June 21st is International Yoga Day with some very official and many other casual celebrations happening across the globe with the aim to raise awareness worldwide on the many benefits of practicing yoga.
And if that alone wasn’t enough to make June 21st extra special… it is also the Summer Solstice. A time of honoring the earth and the sun’s blessing of warmth and light. A marking point half way through the year, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky offering us the longest day and shortest night. A time of change and transition where everything is in full bloom.
Taking the opportunity of International Yoga Day, many yogis eager to celebrate the Summer Solstice will be practicing 108 Sun Salutations (aka Surya Namaskar in Sanskrit). Holly guacamole I hear you say? Well my friend, there are very good reasons to embark on this challenge and I tell you why!
108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga even if the number’s significance is open to interpretation.
- 108 upanishads comprising Indian philosophy’s vedic texts
- 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India
- 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body in ayurveda
- 108 of names for Shiva; also true for Buddha
- 108 beads on a Jala Mala used for recitations of prayers, mantras and chants
- 108 forms in the Sanskrit alphabet, where each one of the 54 letters has a masculine (shiva) and feminine (shakti)
… And the list goes on and on and on….
The benefits of Sun Salutations (or Suns as yogis call them)
- Suns are simple and accessible to all-levels yogis with modifications.
- Suns energize the body, progressively increasing the heart rate, improving blood circulation. It is a nice cardiovascular exercise.
- Suns bring strength, flexibility, and tone to the body. Practiced regularly, they open the hamstrings, shoulders, and the chest, as well as release tension.
- Suns increase the vital energy of prana in the body, which helps remove energy blockages.
- Suns create a bridge between the body, the breath and the mind and allow for a slow moving meditation.
Putting the pieces together
A sun salutation is a gesture of respect and acknowledgement to the sun as well as an opportunity to salute any area of life for which we are grateful. Big or small.
It is believed that the fire (internal heat) that we build during this intense practice is cleansing, detoxifying, and gets us more in touch with ourselves. Through repetition, we find a state of ease, a sense of flow. We welcome what arises emotionally, and then let it go. It leaves us warm, light, in full bloom and in perfect harmony with the energy of the Summer Solstice.
And because we are not all yoga aficionados
If 108 suns is not a challenge for you or if you can’t make it to your mat on June 21st, don’t worry. You can do any amount of Suns, anywhere, anytime you need to add a little yoga goodness into your life.
Happy International Yoga Day. Happy Summer Solstice. Happy Practice.