It’s June 21st- Summer Solstice or as it will now also be known thanks to a world wide UN based initiative from the Prime Minister of India- ‘World Yoga Day’. Being in Rishikesh, India, the ‘world capital of yoga’ there is no better a place to celebrate. The sun is just rising for it’s solstice as we gather outside the Rishikul Yogshala building. Buzzing with energy we are used to the early morning wake up call due to being half way through a yoga teacher training course.
I join the 45 Yoga teacher training students all dressed in white as we are accompanied by our respected teachers and gurus along with enthusiastic local school children. Ready and eager we set off to take a silent mindful walk through the normally busy streets of Rishikesh to promote harmony and peace through the health benefits of yoga.
The walk takes us past many onlookers, over the iconic Rham Jhula bridge as we practice our meditative walking in union. After an hour we arrive at our destination on the Ganaga beach, marked with flags of all colors after a short breather from our walk we roll out our mats in rows of sevens ready for the instructions from Hatha Master Yogi Prashant to perform 108 rounds of Surya Namaskara.
‘Surya Namaskar’ or ‘Sun Salutations’ are a dynamic sequence of asanas. The Sanskrit word ‘Namaskar’ stems from ‘Namas’, which means “to bow to” or “to adore”. So literally translated it means “Salute To The Sun”.
I had recently read this article on the Significance Of The Number 108 in this piece on Elephant Journal and willing and ready to give myself to the practice with devotion, feeling and my full attention.
Prashant leads us in a Mantra to start our practice, enhance energy and ground us to the Ganga sands beneath our feet.
We take to our mats to perform the first round. The burning heat of the Indian summer sun was obscured by some rain clouds that looked threatening but thankfully held off.
And we begin:
THREE RIGHT LEG INHALE
FOUR DOWN TO EIGHT LIMBS
FIVE INHALE TO THE MOUNTAIN
SIX EXHALE RIGHT LEG
It’s at this point that it occurs to me that 108 is a lot of inhaling and exhaling, the sun is getting stronger, a cow walks past the left of me and plonks himself down in the middle of our session, there are street dogs sniffing at mats, thinking they look a nice place to continue their nap. Crowds of Indian tourists start to form, wondering what this spectacular of foreigners performing yoga is all about. There are splashes from children taking there morning dip in the Ganga.
Inhale, exhale, inhale.
Prashant counts us down at intervals of 12 we stop for a rest, standing observing the breathe, being present in that moment only, taking in the energy from our fellow classmates. Taking a deep breathe we swung our arms up to the sun, swung our legs back to the mountain and back up again, 108 times, inhaling, exhaling, spreading the word of yoga its benefits for the body mind and soul across the world.
Standing on the banks of the holy mother Ganga, a truly spiritual ritual, we are honored to be there, saluting the sun, taking in the energy and life force that this holy river represents.
“Inhale, exhale, ONE-HUNDRED-AND EIGHT”
A cheer is let out when we reach the end, we move our mats closer to each other and lay in Savasansa for a meditation. The cows and dogs join in, the Indian tourists leave us to it. We move to be closer to the river to meditate with the holy Ganga and absorb its energy. Slowly one by one we take a much needed cold dip in the murky holy waters, it is cold and refreshing.
Our souls have found peace and harmony together in the name of yoga, we did it, we took 108 sun salutations, we untied with the world through yoga, an art that we have all gathered to learn in the world capital of yoga.
This evening we will join together once again to perform a Satsang in this spiritual town, on a day devoted to yoga.