Happy New Year! 2017 is almost upon us!
Celestial, important dates and celebrations are often celebrated and honored in the yoga world with the practice of 108 Sun Salutations! This meditation of movement provides an opportunity for practitioners to to move through a consistent series of sun salutations (or surya namaskar) to evoke an energetic flow, which through its practice suspends one’s conscious daily state to an altered or exalted state. Through sharing this practice in community, yogis are supported by one another; thus strengthening the benefits and feelings of connectedness. The 108 salutations are a series of simple repetitive movements.
The number 108 is a very important number in many religions. For Sun salutations 108 is often broken into 9 rounds of 12 salutations or 12 rounds of 9. Either way you wish to break it down one may need markers to keep count for oneself and for motivation for participants. Some use a chart cared for by an assistant. Some may set up bowls with marbles or chips which are transferred from one large bowl to another large bowl or to 12 bowls to mark the rounds.at the end of each asana series.
The chaturanga is an integral part of many sun salutations (Image 1). Chaturangas are used to transition between asana to asana and to warm up the body towards the beginning of practice. Because they are so often practiced in flow and hatha classes, practitioners are familiar with the flow and can use it meditatively without much memorization. However, repeating 108 chaturangas may not be ideal for many practitioners’ shoulders. Following a flow in community feels so beautiful, yet when a practitioner takes on a much stronger and longer repetitions of a particular activity than usual, there is a risk of creating an injury form over-use. This happened to me when I was part of a 108 salutation blessing. Although I knew to skip a few, I was not physically prepared for the 108 chaturangas.
In a typical flow vinyasa class, if begun with Sun A and/or Sun B, a practitioner may begin with 8 or so chaturangas towards the beginning of class and possibly 8 more throughout a flow class.
That means about a practitioner may perform up to 12-16 chaturangas in a power or vinyasa flow class. Many of our yoga students take 2-3 classes per week and if you do the math, you will notice that their shoulders may not be ready to sustain 108 chaturangas in a single 2 hour practice. Thus yoga teachers should provide modiications & substitutions to prevent injury and to keep students safe. The teacher leading the 108 Sun Salutations can provide a simple demonstration of a few at the beginning of the session as well as add a few more demonstrations during the series identifying specific substitutions which the instructor feels would benefit the students at that time.
I’ve created a list of modifications and additions that you can use through my observation and experimentation with 108 Sun Salutations and chaturangas in general. This is in no way a complete list, but that is the beauty of yoga. You can modify a 108 Sun Salutation practice anyway you want!
Intermediate to Advanced Poses
Add these poses to spice up your 108 Sun Salutations. Make sure you are familiar with the class level so that no one feels left out if the pose is only accessible to more experienced practitioners.
- handstand kick-ups
- chin stand
- drop back to wheel ( safe recovery)
Beginning to Intermediate
These are great modifications for slightly amping up your chaturangas or bringing them to a more gentle state when your body says “I need a break!” As always, feel free to add a child’s pose/balasana when your body needs that break.
- knee-chest-chin to upward dog
- bhujangasana or low cobra
- extended hold plank
- extended hold forearm plank
- forearm plank to childs pose
- alternate side planks
- dhanurasana (floor bow)
- camel or ustrasana – from downward dog, drop the knees & come into camel
- table top
- table top variation cat/cow
- table top variation – extend alternate legs or leg & arm
- chair or utkatasana & chair twists
- boat pose – move from chair into boat pose
- cobra or locust
- standing rag doll (forward fold with knees slightly bent and opposite hand to opposite elbow)
- extended downward dog (three legged dog)
- puppy dog pose or anahatasana
- child’s pose or balasana
Some teachers introduce themes w/ a group of rounds, This is optional and open to personal expression. My idea is to use 12 rounds of 9. series. I would present the first 4 rounds of 9 (36) practiced for oneself..The next 4 rounds of nine ( 36) would be a practice to be for our communities’ benefit and unity. The final 4 rounds of nine (36) for connection, benefit and blessings throughout our world, reaching out towards the universe.
I offer these modifications and substitutions to our yoga community to share for use in any salutation celebration as well as in classes to support safe, healthy movement practices for our yoga community. May the beauty and blessings of the holiday season spread to all through our yoga celebrations![Photo by Adam Carroll | CC BY]
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