One hundred and eight
A single sun salutation consists of twelve positions. Normally you would do this sequence three to twelve times. Completing 108 sun salutations is a specific goal of the yoga teacher training. It takes about 40-45 minutes. That is about the same time as running 10 kilometer. (For Maggie: 1 mile = 1.6 kilometer)
108 is a special number: it is the number of beads of a prayer lace (mala). Doing 108 sun salutations leads, according to our study book, to purification. Our book also says that 108 rounds may only be undertaken under the guidance of a competent teacher. Under those guidelines, we were accompanied by Dr. Chintamani. He had studied at yoga university, hence the doctors title. He has a yoga centre in Bhaktapur, on the other side of Kathmandu. Bhaktapur is situated about eight kilometers from our location. It takes at least one hour to get there, by car or motor. However compared to the Netherlands, distances here are different. The roads already aren’t in the best condition, so add to that the large hills and mountains, and you have something completely different from the flat, organised, structure of my home.
The first four sun salutations are performed at an easy pace. During the first sun salutation we acknowledge the sun as a giver of life, through the recitation of a mantra. Our teacher sings a separate mantra with every position, in continuation of the salutation. The last, yet most ambiguous statement of the mantra is, ‘salutations to he who leads to enlightenment’. Three sun salutations follow during which we focus on a perfect execution of every position.
The next one hundred sun salutations are performed in sets of ten rounds [1 round = 12 postures]. After every ten rounds we get a few seconds to breath and/or walk around the studio. The positions are quickly flowing from one to another. Every second round is done at a high pace. After thirty sun salutations, drops of sweat are beginning to itch in my hair. I am thinking about a running race: after three kilometers I would be breaking a sweat. I see Maggie’s [honourable mention] back at the yoga mat besides me glistening with sweat. If I am going to reach enlightenment, it would be by saluting the sun. I love the combination of flow and power, it is a perfect work-out. The teacher is keeps Maggie and I in the same rhythm, by counting from one to twelve during the sun salutations. When I reach my head up during the cobra pose, I notice that the teacher is keeping count of the number of sun salutations that we have completed. I smile while reminiscing about my races, when I look forward to the next sign indicating that I had finished another kilometer. Now, I find myself looking forward to the words of Chintamani, telling us that we are finally at the last round of every ten rounds.
Are we going to make it???
After six rounds, Chintamani asks us how we are doing. Do we want to keep going? Maggie and I look at each other with a big smile on our faces. Of course we want to continue, we passed half way point! We fly through the last forty sun salutations: we are going to make it! After ten sets of ten rounds, only four sun salutations remain. Chintamani speeds up his counting during the last four sun salutations. We are sprinting to the finish. After this final sprint, we slowly complete one more round of sun salutations, like the slowing steps just after the finish. At a easy pace, we stretch ourselves thoroughly in each pose. Maggie and I smile at each other: WE DID IT! After the finish we are not getting a medal, but (according to our study book), we are rewarded with purification! I do not know what that means yet, but we are both full of joy when we step outside the yoga space into the bright sun. Hello sun! Our lunch, sweet potatoes instead of rice (because of some sort of holiday, I have lost count at this point) is getting served at the sunny terrace. This meal tastes extra sweet after this achievement! 🙂