Yoga Mala: 108 Sun Salutations and Seva: Selfless Service
For years I’ve read about the 108 Sun Salutation practice. Completing a 108 is often thought to be a “yoga marathon.” It is intense, challenging, and a difficult practice for the mind and body. It’s a challenge that I had been interested in attempting for several years when finally a friend booked one and said, “We’re going.” After that first practice, I realized that 108 sun salutations, or a yoga mala, was a beautiful way to serve— or “seva” in Sanskrit. In ancient India seva was believed to help one's spiritual growth and at the same time contribute to the improvement of a community. With this knowledge, I shared the idea with Sally and we decided to host a free 108 as a way to connect and serve our Sanford community.
The experience we had in the studio that day was greater than what I could have imagined. Our breath connected. The movement of our bodies connected. We laughed together, sweated together, fogged up every bit of glass in the room with our heat together. The sense of community in the room was better than I could have imagined. Even better than that? We were able to connect with, and serve, our greater community.
BackPack Pals started in September 2008 by providing food to Lee County students who have little or nothing to eat on the weekend. We collected $115 and 67 pounds of food to donate to the BackPack Pals program through the local charity, CUOC.
As a community, we can take our yoga off the mat and serve others in the community, as we did on January 1st. We don’t want this to be an isolated moment. We want those two hours of sweat and love to translate into future service from our students that benefits the people and the heart of Sanford.
Our hearts are full and our practice is better because of each person who showed up to their mats that day and gave a piece of themselves in seva.
When Holly suggested the 108 Sun Salutations in the spirit of seva, I could not be more excited! I happened to be in the middle of a book called Tribe by the journalist Sebastian Junger. The book examines the shifts in societal structures over time and the impact this has on individual well-being. He cites numerous instances where people feel more fulfilled and happier during turbulent times because calamity requires them to serve the good of the community rather than just themselves. He argues that despite the luxuries of modern day society, we are more isolated than ever. While we no longer need a tribe to physically survive, this lack of a tribe has had negative emotional implications such as soaring depression rates, poor health, and anxiety. He writes, "...modern society has gravely disrupted the social bonds that have always characterized the human experience, and that disasters thrust people back into a more ancient, organic way of relating. Disasters...create a 'community of sufferers' that allows individuals to experience an immensely reassuring connection to others." I wondered, how do we foster connection in a meaningful way before disaster strikes?
We do this in ways like Holly suggested. We plan intentional moments to come together to support one another and support those we don't even know.
With a desire build on this great idea, to maintain the momentum of our seva practice, I proposed we start a monthly challenge as a way to encourage and recognize the efforts of our students. It is our hope that by encouraging others to share their stories, others will be inspired to follow in their footsteps. We hope you join us for our monthly challenges this year. And of course, the challenge this month is focused on seva. How will you serve your community? We can't wait to see!