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Auspicious 108

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The number 108 is considered an auspicious, or sacred, number. For this reason there are 108 beads on a japa mala, or prayer garland. It is why many people do 108 sun salutations on summer and winter solstice. During our chanting for peace at The Yoga Sanctuary this month, we recognize the significance of 108.

 

Why 108? As it turns out, the number 108 shows up again in again in mathematics, nature, and in yoga. Just a few of many examples follow:

 

Mathematically, 1 to the first power is 1, 2 to the second power is 4, and 3 to the third power is 27; 1 x 4 x 27 = 108. 108 is also divisible by the sum of its digits (1 + 0 + 8 = 9; 108 divided by 9 = 12.)

 

In nature, we see that the diameter of the sun in 108 times that of the earth, and the distance from the sun to the earth is 108 times the diameter of the sun. The average distance of the moon from the earth is 108 times the diameter of the moon.

 

In yoga we see that at the heart chakra converge 108 energy lines, or nadis. In Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, there are 108 marma points, or energy points, on the body. And in the Sanskrit alphabet, the sacred language of yoga, there are 54 letters, each with a masculine and feminine (Shiva and Shakti) version; 54 x 2 = 108. There are 108 Upanishads, or Vedic texts, 17 of which discuss yoga.

 

The number 108 also shows up in eastern religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism all regard 108 as a sacred number. The numbers 9 and 12 are also thought to be sacred (12 x 9 = 108.) Tuning into the power of this number is a great way to connect to nature, or to our source.

Vata Dosha

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Vata dosha is the mind-body constitution that is made up of the two elements air and space. People who have a dominant vata dosha tend to be on the move, energetic, and always seeking new experiences. Like air and space, vatas are difficult to pin down. They always come up with new ideas, and have an optimistic viewpoint of life in general. They are talkative, impulsive, and excitable. They can also be touchy, moody, and restless.

Physically, vata dosha types tend to be slim with angular features and dry skin. Vatas are often cold when others are not. Their appetite is irregular and digestion is sensitive. They crave sour, salty, and acidic foods. Emotionally, they easily experience anxiety, fear, and uncertainty.

When vata is in excess, a person may experience insomnia, restlessness, or have an inability to listen. Constipation, diarrhea, or gas and bloating may exist as well as excessively dry skin. Nervousness, anxiety, and scattered thoughts are common when vata is out of balance.

There are a number of practices that can help to balance vata. A yoga practice that is grounding, with plenty of standing poses, is helpful. The warming effects of vinyasa yoga are beneficial for vata imbalance. The calming effect of ujjayi breathing is also beneficial for vata types. Sticking with one particular practice or teacher can also be helpful for vata imbalances.

An excellent mantra for vata types is the Ganesha mantra: Om gam ganapataye namaha (Om Ganesha, the remover of obstacles). Repeating this mantra during meditation is a healing practice for vata imbalance.

When it comes to diet, balancing vata dosha involves eating foods that are pungent, sour, salty, and sweet while reducing bitter and astringent foods. Reducing vegetables that are more difficult to digest, such as beans, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, is recommended. Increasing consumption of ginger, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, sea salt, mustard, and black pepper will be helpful. Eliminating coffee and alcohol is best for vata imbalance.

Whether your dosha is vata dominant or vata-pitta dominant, many of the practices that help to balance vata will be helpful to you at some point. Take time to notice your own tendencies and do what you can to balance your doshas when you notice an imbalance. You may find that you understand yourself more because of this practice.

A vata predominant person is always on the move, physically and mentally. They constantly have new ideas, but have trouble following through. They tend to be energetic, yet introverted and usually have a lean physique.

Yogi of the Month—Colleen Hope

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I was born in California and raised in a military family, the oldest of three kids. My father was an officer in the Air Force, and we had the great experiences of traveling and living throughout the United States and Europe. I moved to Punta Gorda 14 years ago with my two children, Maggie and Ryan, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, looking for a new adventure. Being the older, bossy sister that I am, I persuaded my two younger brothers to join us in Florida. My parents are still in Albuquerque, for the time being, until I can hopefully persuade them to move here also. So if I had to call a place other than Punta Gorda my home, Albuquerque would be it. I met my husband Douglas through work many years ago and in March we celebrated six happy years of marriage. He also has two boys, so our house has been very loud at times when everyone is at home.

 

I first tried yoga at the PGI Civic Association when I moved to Punta Gorda, but I never had a consistent practice until I came to The Yoga Sanctuary three years ago. Working as a salon owner and hair stylist, I have a very physical job being on my feet most of the day working with clients. I feel yoga is a great way to balance the physical and mental aspects of my career.

 

I don’t have the discipline to do yoga on my own, so I try to make it to The Yoga Sanctuary for classes at least three times a week, sometimes more if my work schedule allows it. I think I have tried all the classes at The Yoga Sanctuary at one time or another, but I am an early bird and really enjoy the Sunrise Yoga on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It is a great way to start the day with the sun just rising in the quiet of the morning.

 

When I first came to the Yoga Sanctuary, I had just been diagnosed with rather painful arthritis in my hips, most likely from the years of working on my feet. Trying to not be dependent on medication to ease the discomfort, I went to physical therapy and then continued my “therapy” with yoga.

 

Some of the greatest benefits of practicing yoga are, first, the obvious physical ones: strength, flexibility, and ease of discomfort in my joints. The benefits continue with the not-so-obvious-from-the-outside ones: a sense of calmness and less whirring of activity in my brain, especially when we do alternate nostril breathing. That is really cool.

 

Yoga has changed my health and life by giving me a sense of wholeness. I enjoy the physical challenges, the quiet atmosphere, and the strength my body has gained. I have also lost over 20 pounds these past three years In part to being more mindful of what my body needs (or doesn’t need). If my dinner choice involves a drive-thru, it’s probably not the best for my body!

 

Some of the challenges I face are just part of being human. I need a push once in a while when I get complacent. I try not to compare, and I am getting better at that. I like that The Yoga Sanctuary doesn’t have mirrors. When my husband and I went on a cruise last year and I took a yoga class in the mirrored gym, I saw what my mirrored-self looked like vs. the mental image of myself. Ha-ha! I just had to laugh at my thinking and I’m going to try and stay focused on the mental image of my true self! Also, being focused and staying in the moment can be a big challenge for me—making my grocery list while resting in Savasana is not ideal. It is progress, not perfection, though.

 

My favorite place right now outside of the Yoga Sanctuary is being at home on our mini farm. This year we have raised a dozen chicks that are now sharing with us their fresh eggs. We also have six Nigerian dwarf goats with one mama goat that possibly has babies on the way. This is in addition to our three dogs and one hamster. I really enjoy sitting outside, being surrounded by these creatures and feeding them by hand. All of the animals have names and are like pets to us. When I am surrounded by this beauty, I have the greatest sense peace with the world and myself.

 

Some of my favorite poses, because I don’t have just one, are wide-legged forward folds because they feel so good in stretching my lower back, and I also like Pigeon Pose. I remember the first time I really got into Pigeon Pose, it was such an emotional release for me; tears ran down my face. It just seems to squeeze out the bad stuff in my body, both physically and emotionally. And of course, I really like Savasana!

 

What keeps me coming back to yoga is the routine that I am comfortable with and the not knowing what to expect when I get there. All of the teachers are amazing, and each is unique and blessed in the gifts that they have to offer their students and the community. I am continually inspired by the other yogis at The Sanctuary and their personal stories of victory.

Favorite quote: Rule 62, “Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Keep it Simple by Anna Martin

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An important lesson that I have learned since beginning my yoga practice in 2005 is that it’s best to not overdo, overthink, or over plan, but instead to go back to the roots of existence, to the rules of nature, and to feel one with what really matters. It’s what we mean when we hear or say, “Take a breath”—slow down and take your life one moment at a time. In my teacher training at Rishikesh Yog Peeth in India this summer I heard my teacher say, “Being enlightened is being completely present in the present moment.” It seems so simple, but yet so hard with our Western mindset of improving our multitasking skills.

 

Learning from nature is the foundation of the development of the yoga practice. It really appeals to me—starting the day with asana practice at sunrise, calming down as the day winds down with meditation practice at sunset, keeping up with the rhythm of the seasons in what we eat and how we maintain our space and body. Have you ever seen a stressed out bumble bee, frustrated flower, or an aggravated moon?

 

Everything in nature has its place and time, its flow and order. You are a part of that order and flow, so slow down and feel the connection. Keep it simple. Make a clear path to recognize stillness between the asanas. Pause between breaths, and find space between thoughts. Yoga, the tradition deeply rooted in observing nature, teaches us that.

 

Once we are in a steady and comfortable posture, we have time for dhyana (meditation) that connects our individual consciousness with universal consciousness. Once we make a pause between inhalation and exhalation, we truly practice pranayama that nourishes our nervous and endocrine systems, the core of health in the body. When we create space between thoughts, we are truly present in the present moment, and each of us becomes a Buddha, enlightened, even if for just a short time.

 

We are better with less—less anger, less stress, less attachment, less cravings, less doubt. Open space will be available for inward work, reflection, and extension of that inner true self.

 

Keeping it simple, but true to the universal (yamas) and personal (niyamas) ethical practices, we create space and time for valuable relationships, irreplaceable memories, and a kind, healthy, and happy lifestyle. We keep worries away, as there is no need for worries that do not help our situation. We keep health and peace within and without. We ride the wave of balance and abundance that is out there, knowing that what is needed will be provided. We enjoy life today!

 

Yoga practice and the infinite knowledge of other Indian philosophies teach us to keep asking what, why, when, and how, and to remember that for each question there is an answer. Ask your question and wait—be patient. Instant gratification is the mistake of the modern world, so take a breath and open your heart to receive an answer.