Winter Solstice 108 Sun Salutations

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Its been a strange season leading up to this midwinter point from the last days of autumn, and being away from the festive hubbub of civilisation in our little woodland hideaway has really highlighted to me the need to celebrate and put up the twinkly lights at this time of year. So this morning, on the winter solstice, to mark the darkest day and the standing sun, we completed a practice of 108 Sun Salutations to celebrate and connect to this turning point in the earth's yearly cycle. 

It's not an easy practice, in fact its pretty painful towards the end (I headbutted the mat at least twice as my arms gave out lowering down onto my belly...) but it provides a unique space in which to consolidate whats gone before and lay the foundations for whats to come. 

We've only done a 108 sun salutation practice once before and that was at a yoga studio and led by someone else, so we had to find a way to count each round without losing track-god forbid we do too many! So with a bit of research we happened upon a bead counting method where you have two bowls, one filled with 108 beads (dried borlotti beans in our case) and every time you start a round by bending forward you take a bean and transfer it to the other bowl. 

Bean Bowls...

Bean Bowls...

As we got going, the bowls of beans came to represent more than just a counting method. I often think about how everything is always incremental, there's no such thing as zero to hero, whatever it is, it always comes in small steps and usually with some amount of hard slog involved. And so I was reminded of this as I continued through the practice, the momentum growing, the breath flowing until the movements started to happen unconsciously allowing me the space to reflect on the last year and all the things that have passed to bring us to this point.   

Another thing that can happen in this practice is a kind of burning up of all the stuff you want to get rid of. I visualise it like an internal fire where you can throw on all the crapola you've been carrying around-expectation, disappointment, regret and render it all to ashes. In yogic philosophy the word Tapas meaning 'austerity' or 'discipline' -the very thing you need to keep going through all those rounds of Sun Sautes has its root in the Sankrit verb 'tap' to burn. The number 108 has many different significant meanings in Vedic & Yogic philosophy, one of which is that there are said to be 108 of each Desires, Lies & Delusions that us mortals tell ourselves. Time to surrender all that stuff into the fire!

Before I knew it the beans in the original bowl were fewer than in the other and with my wobbly arms holding out until the end we finished our practice to sit quietly in meditation. We were, of course, almost immediately besieged by the dog to stop messing about inside and come out to play.

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So we move into the festive season a little lighter and hopefully without too many aches in the morning...

Happy Winter Solstice ॐ

Lucy Howell