Yoga Mala 2022
This past Sunday I participated in my first ever “Yoga Mala”, a fundraising event for the New England-based nonprofit organization “Yoga in Action” in which I completed most of the 108 sun salutations! This practice is an empowering and transformative experience with ancient roots and many benefits. Even though I was doing this virtually in front of a video monitor, I felt connected to the other participants on the screen at the event's location, River Mill Landing in Dover, New Hampshire. Together, we mindfully paraded through (or suffered through) a seemingly endless succession of sun salutations “mountain pose, forward fold, chatarunga, upward dog, downward dog, repeat”! Upon the completion of each round of 10, a queue card was placed on an easel reflecting our count and a new instructor would begin the next round, each instructor infusing the event with their own unique energy.
After the first 2 rounds we paused for a heartwarming video testimonial of one gentleman’s experience with Yoga in Action. He spoke of reaching a point in life where he was accepting that aches and pains and limited mobility were simply inevitable, of how he had once previously experienced yoga “in a room full of perfect bodies”, feeling intimidated and unable to do most of the poses. His life changed for the better when he began attending 2 different Yoga in Action sponsored classes. Here the teacher taught him to find a new way in his body, to connect his mind to his body, and over time he experienced a decrease in aches and pains and an improved sense of well-being.
The break ended and back to the torture, I mean salutations. Seriously though, I have been practicing yoga for about eight years, and even though I am fairly advanced in my practice, this was one of the most physically and mentally challenging yoga moments I have yet experienced, the phrase “yoga marathon” coming to mind. By the time I had completed 50 sun salutations I was starting to feel a subtle drop in energy, periodically doing the occasional modification from this point forward to survive the second half (not to mention those dreaded salutation B's that a few teachers snuck in). After a few more rounds another heartfelt testimonial was read by one of the event's instructors, Marie, this one speaking of another Yoga in Action sponsored class “Yoga for Diverse Abilities” in Seabrook, NH. In what would be one of the most touching moments of the event, she shared a letter from the caretaker of a non-verbal young man who was finding a parallel between his weekly yoga experience and his love of music, his yoga class apparently having an immeasurable effect on his life.
Somewhere around 70 or 80 salutations I was starting to feel physically and mentally fried, and like a gift from the universe the next instructor, Dave brought some much needed lightheartedness, beginning his segment with “are you ready to do some yoga with the fat guy?”. Offhand comments about cookies and donuts were followed by Dave joking about his ability to talk about himself in the third person while teaching yoga. Before we knew it, we were at 100 sun salutations and on to the final eight, finishing strong with a big applause at the end! The final instructor took us through some cool down stretching, followed by a guided meditation, complete with body scan and visualizations, and then a well-deserved shavasana.
Three hours after I began this epic yoga moment the event came to its graceful end. I was pleased I was able to complete all but a few of the 108 salutations, and with some sun salutation B’s thrown in, somewhere around 140 chatarunga's (AKA half push-ups). Although I wasn't there in person, the spirit of the event shined through my video monitor and speakers, allowing me to feel connected to this amazing yoga community. My muscles were sore and tired, but my soul felt replenished and I felt a renewed sense of well-being.
The greater purpose of this event is to raise money and awareness for Yoga in Action so they can support communities that otherwise would not be supported through yoga, and I have a personal connection to this through the memory of my Dad, as the “Yoga and Cancer” program was of great help to him near the end of his life. To Michelle Couture and my friends at Prasada Yoga in Hampton, NH, my friends who made contributions and all who support Yoga in Action, thank you for helping to spread the healing gift that is yoga!
The video shows me doing the first and last eight salutations, sped up times eight. The photo shows me wearing a wonderful gift from my lovely Kelly, yoga mala 108 beads with a tree of life!