Day 6 – First official community practice April 29!

Happy (belated) Earth Day, by the way. I’m sorry if I offended anyone for not making a big deal about it yesterday. Truthfully, it is a nice time to celebrate our lovely planet, but really this is something that last 365 days a year in my world. Anyway, it’s past midnight here and I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open, so I will keep this entry brief.

My shoulder was feeling much much better this morning, almost perfect. However, as the day progressed it started feeling tender again. I definitely need a few more days of careful observation and modifications, which I’ve been doing, but perhaps with not enough attention. I’ve noticed how important it is to keep the elbows pined to the ribs when lowering in chaturanga and to lower no deeper that the height of the elbows. In downward dog, it’s also imperative to keep the ears in line with the upper arm bones, as opposed to dropping the head toward the floor, which I have the tendency to do. Announcement, announcement! Next Thursday evening, April 29 (6:30 – 8:30pm) is my first community 108 practice! I hope some of you can make it. Here are the details and a copy of the poster:

Join me in practice on the 12th day of 108:
April 29, 2010
6:30 – 8:30 pm
79 St-Joseph O., Montréal, QC
Please reserve with Joyce 514.802.0311

This guided practice will begin with breathing exercises and end with relaxation. All levels are welcome—beginners too! Participants can do as many sun salutations as they want. This event is by donation. Profits will go to the Canadian Institute for the Blind in support of their Yoga Stretch Challenge.

J’ai une mission: Je fais 108 Surya Namaskar en 108 jours
Joignez-vous à moi pour ma 12ième journée de 108:
Le 29 avril 2010 18h30 – 20h30 STUDIO ANAAMI
Appelez Joyce, 514.802.0311

Cette pratique guidée commencera avec des exercises de respiration et terminera avec la rélaxation. Tous les niveaux sont les bienvenus – débutats aussi! Les participants peuvent faire autant de salutation au soleil qu’ils le désirent. Un don est suggérer. Les profits iront a l’Institut national canadien pour les aveugles en support a leur défi “Yoga jusqu’au bout.”

I am so excited to hear about some of your own 108 goals. It’s a lot of fun to share this experience along with you. Today’s photo, taken my Linda Stephens, features Mary-Ann & I in plank pose. Mary Ann’s goal is 36 sun salutations a day and so far, she’s been successful. (More on Mary Ann later.)

The sun salutation I chose for today’s practice is simple and has us holding this strengthening posture for three to five breaths. Plank helps to stabilize the shoulder joint as well as offers us the chance to build from the core, meaning stronger abdominal muscles and a more stable spine.

Surya Namaskar Recipe: Day 6 – The Plank Salute

1- Beginning in mountain pose again, INHALE and stretch your arms over head.
2- EXHALE in the forward bend, without locking your knees.
3- INHALE, lengthen your back parallel to the floor.
4- Exhale step back into plank pose: fingers spread apart, shoulders above hands, straight line running from the back of the head to the heels, and push you heels backward slightly to stabilize the legs. Make sure the elbows are unlocked, head is stable and neck is long.
5- Three – Five breaths, long and steady
6- On you next exhalation, move back into downward dog.
7- After a couple of breaths in downward, then INHALE, step, walk or jump your feet to your hands. Lengthen the spine.
8- EXHALE, fold.
9- INHALE, rise to standing.
10- EXHALE, hands to heart.

Day 5 – Petr Svoboda’s left shoulder

The pain in my left shoulder isn’t much better today, but I have a renewed respect for injuries, and sometimes I need a reminder that every injury I’ve had has made me a better and more compassionate yoga teacher. Today this was reconfirmed.

Yesterday while I was whining about how tired I was and blaming my lack of focus on alignment screw-ups, I failed to see how hurting my left shoulder could actually serve a greater purpose. You see, for the past year I’ve been working with retired hockey pro Petr Svoboda. Since we started practicing together, Petr has talked about the pain in his left shoulder to which I’ve prescribed chest opening postures and exercises that loosen the shoulder girdle. Although some of the postures offer temporary relief, there has been little lasting results. Granted Petr was somewhat inconsistent with his yoga this winter and his injury stems from two fractured cervical vertebrae incurred during the 2001 hockey session while playing with Tampa Bay, but today we bonded over our mutually sore shoulder and together we developed a new sun salutation. (Sorry, no photos of Petr and I today. There wasn’t anyone around to take our picture, so I posted this picture of his hockey card. Once our sore shoulder relief surya namaskar is perfected, we’ll do a little video for you folks.)

What I find most interesting about my injuries or my traumas is that they usually occur at the same time as one of my students is experiencing the same thing. It’s as if the universe created the pain within my body or my life, so I could better understand the student and be of greater assistance in the healing process. This was certainly the case a few years ago with the compressed discs in my lower back and the sciatic pain I endured for over a year, as well as with a former hamstring strain that last more than six months. When my students asked me about injuries, I used to say, “You name it, I’ve had it or done it.” All of it, particularly my back problems, has led me to the thorough investigation of yoga as healing science, which is why I’m now so into my ayurvedic studies.

Seeing as The Petr Svoboda Sun Salutation isn’t ready for broadcast, today I’m continuing to work on the spine with the Cat Salute, although my friend Ali has another name for it…

Surya Namaskar Recipe – Day 5: The Cat Salute

1- Standing in Mountain Pose, INHALE, stretch arms over head.
2- Keeping the knees slightly bent, EXHALE, fold forward, hands to shins.
3- INHALE and lengthen the spine.
4- EXHALE, step back to all fours– shoulders over hands, hips over knees.
5- INHALE, pause.
6- EXHALE, round the back, bringing chin to chest, lifting navel to spine, and tucking tailbone under.
7- INHALE slowly arch the back in the opposite way by softening between the shoulder blades, reaching the heart forward and looking up with a long neck.
8- EXHALE, round the back.
9- INHALE, arch and extend the tailbone back to decompress the lower back.
10- EXHALE, round.
11- INHALE, arch and tuck the toes under.
12- As you EXHALE, shift back into downward dog for two-five deep breaths.
hands down beside your chest and tuck the toes under.
13- After two to five breaths, press down through your palms, INHALE and step, walk or jump forward. Lengthen your back.
14- EXHALE, forward bend.
15- Feeling the feet solid on the floor, INHALE and rise to a standing extending the arms over head.
15- EXHALE, slowly lower hands to heart.

Anyone can do yoga!
Here are some facts about featured yoga student Petr Svoboda’s professional hockey career:

Petr Svoboda played for the NHL for 15 years. He was selected fifth overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens and won the Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1986.
He also participated in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan, winning a gold medal with the Czech team.
Petr scored the only goal in the gold medal game against Russia.

NHL points 1984-85 to 2000-01:
Regular Season
Games played 1028
Goals 58
Assists 341
Points 399

Games Played 127
Goals 4
Assists 45
Points 135
Legends of Hockey – Bio Petr Svoboda

*Thanks to Magic/Awesome Craig Bannerman for the today’s photo and hockey stats.

Day 4: Feeling sore & cranky

Damn it. Damn it. Damn it… I’m not sure if I’m allowed to complain, since it’s only day 4, but my left shoulder is killing me, I’m tired and frustrated that I can’t get the scanner at the studio to work. Plus, it’s 10 pm (EST) and I’m still at my studio, 30 km away from home. I taught four classes back to back and wanted to scan an image for a poster before leaving, but the stupid scanner is not registering on my Mac. I suppose I’m also grumpy because I haven’t eaten since 2pm, so I think I’ll put make some toast.

Today, it really dawned on me how much time this 108 challenge takes up. It’s not just the practice itself, it’s also the documenting of it, which is important to me. This process requires an extra one to two hours each day, in addition to the time I spend practicing. In my previous consecutive days of 108 which I did as training, I don’t remember being so frazzled, but then again, I wasn’t writing, photographing or planning any events related to it.

And now my shoulder! It started acting up sometime this evening, but it’s never bothered me before like this. Even now as I sit, it is hurting through the bicep down to my elbow. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow, because right now, I’m not sure how I’m going to finish my last 18 of the day. I’ll have to modify.

I think I’ve been psyching myself out this week. Maybe I’m over excited about this project and so I keep thinking things like, “What if I hurt myself and can’t complete my sun salutations one day? Does that mean I fail? What if I break my leg? What if I get sick? What if I get too tired and can’t teach properly?”

My mind has been spinning and spinning over these “what if” questions. I think might be rushing through some of my sets in order to ‘get them all in’ before midnight. And of course, in rushing, I’m more careless of my alignment and so I’m more likely to say, drop my shoulders below my elbows in chaturanga or my head below my shoulders in down dog.

My intention was to work through this project one breath at a time, one sun salutation at time, but recently, I’ve been overcome by the shear magnitude of what I’ve taken on and the responsibility to do it publicly. I know I need to chill a little, sleep a little and eat a little more. The obvious way to do this is too reduce the number of classes I’m teaching and the number of hours I’m spending doing other adminy stuff, but at the moment, I struggle to see how I can do this. I’m the sole proprietor of a yoga studio, studying at the ayurveda centre, and my bread and butter is teaching about 15 to 20 classes a week.

Ok, enough complaining. I apologize for my rant, but I can’t pretend that all this is easy. (I feel a bit better now that I got some of these worries out and had some food.)

I’ll find the right flow and the right way to integrate this 108 into my already busy schedule, maybe with your help. After all, hearing that some of my students have set their own goals and participate in this challenge with me makes my heart soar. Today my student Yves, who is featured in the video we took this afternoon (pre-cranky, achy Yasmin), said his goal is to do a minimum of 108 sun sals a week for the duration of my campaign. Isn’t that awesome? That’s the stuff that encourages me, so please share your ideas.

Today’s Surya Namaskar Recipe is The Cobra Push-up Salute. It’s here on video, shot by Valerie Baron and starring Yves!

(Valerie is photographer and does some of the admin at the studio. This is her first debut as a videographer, so she wanted me to add a disclaimer. ‘wink’)

PS Check my shoulder alignment in today’s photo: there’s proof that I was carelessly dipping my shoulders too low and thus putting a lot of pressure on my shoulder socket! (When lowering into chaturanga, we’re supposed to make sure the shoulder stays above the elbow, so not to overload thejoint.)

Day 3 – First practice outside!

Woke up feeling under slept and a bit achy. I was supposed to teach a private yoga class at 8:30am in Westmount, so dragged myself out of bed at 6:30 in order to start my practice. However, upon receiving a text saying my student decided to play golf instead of yoga, I peeled off my leggings and crawled back into bed to sleep for an hour. But who was I kidding? I’ve never been good at sleeping in, let alone going back to sleep once I’m up. So, I lay there observing the imbalance in my right and left nasal passages and trying to remember which side of the brain is associated with which nostril — if the left side of my nose is blocked, does it mean that my right hemisphere is more active or my left? After 30 minutes of mental list making and planning, I got up and started tackling a barrage of emails, which I’ve found is a great distraction when I’m not quite ready to start bending and twisting. Despite the computer side track, my first 36 were completed before I left my house.

Tuesdays I’m in school. I am studying to become an ayurvedic practitioner at le Centre Holistique d’Ayurveda with Anita Sharma. It’s great. Anita is great. And I love the process of learning new healing techniques. (If you don’t know about ayurveda, I’ve written a description of it below.) We started our classes with breathing and yoga. “Great, more breathing and yoga,” I thought, considering the 72 sun sals left to do. But, Manu, Anita’s husband, led a beautiful little practice that focused on different pranayams (breathing exercises) and joint mobility. Lot’s of great stuff for older people and corporate desk bound people. (Message me, if you want some ideas of how to do yoga at your desk or on a chair. Manu inspired me.)

Driving home past the mountain this afternoon, I saw hundreds of lovely people gathering and hanging out in the park along Parc Ave, our Montreal beach without water. At first, I was set on practicing there with them, but I ended up going through the next 36 on my balcony while my neighbors blared new school Green Day. (Not my favourite tunes, but whatever.)

I’m still not done for today. I still have another 36, but I didn’t want to rush, so I will do them before bed, promise.

As there’s no video today, here’s the break down of the Surya Namaskar Recipe for Day 3:

The Flying Cobra Salute
Look mom, no hands! This one is good for activating the muscles along the spine and strengthening the neck.

1- Standing in Mountain Pose at the top of the mat, INHALE, raise the arms over head (shoulders stay down)
2- Keeping the legs solid and knees unlocked, EXHALE, fold forward.
3- INHALE and lengthen the spine.
4- EXHALE, step back to plank pose like you are about to do a push up.
5- INHALE, pause.
6- EXHALE, slowly lower to the floor, and place the forehead to the floor.
7- INHALE and lift the forehead, chest and hands off the floor.
8- Hold here for two breaths. (Engage the back muscles by drawing the shoulder blades together, continue to look down and lengthen the neck on all sides.)
9- EXHALE, hands down beside your chest and tuck the toes under.
10- Pressing down through your palms, INHALE and lift up to all fours.
11- EXHALE, shift back to downward facing dog.
12- After two breaths in the down dog, INHALE, step, walk or jump your feet to the top of your mat and lengthen your spine parallel to the ground.
13- EXHALE, forward bend.
14- Press down through your feet and bend your knees a little to INHALE and rise to a standing position reaching your arms over head.
15- EXHALE, slowly lower your hands to your heart.

Ayurveda is a healing science indigenous to India. It has been practiced as a medical system for more than 5000 years and is still highly effective and widely used. The word ‘Ayurveda’ is Sanskrit for ‘science of life’ or ‘knowledge of life span.’ The guiding principle of Ayurveda is to promote balance between the five natural elements of which all matter is composed. This elements are: earth, water, fire, air and space (ether). It is believed that the pairing of certain elements create three distinct energetic compositions or ‘doshas’ responsible for specific mental attributes and functions in the body. Each individual has a unique constitution that combines these doshas. Most people have one or two dominant doshas. Air and space make up the dosha Vata, fire and water create Pita, and the third dosha, Kapha, is composed of earth and water.

DAY 2 – Why 108?

Day 2 in the bag!

I am super enthusiastic! (Duh, it’s only Day 2…)

Nevertheless, I am thrilled and I am inspired to hear that some of you wonderful people are embarking on your own challenge. Mary Ann, my yoga student of five years and a soon graduate of my teaching apprenticeship program, is doing 36 sun salutations a day, and partner Craig announced to me last night that he will be doing 108 push-ups and sit-ups everyday. (He is currently huffing and puffing away them at in the front office.)

My day and practice went great. This morning, I did 18 sun sals by myself and then 18 with my very determined 83-year-old powerhouse of a student, Max. I completed the next 36 in my studio with Bossa, a dear friend and fabulous yogini, who is in today’s video. Mary Ann, the aforementioned student, requested a practice of 27 to complete her set, which we did after meditation with my Core Vinyasa class. I joined the 7:30pm class for my last nine.

So far, the response to my crazy 108 mission is awesome, although I know there are more than a few friends and students who are questioning my sanity. Over scrambled eggs at brunch today, my old ashtangi friend, Jamie Lee, expressed his concern over me missing out on back bends, if I am only to do sun sals for next three and a half months. He has a point, so I made sure to do a bunch of arches within my sets this afternoon and will have to leave time for some Urdhva Dhanurasanas and inversions at the end of my practice tomorrow.

Now the answer to the big question: why 108?

1 = divine power, 0 = the space that holds everything together, and 8 = the symbol of infinity.

108 is also a number that repeats itself in numerous cultures and spiritual traditions. In the yoga world 108 is considered a very auspicious number, which is why the Hindu and Buddhist malas (prayer beads) from 108 beads. Here are some more 108 ‘fun facts’:

  • 108 is the number of Upanishads comprising the Indian Vedic texts
  • 108 is the number of names for the God Shiva in Hindu philosophy.
  • 108 is the number of names for Buddha.
  • 108 is the Chinese number representing “man”.
  • 108 is the number of beads on a Catholic rosary.
  • 108 is six times the number “18” which is a good luck number in Judaism.
  • 108 is nine times 12, two auspicious numbers in Indian culture.
  • 108 is number to call in India for emergency services (as opposed to 911)
  • 108 is the number of suitors had by Penelope wife of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey.
  • Distance between earth and sun equals 108 times the sun-diameter.
  • Distance between earth and moon equals 108 times the moon-diameter.
  • 108 times the earth diameter is the diameter of the sun
  • 108 is the number of stitches on a baseball!

Wikipedia offers more details:

Day 1 – THE MISSION: 108 Sun Salutations in 108 Days

Hello WORLD! I am Yasmin Fudakowska-Gow. I am a yoga teacher and 28-year-old Montrealer. I have been teaching yoga for almost a decade. I am the owner of a holistic centre called Om West located in Pointe Claire Village, about 25km west of downtown Montreal. I am also an artist, a writer, a video producer, and an activist. I live in Mile End.

Since last December, I have the dream of completing 108 Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) for 108 consecutive days. YES!

The purpose of this mission is to, first, celebrate my14 years of yoga practice and to experience an amazing transformation. Second, I want to bring the yoga community together in celebration as ONE. Together, I see us yoga teachers, students and studio owners thriving and I see us inspiring more people to reconnect with their trueness and live their passion.

Starting today (April 18, 2010), the 108th day of the year, I am doing 108 Surya Namaskar every day until Aug 3, 2010. I did my first 36 sun salutations with a full-house of students in a workshop entitled Live the Life you LOVE, which I led this weekend at my studio with I AM coach Ron Chérlius. I completed the remaining 72 in my kitchen while my boyfriend Craig made vegetable soup.

I am ready and I am excited about the next 107 days! I have been training for this. To date, I had done six days straight, nine days, 12 days and most recently, 23 days. I have experimented with different methods and I have already learned a lot about how to sustain my stamina and how to keep myself motivated. I am excited. I am confident. Each of these 108 practices can take up to three hours, depending on who I practice with, how focused I am, how much energy I have and how creative I feel, but I am prepared. My plan is to do the 108 sun salutations in three sets of 36, although when time permits, I will do the whole series in one shot.

Now, I am inviting you to join me.

I am posting this blog in order to share this journey with you, and to encourage you to set your own daily challenge, be it sun salutations, push ups, eating fresh salads, writing poetry, playing music, gardening, completing a cross-word, running, knitting, etc. Whatever is pleasurable and healing for you, I invite you to commit yourself to it for a certain period of time everyday starting whenever you say “GO!”

Lastly, I want you to share your story, your questions, and your suggestions with me here.

If it’s yoga or sun salutations you want to do, on this blog (in writing, photos and/or video), I will provide you with tips on how to practice safely, how to stay inspired and I am posting a different version of Surya Namaskar to keep it interesting. Here’s one from today:

Surya Namaskar Recipe – DAY 1
The Half-Salute (2 = 1, a good opener)
1- Standing at the top of your mat, INHALE and raise your arms over head.
2- Stabilizing your legs and without locking your knees, EXHALE and fold forward, bring your hands to the floor or you to your shins.
3- Keeping your spine long, INHALE, and rise half way.
4- EXHALE down into the forward bend.
5- Pressing down through your feet, INHALE and rise to standing, taking your arms up and overhead.
6- EXHALE and bring the hands down in front of your heat in prayer position
7- Repeat once more to equal one full Sun Salutation