Exercise more. Eat healthier. Lose weight. Get out of debt. Whether you’ve chosen one of these popular New Year’s resolutions, or something a little more personal (some of my favorites that I’ve heard this year are to see more live music and have more sex), yoga can help you make it a reality.
One of the personal ethics that yoga counsels is called tapas in Sanskrit, which translates as burning desire. Think of how fire burns away impurities and can foster transformation (think coal into diamond). Also, think of friction—when you rub your hand along velvet, for example, you can feel the temperature beneath your hand rising. And that’s what tapas is: it’s the heat that you create when you go against the grain of whatever your typical habits are. And that heat, while uncomfortable, is ultimately purifying.
It’s a long way of saying: whatever you write down on your list of resolutions, you’ve gotta want it. And you’ve got to do something that gets you pumped up about doing things differently.
A great way to turn up the volume on your tapas and to honor the potential that a new year represents is to perform 108 sun salutations—a simple series of yoga poses that are done in synchrony with your breath. The number 108 is auspicious in many cultures for a variety reasons:
- There are 108 beads on a mala, or beaded prayer bracelet, in Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as on a Catholic rosary
- There are 108 holy sites in India
- There are 108 energy points on the body
- The distance between the sun and the moon is 108 times the sun’s diameter, and the distance between the moon and the Earth is 108 times the moon’s diameter
There are more examples of why 108 is a special number, but to me, 108 is significant because it’s a lot, but it’s doable. And it’s interesting: one hundred would be too tidy. That extra eight means you have to stay engaged, you can’t just zone out and count to 100 the way even preschoolers can do.
Doing 108 sun salutations is challenging—I know, because I just completed my own set for the first time in honor of the arrival of 2016. It makes you sweat and breathe heavily, which is detoxifying. It makes you focus. It builds your determination, because it makes you want to run away. But it also generates a ton of energy—energy you can then use to start making different choices in your life.
I broke my 108 up—I started with a very simple sun salute, just reaching up and bending down with no stepping back into down dog.
After 27 of those (1/4 of 108), I added a plank and a down dog for a more robust version of the sun salute.
After 27 of those, I added in a modification of the classic plank-chaturanga-up-dog sequence. I ended up sticking with those until I got to 100.
Then, for the last eight I did a full-blown sun salutation that includes Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 on both sides for each repetition.
And then, I rested! In a nice, long corpse pose. And felt the energy percolate through my body. And thanked myself for putting in the effort.
All told, it took a little under 90 minutes. I’ll keep you posted on the changes those 90 minutes help create in the weeks and months to come. 😉
Have you ever done 108 sun salutations before? Or, will you try it this year for the first time? Or, do you have another way to get yourself fired up for a new beginning? I’d love to hear about all of it, either on the Acacia Facebook page or on Twitter (I’m @KateHan).