The Ulm yoga schools made it their shared goal and vision to provide an opportunity to experience and share yoga - irrespective of one's own tradition or previous knowledge and experience. Ronald Steiner was invited to lead the 108 sun salutations according to the AYI® Method.
Early in the afternoon, the yogis met at the "Fair for all things yogish" for an informal and relaxed get-together, enjoyed a delicious fruit smoothy or simply basked in the atmosphere sitting at the banks of the Danube. After the 108 sun salutations, SEOM provided an atmospheric finish with his spiritual rap to round the day off.
That's how exciting 108 sun salutations can be...
AYI® thanks all participants who joined us for the event - you made the sun salutations a truly unforgettable experience. Together with Melanie and Ronald, Sabine from the AYI® editorial desk reviews the day once more:
Sabine: Melanie and Ronald, you represented AYI® for the first time at the International Yoga Day and practiced 108 sun salutations together with numerous yogis at Ulm.
Melanie: Yes, that's right. According to the press reports, 130 yogis joined us in our practice. We were very happy about that because we had spent almost a year planning the event. A big thank you to Heike, who had the vision for this day and headed our organization team!
Sabine: What does the International Yoga Day mean to you? And what do the sun salutations symbolize in your eyes?
Melanie: For me, it is wonderful to imagine that, on this day, yogis all over the world get together to practice yoga in various ways. In our practice, we focussed on the shared energy to remind ourselves that yoga is not only about our individual wellbeing but that we want to strive for harmony and peace everywhere in the world. Moreover, it was very special to do so at the Donauwiesen, i.e. the green space close to the river Danube. From here on, this river will pass so many countries until it finally reaches the sea. I imagined it turning into a stream of light. But to me, the most magic thing was that it didn't start to rain and that we even managed to make the sun come out.
Sabine: Ronald, you lead the sun salutations for your outdoor session. How did you make sure that, as previously announced, truly everybody could join the practice, irrespective of age or previous knowledge?
Ronald: For me, it was important to leave sufficient space for individual variations of the sun salutation while at the same time creating a shared experience in practicing together. For this reason, I encouraged the yogis to do the sun salutation as common in their tradition. It was only in the standing position and in the downward dog that we waited for each other. That worked really well.
Melanie: It was great to see so many different variations of the sun salutation. At the same time, by waiting for each when coming back to a standing position or into the downward dog, we still stayed together in our practice, despite all heterogeneity in terms of the individual execution. This allowed us to share the energy. A really great experience!
Sabine: If there was so much room for variation and individual styles - what exactly was it that you told practitioners since it was a kind of led class after all?
Ronald: I led the group by following the Ashtanga Yoga Sun Salutation, alternating between Surya Namaskara A and Surya Namaskara B, which we always did ten times before switching back to the other form. I, myself, did the traditional version. Moreover, we found a student who practiced a slightly easier variation. In this way, those yogis unfamiliar with the sun salutation always had the chance to have a look and copy our movements. I'm really happy that this went well.
Melanie: Thanks to the modifications, many yogis in fact managed to do the entire 108 sun salutations. What especially pleased me was that some yogis who had only recently found a first access to yoga at our school were now already able to practice the sun salutation for over two hours while breathing evenly and meditatively.
Sabine: You yourself joined the practice? This is definitely an exception. So far, I've never seen you practice yourself at any workshop, retreat or event.
Ronald: That's true. When I teach, I hardly ever practice myself. But this time was special. To me, the event was not about teaching the present yogis the sun salutation or how to practice in a healthy way. Instead, it was all about sharing the energy. For this reason, I wanted to be part of the process.
Sabine: Another thing: if you're perfectly honest, were you a bit nervous to lose count at some point?
Ronald: Ah, in this respect, I was perfectly relaxed. I had dedicated a mala with 108 rudrakshas to this day which I had brought with me. So one sun salutation equalled one rudraksha. (laughs)
Sabine: Still, 108 sun salutations sounds like quite a lot, even if you allow for possible modifications. Do you after a while reach a point where you say to yourself: "Oh dear, only 50, not even half of it done, yet?" What do you do then?
Ronald: This is in fact what I had feared before. Because yoga is all about staying in the moment, i. e. to perform each breath and movement as consciously and attentively as if there was no past and no future. For this reason, I paid particular attention to a deep and regular breath all the time and focussed on practicing slowly, savouring every moment. This did work truly well and allowed me to stay in the moment and to consciously experience each breath I took.
Sabine: How would you describe the feel of the practice as compared to a "normal" session? Or does it ultimately make little difference whether we practice one of the series or take out one specific aspect such as the sun salutation and repeat it over and over again?
Melanie: The sun salutation is a meditation guided by the breath. This is a highly typical feature of our regular Ashtanga practice.
Ronald: Indeed, even though I had never practiced 108 sun salutations in a row before, it felt very familiar.
A special thanks to YogiStar
We are very happy that YogiStar supported us with yoga mats. Those yogis who didn't have their own mat could purchase a basic mat at a special Yoga Day price :-)
Click here for the YogiStar homepage YogiStar.
Melanie: Ultimately, 108 sun salutations in a row are also a very suitable way to allow people with very little experience to experience the flow characteristic of Ashtanga Yoga. I also switched to the variation with the all-fours position from time to time.
Sabine: What was your personal highlight with regard to the International Yoga Day?
Melanie: It was really impressive to get into such a meditative flow of motion together with more than 100 other yogis. What is more, on the same day, the German football team played a game in the European Championship. At one point, a group of football fans went past, making a lot of noise. But when they heard Ronald's voice, felt the breath of over 100 yogis and saw their meditatitive movements, even this group went quiet. For a moment, they just stood there open-mouthed in complete astonishment. I think that even they were drawn into the experience of the joint breathing. Almost everybody felt the energy, starting from the stroller randomingly passing by to the toddler playing at the banks of the river to said football fans.
Sabine: For those who unfortunately couldn't come to Ulm this year: are you planning a revival of the 108 sun salutations?
Melanie: Of course! June 21 is the International Yoga Day and this a fixed date. We will definitely join in organizing something again next year and are already looking forward to that.