A yogic summer celebration

Last Thursday, June 21, I, along with another one or two hundred people, welcomed summer and celebrated the sun. At 6:30pm, a solid hour before the blazing yellow planet was due to set, we rolled out our yoga mats on the deck outside of Ella Yoga and slathered on sun screen, getting ready to begin 108 Surya Namaskara or sun salutations , a free event sponsored by the studio. I had a perfect spot, a few feet from the small square stage and between two friends: my yoga teacher friend Ruty with whom I practice every Tuesday to one side and my childhood friend Judy and her friend Debi to the other.

Tall Judy and small me with my goofy sun hat

I looked up at the sea of faces and smiled at my new community: Orita, also from our Raanana teachers’ practice, along with her teacher and our guide for the evening, Shimon; Tal from the Anusara training I did in December; Yana from the juice fast and yoga retreat; Einat, Yodefet, Anat, Orly and Ella herself, all of whom work at Ella either behind the scenes or as teachers. I also eyed a woman breastfeeding her baby and a young mom with her two boys, the three of them sharing two mats. I waved hello to some friends from afar and went over to others for a hug.

Around 6:45, standard Israeli time, Shimon, a renowned Ashtanga instructor in Israel, took his seat, wearing a basic white t-shirt, thin sweats and an almost inconspicuous microphone. His silvery hair and bronzed skin shimmered in the sun light. He sat quietly in sukasana, closed his eyes and waited. Slowly, we quieted too. He opened up the practice with AUM (otherwise known as OM) and a short dharma talk. Then he called up Orita to take her place on a mat next to him to demonstrate a sun salutation as he said the names of the pose and counted in Sanskrit.

Shimon and Orita from the backside

And then it was our turn. With our eyes on Orita and our ears on Shimon, we stood strong and still in mountain pose, in anticipation. He called, we moved:

 

 

 

 

 

1              ekam     urdhva hastasana                            upward salute                                   inhale

2              dve        uttanasana                                         forward fold                                       exhale

3              trīṇi        ardha uttanasana                           spine extension                                inhale

4              catvāri   chaturanga dandasana               plank to low plank                           exhale

5              pañca    urdhva mukha svanasana           upward facing dag                           inhale

6              ṣaṭ          adho mukha svanasana                downward facing dog                    exhale

7              sapta     ardha uttanasana                           spine extension                                inhale

8              aṣṭau     uttanasana                                         forward fold                                       exhale

9              nava      urdhva hastasana                           upward salute                                   inhale

10           daśa       tadasana                                             standing with hands at heart      exhale

 

Shimon, a cross between a G-d, a Guru and a man posing for a Gap ad

Over and over. One after the other. Again and again: 10, 20, 30 and so on. I breathed but I didn’t break. Every so often, Shimon would tell us how many we had finished: 40, 80, 100. As a group, we moved up and down faster than the sun. Beads of sweat dripped down my forehead and crept into the crevices of my body, the heat lubricating my joints. Some people stopped and sat on their mats to watch. At one point, Judy and I turned our backs away from Shimon to face the sun and the sea. We continued to move, listening to the words and numbers, lifting our arms, lowering our bodies, from pose to pose. All the while, we watched the sun slowly descend and hover before disappearing completely, as if into the water. Toward the 98th, I paused for the first time to take pictures of the sunset and noticed some passers-by had stopped to admire us, taking photos with their phones.

By the 100th sun salutation, Shimon began dedicating them, to Orita, Einat, Yodefet, Ella and others. And then, before we knew it, we reached 108, our final one. Dripping with perspiration and tired in my arms, I felt strong and centered. For the final few minutes, we sat on our mats, facing the teacher, our eyes closed, thanking each other and ourselves for the practice, the breath, the body. Judy pointed up toward a restaurant overlooking the deck at a wedding with a chuppah or wedding canopy and what looked like a rabbi with a black hat, awaiting the bride and groom, guests milling about on the terrace. I quickly grabbed my camera to catch it on film. While we chanted our final AUM, the wedding party recited the traditional seven blessings.

Wedding above, yogis below

After opening our eyes, Shimon and Orita, whose brother owns Vaniglia gelato stores in the Tel Aviv area, stepped off the stage. People passed around baskets with wipes to clean our hands and then Orita’s brother arrived with two helpers and what looked like a dozen kilos of different ice cream containers, cups and spoons. We were invited to get glida, to cleanse our palette and fill our empty bodies. The scoop of cookie crunch was just what I needed.

With ice cream in hand, Judy and Debi and I sat on our mats, discussing what we thought, how our 40-something-year-old bodies felt. At that moment, I felt great, empowered, like I could climb a mountain. The repetition of that many Sun Salutations had become a moving meditation, allowing me to turn deep inside, forgetting the outside world, enabling me to turn off my one-on-one chitter chatter. To practice so intensely surrounded by community adds another layer, one of togetherness, unity, deep connection. Now, all that waits to be seen is how my body—and mind—will feel in the aftermath.*

Judy and me, bathed in sweat and glory

*Note to soon-to-be-47-year-old self: 108 forward bends, jump backs, down dogs, planks, push ups, back bends might be excessive. By Friday, I felt weak in my upper arms and by Saturday, I could barely stand up, my upper legs were so tired and sore. I vow to take it easy and let my body rest this week… 

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21 Responses to “A yogic summer celebration”

  1. Tania Elfersy (@PurpleLeavesRed) June 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    Wonderful! Sounds much better than the event in Time Square …. of course!!!

    • Jennifer Lang June 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      Never done it but I’ve definitely heard of it. I feel like up until last week I was never at the right place at the right time…

  2. Lisa June 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Love, Love, Love!
    Congrats Jennifer…xox

    • Jennifer Lang June 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      Have you ever done 108? Do you still remember the intensity? It was amazing… and oh, my body feels it. xo

  3. Jade June 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Wow, you keep this up and you’ll be in great shape for flips in hamac yoga when you come this summer! Are you coming? I am waiting for you my friend but I’m not getting any younger, In fact I just had a big bithday with benefits (Medicare, that is), so you better hurry up… Xoxo

    • Jennifer Lang June 25, 2012 at 7:16 am #

      LOL…I am there mid-July. Not sure I can get to OM Factory with you though. I am teaching at Sage a few times and in WP and seeing friends and have my girls to juggle. If I am lucky, I’ll get into the city 2-maybe 3 times in the two week time. xo

  4. Mom, Marianne June 25, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    Loved it! Especially that you and Judy are together enjoying each others company. But did you have to mention your age? How do you think it makes me feel having a nearly 47 and a 50?! Love

    • Jennifer Lang June 25, 2012 at 7:11 am #

      Yeah, well the age wasn’t such a big deal until I woke up Friday then Saturday and again Sunday feeling it. Today, Monday, I woke up feeling great. Back to normal. Finally.

  5. Lauren June 25, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    What an appropriate way to celebrate the summer solstice. Perfect Jennifer. Keep enjoying your rich life…

    • Jennifer Lang June 25, 2012 at 7:10 am #

      Toda, friend. xo

  6. Amy Ritz June 25, 2012 at 6:01 am #

    Wow, you and Judy look great! Inspirational! xoxo

    • Jennifer Lang June 25, 2012 at 7:10 am #

      Let’s just say Judy hasn’t changed at all. She is amazing! xo

  7. Amy June 25, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Really nice storytelling, Jen. I can really feel your experience: the heat, sun, intensity, community and the sweetness of friendship and glida. Really nice post and a very cool event. xo

    • Jennifer Lang June 26, 2012 at 5:16 am #

      It was a story worth telling. Like last week. xo

  8. Marcia June 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Okay……I’m jealous!!! I’m not even a yoga fan, and I wanted to be there! I miss you and Judy…….and Israel!

    • Jennifer Lang June 26, 2012 at 5:16 am #

      It was utterly amazing. Maybe you should try a class. Hint, hint. xo

  9. Susan June 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    I remember—The first 10 easy the second 10 not so– after 50 the flow takes over. How about in 5 months when Andy’s better I will skype you and we can do this together. Thanks for the calls emails —-
    I really look forward to seeing you. Love Susan

    • Jennifer Lang June 26, 2012 at 5:15 am #

      You got it. The flow took over. It was amazing. Maybe we can skype and just practice, without the 108 business… xo

  10. Roey June 25, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    Woohoooo… You go Jen girl! ☀ What a great way to get high without drugs! Yoga for a natural high. I did one 2 years ago on the beach in Montauk. We didn’t get ice cream. Just coconut water. Loved reading about it. I miss you. Hope we get to see each other she. You come to Armonk. Sending to s of hug & love

    • Roey June 25, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

      Meant tons of hugs & love. IPhone failed spelling.

    • Jennifer Lang June 26, 2012 at 5:14 am #

      It was a huge high… till the day later and then the next. Monday was the first day I woke up feeling like my normal energized self…xo

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