SNY 2014 Closing Report

SNY 2014 Closing Ceremony and Testimonials

Feb 9th 2014

Yoga Bharati organizes a Surya Namaskar Yagna (SNY) or Sun Salutation Marathon every year from Jan 1st to Ratha Saptami Day which was on Feb 6th this year. Ratha Saptami is a festival celebrated by Hindus to mark the birthday of Surya or the Sun and symbolizes the change of season to Spring. Surya Namaskar (SN) is a yoga practice comprising of an integrated set of 10 asanas or poses done in a flowing manner with breath synchronization. This constitutes one cycle.

Yoga Bharati (YB) Bay Area Chapter conducted a closing ceremony on Feb 9th 2014 at BAYVP temple, Milpitas to mark the culmination of the six-week long SNY. The theme of the closing ceremony was group practice of 108 sun salutation cycles (yagna). More than 60 people from age 3 to 75 years, donning meditative blue YB T-shirts, participated in the closing ceremony yagna. INDTVUSA covered the entire event and will be broadcasted on their channel.

The participants began the yagna by aligning themselves into a formation that mimicked the radiating rays of the Sun. Participants who had trained to practice 108 cycles of SNs formed the innermost circle and led the line of people that were part of their respective Sun ray. People constituting the rays outside of the inner circle were free to practice as many SNs as they were capable of with the option of dropping out or retiring to rest when they needed to. More than 30 people including 10 year old Diya completed the 108 cycles of SN while the remaining completed anywhere from 24-48 cycles. While the majority of participants practiced the traditional SN sequence, a subset practiced less intense variations of SN prescribed either due to age or health conditions. One of the variations was the practice of SN while seated in a chair and a senior participant with no prior SN experience successfully completed 108 chair SN cycles. A second SN variation was indicated for participants with health conditions such as back, neck or shoulder pain and a subset of participants with such conditions successfully completed108 SNs without any difficulty.

In addition to energy derived from community participation, a rock style, background music of the Totakashtakam chant by the famous A.R. Rahman helped build a significant amount of contagious enthusiasm and energy into the yagna. Additionally, each set of 12 SN cycles was interspersed with a quick relaxation in Shitila Tadasana (loosened standing pose) and reading of quotes from spiritual masters by youth volunteers Devaki and Sushant. All this served to create a positive and spiritual environment to the entire event. As a consequence, several adults and young children who had not expected to proceed beyond 12-24 cycles ended up completing more than 50 SN cycles.

The program ended with a chanting of Surya Namaskar Mantra (Hiranmayena Patrena from Ishavasyopanishad) and the 12 beeja mantras (mantras used for awakening spiritual centres) followed by Deep Relaxation for all participants and a hearty healthy snack.

Most of the yagna participants had also enrolled in the 6 weeks of pre-yagna SN practice wherein they practiced between 12-108 sets on their own at home and logged in their counts. Yoga Bharati conducted SN training in all their public yoga classes for students wishing to participate in the yagna. Yoga Bharati also provided one-on-one advice for people who needed variations or had questions or concerns.

This year’s SNY was a different experiment by Yoga Bharati. “We tried SN variations for various health conditions including chair SNs”, says Ashwini Surpur, the Director of YB’s Yoga Therapy initiative. Classic SN may not suit everyone and hence we provided two more variations for people with chronic back, neck, shoulder and hand pain and for seniors. This led to increased participation and people reported great improvement in their health with the SN practice. The focus of Suryanamaskar practice is the synchronization of breath and body movement with integration of the two as the goal. Muscles stretches in combination with breath work to promote good circulation and respiration as well as the overall stimulation and relaxation that are all part of SN practice enables the mind to become peaceful. “We felt that this year’s SNY will become our model going forward”, said Ashwini.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————TESTIMONIALS————————————————————————————————————————————————————————When we were warming up I felt shy. When we were done with 6 suryanamaskaras I thought I could not do 108, but I knew I had done it when we were done with 108 suryanamaskaras. I felt happy and good and I really liked suryanamaskaras.

Sinchana (6 yrs)

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-The suryanamaskara yagna was truly a delightful experience. Four weeks before the actual event I made it a goal to discipline myself by finding time after my school work was complete, and do twenty suryanamaskaras a day.

Gradually I increased my count to thirty, then forty. Finally, when the time had come to lay down my mat and join the group of mostly adults in order to start the event, doubt arose. I was determined to reach my goal but deep in the back of the mind, my conscience persuaded me that I would not be able to complete it. Still, I wanted to try to the best of my ability. In order not to disrupt the event if I happened to get tired after 50 suryanamaskaras, I migrated with my mat to the outer circle. Someone started the music and we all began. There was a sense of peacefulness to the postures. Maybe it was the music, or the synchronized movement of all the participants that created this sense. To tell the truth, I am not sure why. You would think doing these postures repetitively might be arduous, even boring, but it was not. The more I progressed, the more energized I felt. Time flowed fast and before I knew it, I had completed 108 suryanamaskaras. As I folded up my mat, I felt an emotion that I rarely feel: I felt accomplished and proud of myself. This activity showed me that I really could do it. I would love to keep on continuing to do suryanamaskaras everyday, whether there is asuryanamaskara yagna to practice for or not, in order to benefit from that calmness and exercise every day.

Aria – 13 yrs

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-I was introduced to chair suryanamaskara’s by Ashwini at Yogabharati for the first time during the opening day of thesuryanamaskara yagna. I hadn’t thought that doing suryanamaskara’s at my age was a possibility until then. I attended the closing day ceremony of the yagna with the hope of listening to the chanting and doing a few counts of SN. But I realized that breathing into the poses correctly and maintaining a steady pace helps keep up the practice. I was able to complete 108 SN at the closing ceremony without any strain. It was definitely a positive and pleasant experience. Thanks to the YB team! Also, I would like to spread awareness to my friends and siblings back home who can also benefit from this chair yoga variation to SN.

Bhagya (Senior)

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-Over the past six weeks, enrolling in the Suryanamaskar Yagna was a great experience. Throughout this period, I was consistent and did my 36 count SN practice every day, except for one. However, I made up for the missed day by doing 72 the next day.

Soon enough, doing suryanamaskars became a habit. The 6 weeks of preparation helped me build core strength and the stamina required to hold through and complete the 108 suryanamaskars on the day of the SNY closing ceremony. I didn’t even feel tired or sweaty after completing the 108 SNs, which means that the 6 weeks of practice really paid off.

I started the SN practice feeling tired because of being woken up at 6 am. However, as I continued through the sets ofsuryanamaskars, I started to feel more energized. When we finished all 9 sets, I did not feel tired anymore. Instead, I felt sharp and awake. The remnants of whatever fatigue I felt were totally gone as I finished the 108th, the final, sun salutation. As I think back from January, I felt that the 6 weeks of practice served as a prerequisite that led up to the final test, which was the 108 suryanamaskars on the closing ceremony day. Overall, the one month journey was exhilarating, and I am ready to sign up for the Surya Namaskar Yagna again next year.

-Sushant Thyagaraj (13)

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————- I am sooo happy to be part of this. It was a great experience and amazingly, I had more energy in the 9th round than what I started with. I came mentally prepared to do just 50 as I hardly practiced, but with everyone helping each other in a such a positive way, I was able to complete 108.  Thank you all so much.

Music helped and facing each other helped me smile while practicing.

-Rekha ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————- I was not prepared for 108.  I had planned to leave early but instead completed 108.  It was an amazing experience!   Truly felt that my inner strength was complemented by the energy in the room and kept going till end.   The music was great and pace was perfect.

Now this has to be the way we conclude Surya Namaskar Yagna very year!

-Parul ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————- Due to some shoulder problems I was going to only practice 20 or so and watch the rest :). But the combined energy and enthusiasm in the room was infectious! I skipped only one set to talk to the Indtv folks but otherwise I kept going and the last set was just as strong as the first one!  Thanks to all the volunteers who organized the event and helped make it so successful.


————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-My experience with the modified version of the SN practice for neck/shoulder pain

I have been participating in the SNY from 2007 and used to practice SNs fairly regularly. However, I had to abort my participation in SNY 2013 after a couple of weeks of practice because of issues related to cervicalspondylysis and other joint-related pain. I had to discontinue my regular practice of SNs as well because of the ongoing pain.

When the announcement for SN 2014 initially came out, I thought I would not be able to participate this year either because of the continuing neck and other joint pain issues. However, thanks to the SN variation module formulated by Ashwini Surpur and the YB Yoga Therapy team for neck/shoulder pain,  I could not only resume my daily practice of SNs but also work up to reaching the goal of completing 108 SN cycles. This year’s SNY experience with the modified sequence made me realize that the practice of SNs does not have to be all or none for people with health conditions.

-Vidhya Gopalakrishnan