Wednesday, January 05, 2011

108 Sun Salutations: A Perfect Ending and Beginning

I took two yoga mats home with me. Two. Because I was hoping to not only get in plenty of yoga on my own, but also practice my teaching skills on some friends and family. The mats didn't get used nearly as much as I'd planned, but what use they did get was good use.

On Christmas Eve morning, I woke up bright and early, turned up the faux fireplace in my mom's den and unrolled my mat in front of the lit Christmas tree. I practiced for an hour in the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of that morning. It was a beautiful start to my vacation.

I had planned to take a couple of classes at a studio in the area, but one of them ended up being canceled, and I missed the other because I took my nephew ice skating instead. Ice skating itself was a practice in patience and focus, though. I haven't been on skates in years, but it was so much fun to find my footing again and start floating across the ice like I did when I was a kid. We went to a rink that I'd gone to a lot when I was in school. As I skated around and around the ice I couldn't believe all the memories of birthday parties and hanging out with friends that came back to me. I'm pretty sure I was grinning ear-to-ear the entire time I was out there. My nephew, on the other hand, had enough after about 10 minutes and then watched me for the next 45 minutes or so. I could have stayed out there all afternoon, getting surer and surer on the thin blades. I'm not skilled enough to do turns or even skate backwards, but man was I having fun!

Later in the week, I taught a mini yoga class to my stepsister and her girlfriend. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about my teaching style and how I can adjust it for different types of learners. One of them is a visual learner and needed a lot more demonstration, while the other was very good at following my verbal instructions, so I tried to demonstrate more of the poses as I described them, giving them both the tools they needed to benefit from the practice. I also appreciated that they asked a lot of questions. Neither of them have taken yoga before, so they asked about anatomy and benefits of different poses, challenging me to remember all that I've learned during our training weekends and in my studying.

Before I knew it, New Year's Eve had arrived. I woke up early that morning and decided that for the last day of 2010 I wanted to do something challenging. I rolled out my mat in front of that Christmas tree again and set out to complete 108 sun salutations. The last time I completed more than 100 sun salutations was my first teacher training weekend, and it wasn't pretty. I had to take breaks often and was so sore for a week after. I didn't know if I'd be able to get through 108 straight, but I promised myself I'd do as many as I could.

The first 25 were relatively easy. I thought, I'd gotten through almost a quarter of them so maybe 108 was doable after all. By 54, my confidence was starting to wane. My arms were getting Jello-y and I was sweating like crazy. Still, I was half-way there.

At 72, two-thirds of the way to 108, I started to see the sun. There was no way I was quitting at that point. I pushed through to 100, where I paused for a moment at the top of my mat to catch my breath and consider how far I'd come. Just a few months ago, I wasn't able to do even 50 straight sun salutations, much less 100. And there I was, having just finished 100 sun salutations, ready to complete 8 more. For the last 8, I moved slowly, dedicating each series of poses to something different: my family, my friends, my enemies, the earth and all the creatures on it, the universe and all that it holds, my past, my present, and my future.

When I was finished, I stood in silence, stunned by my strength, my perseverance, my dedication. I may or may not have lost count a couple of times, but I found a groove and just kept going, moving with my breath in no hurry to finish. I moved my way through doubt and exhaustion, and ended 2010 stronger than I started it.

How's that for a perfect ending and a new beginning? Whatever 2011 holds, I know I can handle it. And if not, I can always do 108 sun salutations to make myself feel better.

(Photo credit: kevindooley)

This piece was cross-posted at, where I'll be journaling about my experience as I learn to teach yoga (and become a more dedicated yoga student in the process).

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