Last Sunday I took part in a yoga fundraiser for wild animals affected in the Australian bushfires. Around 50 yoga teachers from the Sunshine Coast region came together for a donation practice of 108 sun salutations with all proceeds going to WIRES, who rescue, care for and rehome native animals who have been injured and made homeless.*
The atmosphere was lively and upbeat from the get-go – a great opportunity to catch up with other teachers, connect with new people, and come together for a practice and cause that we’re all passionate about. As you can imagine, it’s pretty hard to keep count of as many as 108 sun salutations, so we were led through them by several different teachers, each taking nine or ten rounds. Although I’ve been practising yoga for around twelve years, I’d never taken part in the 108 before (108 is a significant and sacred number in yoga), and I was intrigued to see how I fared. I developed a few little methods along the way to sustain me – if you’re taking part in a 108 any time soon, I hope they help you too.
- Allow plenty of time. With a good juicy Savasana (you’ll need it!), our practice took a little over two hours, but it obviously varies depending on whether you’re being led, by whom, and how long you stay in each Down Dog.
- Take water in with you. I know it’s not the usual yoga protocol, but this is not the usual yoga practice and you may want it, especially if you’re in a hot country. Oh and a towel! 🙂
- Let the group energy carry you. If someone is leading you, don’t try and count the rounds yourself; just forget the numbers, go with the flow and let it become a real moving group meditation.
- Practise ahimsa (non-violence) and modify. My usual vinyasa is full Chaturanga, Up-Dog and jumping forward and back, but after about twenty rounds – and knowing I’d committed to house-moving and wall-painting the next day – I realised that was going to be an unhealthy disaster for my shoulders. So I started to mix it up with low cobras and stepping forwards and back, and dropping my knees for a half-Chaturanga. I still used the full version every few rounds, but the variety made it feel more sustainable for my body.
- Laugh at your ego and rest when you need to. My pitta-vata ego would have loved me to do every single round in its full expression, with no rest. My dramatically wiser intuition knew that was – for me at least – just dumb. The practice is in showing up and contributing to the energy by your enthusiastic presence – it has nothing to do with murdering your muscles and showing off how hard you are. Sometimes I took brief moments of rest by dropping into Child’s pose instead of taking the agreed three breaths in Down Dog; sometimes I stepped straight back to Down Dog and skipped the Chaturanga and Up-Dog; sometimes I stayed in Child’s pose and simply breathed with the group for a couple of rounds, and sometimes I sat in meditation and mentally repeated a mantra in time with the group breath.
- On that note, a simple mantra can be your friend to help carry your energy and nirodhah that pesky citta vrtti (calm the mental commentary) as you move. Something as simple as an ‘Om’ on the exhale can work wonders – I found that adding the mantra that I’m currently working with enhanced my whole experience far more than I would have imagined.
- Don’t be surprised if ‘stuff’ comes up. It’s really normal to get emotional in a yoga class anyway, and I found myself getting teary for a few rounds about halfway through. Aaaaand that’s what Child’s pose is for. 🙂
- Do hang around for a bit afterwards – unfortunately I had to race off as I’d squeezed it in before another commitment, but if you have time, chatting in the afterglow of a shared intense experience like a 108 or a workshop is a great way to connect with like-minded humans.
- Fairly obviously, prepare to be sore the next day. The front portion of my deltoids, my pec minors, and my hamstrings knew about it later on, but sleeping Earthed (on an Earthing sheet – more about that in my next blog!) meant that I only got one day of soreness and the ‘second-day syndrome’ didn’t happen – in fact by then I was totally free of any soreness at all.
I really losing enjoyed my 108 virginity and would definitely be up to take part again. If you’ve got one planned, I hope my experience offers some help. Enjoy, and Namaste!
*The devastation caused by the fires has been well documented in the world media, and there’s a huge amount of political finger-pointing going on about who’s to blame. Whilst wildfires are a natural part of Australia’s eco-cycle, this year there are so many of them, and on such a huge scale, that the results have been tragic. A few of them are believed to have been deliberately started, which is sickening, and some have been started by human carelessness – a cigarette butt out of a car window here, a discarded glass bottle at a picnic site there; illegal fireworks, angle-grinders and barbecues creating sparks.
The tinder-dryness of our landscape this year – the rains have not been forthcoming – means that it only takes one spark for things to rapidly get completely out of control. There’s no doubt that our world climate has changed. Yes, government policy has a massive part to play in taking the comprehensive action needed to try and turn this ship around, but the fact is that we are ALL responsible. Unless you live in a cave and use no resources – in which case you wouldn’t be reading this – you, I, we ALL have an impact.
We all recycle, we all use unleaded petrol, we all re-use shopping bags…. and it’s nowhere near enough. The biggest-impact thing we can do as individuals is to stop consuming animal produce in any form – animal agriculture creates a whopping 51% of the world’s greenhouse gases. But unlike cutting carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel, which can take years to have an impact because of the way that CO2 lingers, the gas created by animal agriculture is methane. The moment you stop producing methane, it has an immediate impact – it doesn’t linger in the Earth’s atmosphere in the same way. So if you don’t consume any animal products in a 24 hour period, your greenhouse gas liability has effectively been halved. You can carbon offset your flights and car and electricity usage as much as you like – and don’t get me wrong, we should still all be doing that too – but it won’t touch the sides of what you as an individual can do by going plant-powered. Animal agriculture is a double whammy to the planet because of the vast quantities of land and water required to grow the feed, to feed the animals, to feed us. Our meat and dairy lust is a major reason for deforestation. It takes 660 GALLONS of water to rear the beef for just ONE burger. Would you leave your tap running for that long?
If you’re still reading, you may be interested enough to learn more. Here are some fantastic documentaries which I highly recommend as inspiration:
The Game Changers
Forks Over Knives
What the Health
You can read more about the stats here:
There are many carbon offset companies around now, some more effective than others. Here’s an interesting article to help you choose which one is right for you:
And if you’d like to donate to WIRES, you can do so online at https://www.wires.org.au
Your wild planet thanks you!