Doing 108 sun salutations is a strong and powerful experience that will leave you feeling rejuvenated, alive and forever changed. This is because you will no doubt feel extremely proud of yourself, but also connected to the people to whom you have dedicated this practice and experience.
WHAT IS A SUN SALUTE?
A sun salutation (or Surya Namaskar) is a sequence of yoga postures that are done in connection with your breath. There are many variations of Surya Namaskar, as there are various styles of yoga. In ancient times a sun salute was traditionally done at sunrise facing the rising sun and giving thanks for all that the sun provides to us on earth – warmth, life, growth and prosperity. It is a physically strong practice that will challenge your mind as your body works through the asanas or postures.
THE 108 SUN SALUTATIONS
Getting through 108 sun salutes is not just about you; yes, you will benefit physically, detox your body, challenge yourself, feel focused, committed, stronger and more connected. However, by sending love, gratitude and compassion to someone you feel might be in need of it, you then make this ritual not about physically and mentally getting through 108 but more about how you can channel positive vibes and energy to those that you love. Believe me, doing 108 sun salutes for someone else certainly keeps you going and keeps you inspired when you need it most.
When doing 108 on summer solstice, which in South Africa is on 21 December this year, you are gesturing toward the end of hibernation during winter and welcoming the arrival of summer and season of growth.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR 108?
Build up to it You don’t have to be fi t or a full-time yogi to go through this experience. However, obviously the more ‘yoga fi t’ you are, the easier it is to complete all 108, and the less stiffness you will feel the next day. Start at the beginning of December and do 10 sun salutes every morning to prepare you for the big challenge.
Find a buddy
Doing 108 sun salutes with a friend or team of yogis is much easier than having to go through the challenge on your own. I have done 108 sun salutes with our Bali ladies and even once convinced my whole family to get involved on a holiday to Namibia! It is much more fun to go through the process together.
Get on your mat
Don’t think about it. Just do it! Start one salute at a time.
Count your sun salutes
Gather 11 shells, stones or match sticks. Keep them on the left-hand side at the top of your mat. Every time you finish 10 sun salutes move one shell across to the right at the top of your mat. This way you only have to count up to 10. If you need to, have a quick rest after each 10 sun salutes you do.
‘FOLLOW THE SUN’ YOGA SUN SALUTES
Our Follow the Sun yoga sun salutes are a slight variation of the traditional sun salutes as we bring in stronger postures on the left side sequence. This is in order to balance out our right and left sides of our body and hemispheres of the brain, our masculine and feminine sides, our ying and yang, our sun and moon and so forth. The right side sequence (this side of the body representing our masculine side) is a lot more gentle, and then the left side sequence (representing our feminine side) is stronger, therefore bringing balance and harmony to our body, mind and yoga practice.
How to do ‘Follow the Sun’ yoga sun salutes
Watch our video demonstrating one sun salute so that you can see the order of the sequence. Below you will find a basic description on how to do each of the 12 steps and postures.
Enjoy the process of your 108 sun salutes and remember the reason that you are doing them in the first place – to honour the summer sunshine, share the gift of gratitude and then, in doing so, also building your stamina, strength and feeling your heart expand with happiness, satisfaction and love.
GUIDANCE for the 108
Right side sequence
- Stand at the front of your mat, take a deep breath in and bring your hands to your heart, palms to touch. Take a few deep breaths, lengthen through your body and calm your mind.
- On your next inhale, raise both arms up and above your head, take a slight back bend, open your heart and chest and stretch through the whole front side of your body as you look up.
- As you exhale slowly bend forward from the hips keeping your spine lengthened and arms reaching out in front of you. Bring your hands down to the floor and place them beside your feet, with your fingers in line with your toes. If your hands do not reach the floor then place your hands on your shins.
- Inhale and step your right foot back into a deep lunge. Make sure to keep your left knee above your ankle so as not to put too much pressure on your knee. Keep your hips square to the front of your mat.
- Exhale and step your left foot back to meet your right foot.
- Inhale and work your hips back to your heels before you snake your body down to the floor, belly to the mat, as you exhale.
- Deep breath in and come into Baby Cobra pose, lifting your head, heart, and chest. Gaze in front of you but keep your neck long. Raise your hands off the floor. Squeeze your legs together and push your feet down onto the mat stretching into your legs.
- Breathe out, place your hands in line with your ribs and push yourself into Down Facing Dog pose. Keep your hands shoulder distance apart and feet hip distance apart. Work all four corners of your palms down into the floor, spread your fingers wide, stretch your arms (but make sure you don’t over extend into your elbows), work your shoulders away from your ears, lengthen through your spine, extend hips up towards the sky, stretch legs as much as possible and gently work your heels towards the floor. If your heels don’t touch the floor that is ok, rather focus on keeping your spine straight.
- As you inhale take a big step forward with your right foot, placing your foot between your hands and coming back into your lunge.
- Exhale and step your left foot forward, bringing your feet together, hands back down onto the floor next to your feet and forehead towards your shins.
- Deep breath in, sweep your arms forward and up, and reach all the way up to the sky, or into a gentle back bend.
- Exhale bringing your hands to your heart.
Left side sequence
Next, do the same as above, except this time you step back with your left foot into the lunge, when you step your right foot to meet your left, hold in plank. Then do the following:
- Inhale and hold in plank with your shoulders over your wrists and hips in line with your shoulders, strong core. Exhale into Chaturanga Dandasana – keeping your elbows close to your waist, keeping your shoulders above your wrists (make sure not to drop too far down), keeping your body in one line gaze about a metre in front of you, keeping neck long, keeping thighs and hips off the mat. If this is too strong for you, then lower knees down to the floor.
- Deep breath in and come into Up Facing Dog pose, lifting your head, heart, and chest all the way up and keeping your hips and thighs off the mat. Focus on working your shoulders away from your ears.
- As you exhale keep your hands and feet in the same position, lift from your core and push up, through plank, into Down Facing Dog pose.
- As you inhale take a big step forward with your left foot, placing your foot between your hand and coming back into your lunge, and continue as you did on the right side.