My Favorite Practices
Over the years, I’ve discovered a few “go to” practices that I do on my own at home, or weave into my public classes. One very special one is a yoga mala, 108 consecutive sun salutations.
A yoga mala is traditionally a ritual practice to mark a significant transition - from one season to another, to close a chapter or open a new one.
The number itself has been given much cultural significance through its many manifestations. Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu malas are made of 108 beads, used to to count repetitions of a mantra in meditation. There are 108 sacred sites in India, created, according to myth, by Lord Shiva and one incarnation of Shakti. There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, each with masculine and feminine forms, representing Shiva and Shakti.
Buddhists recognize 108 auspicious illustrations believed to be found on the foot of the Buddha. The Wu tradition of Tai Chi is made of 108 slow, concentrated movements to promote strength, agility, and focus. Then there’s the calculation that the sun is 108 times the diameter of the earth, and the reading of 1 = God or higher Truth, 0 = emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 = infinity or eternity.
Even without adhering to any of the particular readings above, I have found that practicing 108 repetitions is incredibly gratifying, and challenging. You have to work to get to 108, whether it’s a mantra, a step, or a sun salutation. The first couple of times I did the practice, I didn’t think I’d make it through to the end. But I did. I may have rested once or twice.
Since then, I have fallen madly in love with the practice. For me, it’s a meditation in motion, and I most enjoy flowing through the full 108 without pausing. It’s a beautiful progression - from the first few, stiff, rounds, through the fire like energy of the next thirty or so. There’s a steady rhythm of the middle third, and then the push through the last twenty or so. On the other side - bliss. I am changed by the end of it. Clean and clear, centered, full of prana, qi, life force, vitality.
When I’m really happy, I pass on a public class and do 108 sun salutations at home.
When I’m really stressed or need to get out of a funk, I pass on public class and do 108 sun salutations at home.
And then there are the times I get to practice with you! Practicing this ritual in community is such a powerfully beautiful experience. Every New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, I lead a mala at Yogaraj. Sometimes we pause here and there, sometimes we don’t, but we all get to the other side, and we are all transformed by the end.
I’ve also led malas at the Spring and Fall Equinox or the Summer Solstice at different studios. If you can’t wait until the turn of the year, let me know and I’ll see if we can make it happen.