Ritual, Meditation, Solstice, Birthday, Day-to-Day Fitness

Several years ago, I started the practice of completing 108 Sun Salutations (asanas) at the change of seasons. The first time I practiced it was with a group at a local yoga studio for the Summer Solstice.

a woman in black tank top raising her hands
A white woman standing on grass, in a black tank top, long, curly, brown hair, arms reached overhead as if she is about to start a Sun Salutation or has just finished one and bringing her hands to prayer position.

Doing 108 Sun Salutations worked for me right away. I enjoy yoga and have practiced it, here and there, for many years. I wouldn’t call myself a yogi, but I do it enough that I can say it’s part of my regular practice. On the list of types of fitness I employ regularly, it is probably 3rd or 4th on the list. It gets done, but after I’ve gotten my run or my strength workout in. I am not always adept at the more advanced movements of yoga. For example, arm balancing and headstands (I blame the arm balancing woes on my hips that will not allow my knee to rest properly on my arm) but doing 108 Sun Salutations is firmly in my wheelhouse. I am good at push-ups and part of the vinyasa in a sun salutation involves a form of push-up. I enjoy doing repetitive, meditative motions. Long distance running works for me, for the same reason. Long distance running becomes a repetitive, meditative motion that applies balm to my, sometimes, worrying, anxious, over-thinking, lonely (in the past), angry, excited, human brain. Same goes for bread baking and pasta making (I really should do more of that).

There are a number of reasons that yogis practice 108 Sun Salutations at the change of seasons. A basic description is “Practicing 108 Sun Salutations is a meditative practice that connects the body, the mind, and the universe specifically when nature is undergoing a change. And coupled with this change in nature, yogis can start once again, fresh, renewed and inspired.”

Here’s a handy “vinyasa breakdown” for those not familiar with it. The vinyasa forms part of the Sun Salutation. This chart provides both modified and traditional parts of the vinyasa:

A white woman in a red tank top and black 3/4 tights, brown hair tied back in a ponytail, goes through portions of a vinyasa on a black yoga mat.

At the start of each 108 Sun Salutation attempt, I think of words I want to carry me through the process, perhaps the season ahead. When I started the practice this year, on June 21st at about 6:30 am, I thought “Pleasure. Health.” 

108 Sun Salutations often starts off a bit clunky feeling. Your body/mind is remembering the flow of bending forward, choosing a leg to go backwards first, lowering to the ground, rising in “up dog” and then flowing back to a down dog and deciding if you will step forward or jump forward.

This time was no different. It didn’t help that I also had a piece of paper at the head of my mat to check off 108 down dogs 108 (12 sets x 9) and was sorting out the best place to keep it, when to check it off in the vinyasa, without disrupting the flow.

The thing about doing 108 Sun Salutations, is that within a few vinyasas, your mind/body connection takes over and figures it out. At this point, I was in flow. The words of “Pleasure. Health” were still there, but other words such as, “Curiosity” and “Patience” emerged. I also started jumping forward about a 1/3 of the way in, which is not my natural inclination, but felt good, this time.

To me, this is where the gold lies. Whether it’s a long run or a set of 108 Sun Salutations, I may have intentions or ideas of what I want to focus on, but the meditative state allows my subconscious to bring out other areas that I may want to contemplate.

These words or mantras that form part of my inspired mind/body connection during movement practices, follow me though out my day(s).

Where can I use Patience in my day, with myself, with others, with work, with goals?

Where can I use the idea of Curiosity with my day, with myself, with others, with work, with goals?

Who doesn’t want good health for themselves and others? Who doesn’t want a pleasurable year ahead? But – what I might also really want to focus on is – Patience and Curiosity.

It just so happens that the Summer Solstice is 2 days before my birthday. Birthdays are another time for contemplation. The combination of the Solstice practice and my birthday offer me an opportunity to consider things that have passed and, potentially, what may be to come. To me the best reason to consider these things is to use the lessons to help be a better person, wife, friend, co-worker, etc. The contemplation and lessons are also there in my daily workouts and part of the reason fitness is so integral to my mental health, but, a yearly reminder is welcome to me.

This is what I know, on the week I turn 51:

  1. Career transitions are worthwhile;
  2. Acknowledging feelings relating to the subtle changes of a new “stage” of life is healthy;
  3. Despair is an emotion that becomes more present with age, whether it’s connected to anything real or, perhaps, residue from things bigger in worldview;
  4. The above comment sounds more serious than it’s meant to. It’s a recognition of these emotions, not something overwhelming or focussed on; and
  5. Continuing to use practices that are meaningful to me, such as completing 108 Sun Salutations or going for a long run or pushing that iron, is valuable for me because these practices provide inspiration for how to “be” in day-to-day life.

As another year around the sun passes for me, I am grateful for my regular fitness practices. As I say almost every time I run “I Am. I Can. I Will. I Do. Envision. Thank You.”

Nicole P. is grateful for another trip around the sun and looking forward to a year ahead of more fitness adventures, perhaps with some curiosity and patience involved.

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