanishads, or concepts, in ancient Hindu texts.
India has 108 sacred sites, known as pithas.
If you use mala beads to meditate or recite mantra, there are 108 beads connected to a "guru bead".
Additionally, science indicates that the average distance of Earth to the sun and moon is 108 times their respective diameters. So yogis love to gather together on the summer solstice for a yoga mala as a ritualistic way to observe life and use the shifting season to set new goals. Many advanced yogis can complete 108 Sun Salutations in less than an hour, even with breaks, depending on the type of sequencing--a Sun Salutation can be 6-10 poses--and the breaths in each pose, which are shorter, since the poses aren't held for long.
When I've held this special event in classes, I've found people appreciate a slower pace of 108 Sun Salutations in just under two hours' time. A yoga mala celebration might also be held on the equinoxes and the Winter Solstice. Your practice allows for freedom of exploration, so consider joining a yoga mala or creating one of your own, or picking a day this week to set clear intentions and move through 108 Sun Salutations in one session. If you need to take a break, slip into Child's Pose, and resume in Downward Dog. You might be surprised by the energy and clarity experienced in this session! 1. Set up in a comfortable place.
2. What you need: plenty of water, a mat towel, and 5 stones/pennies/toothpicks/some other small item to help you count. Maybe some hard candy or gum if your mouth gets dry.
3. Remember, this is your practice. Take it as slow or fast as you like. I'll tell you this-- once you complete 50 Sun Salutations, you'll likely be able to do 75 or 108. The last 25 of whatever goal you choose will be the most challenging, but you can do it!
4. Use your little items to help you count by 5 so you can keep track.
5. Form might fall away--that's okay--but keep track of your breath! That will help your energy.
6. Remember: you'll alternate sides each salutation. So step back and forward with your right foot one pass, then switch to left foot for the next salutation, and back and forth like this.
However many you choose to do, it's still going to be an amazing practice, so give it a try!
Here are two pictures to help you do either a Chair Yoga version or a Mat Yoga version. You already know how your breath should work--these photos are just a guide for the salutation flow.
(Images courtesy of the Omega Institute, YogaRu, and YogaQuota)