In welcoming Spring, my local yoga center had a "Spring Equinox Sun Salutation" event; a class where the purpose was to complete 108 full variations of a Sun Salutation.
If you aren't sure what a sun salutation is, you can watch my (mildly embarrassing) YouTube portrayal of two full, traditional, Sun Salutation A's below. Obvious side note: the video is sped up - please stay for a full breath in each posture throughout the salutation!
The class was a fun and challenging mix of both sun and moon salutations. Being such a literal human being, I had mentally prepared for 108 A's (like in the video) and accepted what my arms would feel like after 108 proper chaturanga dandasanas. I was pleasantly surprised to have more of a lower body experience, moving through moon salutations full of goddess squats and Warrior's, giving plenty of love to my hips and hamstrings.
I left class feeling energized and balanced, more ready than ever for actual Spring weather to arrive. This isn't reality, of course, due to my geographic location - but I began to reflect on why I went to the 108 Sun Salutation challenge to begin with.
In the practice of yoga, there is a beautiful and balanced relationship between maintaining control and surrendering it. Throughout my yoga life, I've never actually completed a "challenge" like this. Sure, a 90 minute power yoga class in a 92 degree room is most definitely a challenge, but the thought of devoting myself to a practice of strictly sun salutations had always seemed monotonous - which is exactly what pushed me to sign up for the class.
There is a lot of physical work that goes into a yoga practice, but most of the work happens in our head. Our thoughts dictate the direction of our practice. Traditionally, one's yoga practice serves as a place to let thoughts come and go without focus by giving attention to breath through movement. Throughout the repetition of salutations, I caught my negative thoughts creeping in: Another squat sequence? I cannot physically squat one more time. Oh no - chair pose? My thighs are already toast.
Rather than giving attention to these impermanent thoughts, focus was brought back to my breath: a place of consistency and surrender. I reminded myself that I came to the class because I wanted to face repetitive thinking - to meet a challenge head on and come out on top. So that the next time I'm stuck, I can remember what it's like to acknowledge impermanence and persevere. A big lesson for a 90 minute practice.
I encourage everyone to find their own 108 challenge. What intimidates you? How can you safely and effectively overcome your intimidation? How are you going to feel once you've done it?
More info on the significance of 108 in yoga here.