Daily: Sun Salutations in January

Daily is a powerful practice. Over the month of January, I’ve certainly experienced this… again.

Last year our friends R & A got us started on a challenge of doing 1008 sun salutations each during the month of January. Not all 1008 at a stretch, but over the whole month. January is the month of uttarayana. It is said that the benefits of doing sun salutations are amplified manifold during this period. Shraddha and I are no strangers to sun salutations; we teach this simple and powerful yoga practice in our Yesplus courses. We embraced the challenge, diligently set about doing sun salutations each day, and kept track in a shared Google spreadsheet.

Sun salutations (surya namaskars) are a sequence of yoga postures that have an array of benefits for the body and mind. My yoga teacher, Shriram Sarvotham, has written a post titled Sun Salutation on his blog where he goes into some depth on the topic. The practice is very enlivening. Here’s a video of Shriram doing sun salutations. My sun salutations don’t look half as good as his. Just watching him doing the practice is a treat. Watch and see what I mean:

This year (2013), we decided to share this challenge with several others in the Austin Art of Living family, and some sixteen people joined in. The challenge was the same as last year — complete 1008 sun salutations during the month of January.

The count of 1008 was set as a stretch goal. For some, this number wasn’t even a serious challenge. For others it was a daunting goal. No matter. The primary instruction was: listen to your body. Everyone got started, did what they could, kept track in the shared spreadsheet, and had a good time.

A shared Google spreadsheet was the medium of our communication. Each day we would enter our counts in it, and we would get to see see how the others were doing. I’d like to think that we were inspiring each other along. The more competitive-minded among us would keep a close watch on the others so as not to get left behind, and were clearly gunning to complete the 1008. Some others were not so goal-oriented, and didn’t care for the count as much as for the joy of the practice. Our personalities and lifestyles were reflected well in the sheet. Some had steady unwavering counts for every day of the month; others did rounds in fits and starts, and consequently did many rounds on some days to “catch up”. Shriram joined us in recording his counts in this sheet, and needless to say his column reflected steady, unwavering, daily practice. 🙂

Every day for me started out the same, with standing at the forward of the edge of my mat with palms pressed together in pranaam, taking a deep breath in, and beginning the sequence. On some days my practice was an invigorating dance that got me sweating as the count crept past a dozen. On some days it was a deep meditative space where it was all I could do to keep my body going without slipping completely inward into a standstill. Some days I was aware of fatigue slowing me down. Knowing that I had to do this all over again in 24 hours, I certainly took care not to over-exert myself.

Altogether it was quite an amazing practice. Several of us did get to the 1008 goal, and some of us fell shy of it but still did several hundred sun salutations in the process. A few people did over 100 on some of their catch-up days! See the screenshot of our spreadsheet below. 🙂

Daily is indeed powerful, as I was reminded in January in more ways than one. Another extremely powerful daily ritual for me is the practice of sudarshan kriya which I’ve been fortunate enough to keep up for several years now. Daily kriya practice is a potent method of bringing about stability and steadiness to the rhythms of the mind and body, and to enable deep experiences of meditation and mindfulness.

If you have other daily practices to share, please do so in the comments.

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