108 Sun Salutations for India

108 sun salutations beneath the  Singing Oak , City Park New Orleans

108 sun salutations beneath the Singing Oak, City Park New Orleans

At City Park in New Orleans there is a giant oak tree with oversize wind chimes hanging from its branches. The sun shone on the tree this morning, with strong winds blowing the chimes into a cacophony of sound. A group of yogis and yoginis gathered beneath the sun and the tree, their mats forming a loose circle facing inward. I rode my bike up to join them, feeling a reverence for the life so vibrant all around me.

In this circle we were joining a community of yoga practitioners all around the world who were taking a stand against human trafficking in India by offering up monetary donations and 108 sun salutations. The money will go to an Indian-based  organization called Odanadi, which means 'soul mate'. The Odanandi web site Yoga Stops Traffic claims that "over the past 20 years Odanadi Seva Trust has rescued and rehabilitated more than 1850 children, carried out 57 brothel raids and brought 137 traffickers to justice."

The New Orleans event was organized by Jessica Blanchard, who feels that India has given the west so much, and this is a way for us to give back. I came by way of my yoga school, Swan River. Several of my teachers were there, taking turns with teachers from other schools leading us in the sequence of asanas that make up the standard sun salutation.

The number 108 is sacred in many traditions and mythologies. For instance, the chakras are intersections of energy lines, and the heart chakra has 108 energy lines converging into it. I have been living from my heart lately, or at least striving to. This morning my heart was full, nourished by the sun, the wind, the beautiful people gathered around in the circle, and by the sound of the chimes mingling with the voices of the teachers.

I reached my hands up to the sky over and over again, and each time the sun had risen a little closer to being in my palms. There was a dog sitting in the grass behind me, and each time I bent down into downward dog and looked out between my legs I saw her sitting there enjoying the day. To my left was a new friend, who later went out to tea with me at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, where we shared little pieces of our lives.

I am in love. In love with this city, with this life. I felt tears welling up inside me thinking about the people sold into slavery as I practiced my asanas. Are we all just manifestations of the same spiritual matter? Could I be them, could they be me, could any one of us be anyone else? What is the veil of ignorance that makes us forget such an obvious truth, exponentiating the suffering in the world? Every day I spend trying to understand and to weave the understanding into the fabric of my being so I won't forget.

Namaste. Ahimsa. May all be free from suffering. May all feel the sunshine of a perfect spring day in New Orleans, shining upon them as they raise their hands up in prayer, and lower their faces to the ground to honor the earth. We are one.

Michelle Baker leads 108 sun salutations

Michelle Baker leads 108 sun salutations