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Stretching limits on Summer Solstice


July 04, 2018
It's the longest day of the year and I'm calling out a long series of cues to the brave individuals who've showed up for the challenge.

"Inhale arms up, look up," I say. "Exhale forward fold. Inhale peek up halfway. Exhale plant your hands. Step your right foot back, left foot back, high plank to low. Inhale Up Dog, exhale Down Dog. Inhale peek up at the hands, step your right foot up, left foot up, exhale forward fold. Inhale sweep the arms up. Exhale palms together, hands at heart center. Arms down at your sides, close the pose."

There are six of us in this room, and with each movement cued, the bond grows stronger. And so do we, one breath at a time.

The challenge is what I lovingly call 'The Great 108.' It's the yogic tradition of performing 108 Sun Salutations—(Surya Namaskar in Sanskrit) to welcome in the change of seasons. This includes the Winter and Summer Solstice, and the Spring and Fall Equinox. There are 11 movements in just one Sun Salutation, and we're on our way to repeating those 11 movements 108 times. Yes. One. Hundred. And. Eight. Times.

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Why 108?

Here's what yoga expert Shiva Rea says in a Yoga Journal interview:

The number's significance is open to interpretation. But 108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga. Traditionally, malas, or garlands of prayer beads, come as a string of 108 beads (plus one for the "guru bead," around which the other 108 beads turn like the planets around the sun). A mala is used for counting as you repeat a mantra—much like the Catholic rosary.

Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. Such phenomena have given rise to many examples of ritual significance.

According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India. And there are also 108 Upanishads and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body.

Interestingly enough, as we progress through sets of ten, I think we're feeling each and every one of those 108 sacred places, if you know what I'm saying here.

Sweat beads on our foreheads as we breathe and move, the upbeat music fueling the energy in the room. It seems the more we move, the more we want to move—everyone's finding their Zen in the moment. Everyone surprising themselves with the rush that comes from rising to a challenge; from testing what you're made of; from wanting to quit but pressing ahead; from digging deep inside yourself and giving all you've got.

As we reach the 8th round, the jokes become more frequent. Light hearts and strong minds blend together and find their expression with every single movement. At the end, it feels like we're family.

This is The Great 108. Surprising yourself on your yoga mat. Knowing that you're capable of anything you want to do, at any age or stage in life. Stepping out of the comfort zone and finding out it's not a bad thing at all.

When it's over, I feel like a new person. And I realize the only thing greater than The Great 108 are those who dare to walk the path toward them. Namaste, Big Time, Kathy, Margie, Kim, Cindy and David! Peaceful Warriors, all!

Email Catherine at cminolli@pageone-inc.com

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
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