Why 108 days?

Many have asked me why 108 days?  The number 108 has multiple significances in many eastern traditions. Its presence in mathematics, nature, and spirituality has drawn the attention of many yogis. Some choose to focus on the geometric significance of the number—108 equals 1 to the first power, 2 to the second power, and 3 to the third power, it also has 10 factors and is divisible by three which is a stable and balanced number. It is also the average distance of the Sun and Moon to the Earth. Some choose to focus on more spiritual significances- there are 108 beads on a mala (string of beads) that is used to help count mantras in meditation, it is believed that there are 108 energy lines that stem through the heart chakra. And these are just a few of the connections to the number 108. For all the reasons, it is not uncommon for a group of people to do a yoga mala, or 108 sun salutations in honor of a celebration or for a special cause.

Having a special cause of my own, I was always attracted to the idea of doing 108. I first aspired to do a yoga mala as a fundraiser to fight MS, but as the idea sat with me, something never seemed quite right. While the competitor in me grew excited with the challenge, it didn’t seem to honor the meaning behind my yoga practice or the cause I was fighting for. Since yoga, to me, is about being able to shift, adjust, and provide myself with whatever it may need to feel good, strong, and healthy, I felt it more appropriate to be kind to my body, and commit to my yoga practice.

Committing to 108 days of yoga, just like the number itself, provides many possibilities. I can give my ever-changing body the ever-adapting practice it needs. I can recruit a community to practice with me and strengthen our voice about fighting MS, practicing yoga, and keeping people healthy. I can share my practice as I travel with family, friends, new studios and teachers. I can raise a ton of money for MS that will hopefully lead to better treatments and a cure. Doing 108 days is not about rallying to complete a strenuous physical challenge, it’s about finding the patience to engage with my body on a daily basis and keep myself healthy.

For more about the significance of the number 108, check out these sites:

http://www.swamij.com/108.htm

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/the-number-108/

http://satyayoganorfolk.com/uncategorized/yoga-fundamentals-the-meaning-and-mysticism-of-108-and-furthermore-a-little-explanation-of-malas-and-mantras/

Day 1– And we’re off

I just shared this email with the teammates joining me in Bend Over Backwards MS, but I thought I should also share it with my viewers.  However you practice yoga, and how often you practice is up to you and for you.  Here are some suggestions though if you’re feeling stuck.

It’s Day 1… And we’re off!  Thank you, again, for committing to 108 days of yoga and fighting against MS!  As we begin this journey I’d like to remind you of some easy ways to get your 108 days started.

-Start By Observing:Do some slow sun saltuations and just see where your body is at.  Does one side feel different than the other?  Are some parts of your sun salute easier than others?  Just observe

-Start With Community: Hit up a new or old favotire class.  Or come join me, I’ll be at Bloom Yoga Studio kicking it off in their 4pm Class with Jessie Novak

-Start With A Goal:What do you hope to get out of your yoga practice?  Is there a post you’ve always wanted to get into?  You have 108 day to safely work towards that goal.  What do you need to do to set up for that goal?  Today is a great day to start opening yourself up to that potential of reaching your goal.

-Start With Your Breath: Breathing is the most important thing we can do in life.  So it makes great sense to spend ten minutes focusing on your breath.

-Start With Music: Putting on music that I love is a great way to motivate me through a home practice.  Let the music guide you through your poses.

However you practice yoga today, enjoy it!  and be sure to share it on our facebook page or in your social media using #bendoverbackwardsMS and #108daysofyogaMS.

Much love and gratitude!

Rachel

Kicking-off!

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As we begin our journey through 108 days of yoga, it’s every bit as important to be intentional about day 1 as it is for any day along the line. Part of the reason I chose to do a fundraiser over the course of time was to make sure I honored myself and my practice each and everyday.

Finding the best way to start can be as unique to you as the way each person’s yoga practice will unfold.  But if you’re looking for some ideas, here are some great ways to kick off your 108-day practice.

  1. Invite a friend over and do 18 Sun Salutations. 18×6 is 108, what a great number to start your practice with!
  2. Do an online video! Yogaglo.com is one of my favorites, but doyogawithme.com is also great and completely free!
  3. Start with svavasana! Take five minutes to just relax completely. This is a wonderful way to set your body up for 108 days of attention. Do a body scan and just notice what your body feels like.
  4. Seek comfort in a favorite studio! I’ll be attending class at my neighborhood studio, Bloom Yoga Studio in Chicago. I have been attending this studio since my diagnosis in 2006. It is where I will be throwing a 108th practice celebration on March 7 and it is the perfect place to kick this off.

Whereever you start, I do hope you will join me! Make sure to share your practice on social media using #BendOverBackwardsMS and #108DaysOfYogaMS.

Relaxing through jaw clenching poses

Do you hate yoga? I did. I’m a competitive person and found myself gritting through yoga classes at my gym to complement my triathlon training. I found it ironic that my teacher was reminding me to relax my jaw, as it seemed clenching my teeth was the only way I was going to bare another second of holding warrior one. But several classes, studios, and teachers later, I found my perspective changing.

Shortly after I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I found myself disappointed in my body, greatly discouraged, and unknowingly attending a class that would forever change my yoga practice, as well as the way I face my life with MS. While holding a simple forward bend, the teacher asked us to notice how our body felt without judging. Woa. No judgment?! With a body that just completely let me down, I was queen of judging myself. If this practice was going to relieve me of my own judgment, it was going to be harder than expected, but well worth it. And then his next words “You may notice that your body is resisting more than it did in your last practice, or it’s allowing you to bend further than you once could. Use this information (here it comes again) not to judge, rather to observe where you are today and breath into that space.” And that was it- my great epiphany at the age of 25. I was not going to be able to control what MS did to me each day or how I might feel, but I still could do my best with what was going on—no judgment. As I hung over my legs, I took a deep breath and started my new yoga practice.

As I continue to grow with yoga, I keep meeting teachers who share words that resonate with me, shape the way I move and think on and off my mat, and guide my evolving practice. Sometimes it is just the right cue to tweak my warrior one into a place where I can relax my jaw, sometimes it’s a lesson I can take with me off my mat. In any case, I invite you to attend a class, find a teacher who can gift you some words, and help shape your practice to serve the healthiest you.

Bend Over Backwards For MS

8 years ago, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an auto-immune disease that attacks the central nervous system and can have a multitude of symptoms including impaired movement, loss of vision, and constant nerve pain. Instead of letting this news slow me down, I started moving. I found that practicing yoga helped keep me calm, responsive, physically active—healthy.

As I continue to fight against this disease for myself and others, I have three goals; 1. Raise money to support organizations that are working round the clock to advocate for MS patients, and fund research for better treatments and a cure. 2. Spread awareness and get people involved. 3. Stay healthy.

In an effort to stay healthy, I have decided to commit myself to 108 Days of Yoga. In an effort to end this disease, I am asking people to consider donating $108 to the National MS Society. You can team up with two more friends and donate $36 each, challenge your boss to match you at $56, or donate the $108 yourself. Together, I am hoping to raise $10,800 by the time I complete my #108daysforMS. #BendoverbackwardsMS
To donate or join my team visit www.nationalmssociety.org/goto/108daysofyogams

It’s About Balance

Not sure you can make it 108 days?
I learned from yoga two major lessons. 1. Create and allow balance 2. Explore each day with new eyes and no judgement. Your practice will not look the same each day, so fear not. Here are some tips and suggestions to keep your 108 days healthy and happy:
~Balance- Some days I feel like pushing myself in a group class, others I do a more restorative practice at home in my bedroom just before bed. Both serve my mind and body. Remember to keep a balance in your practices.
~Hit up a new studio or teacher- practicing in a new environment or with a new teacher often allows me to look at my practice with a new eye and inspires me to keep it evolving.
~Join me at a studio or store- I’m currently in conversation with studios and stores in Chicago setting up special classes to help raise awareness for our cause and get people involved. Whether you’re committing to the 108 days or not, I’d love to have you join me at these practices! Let me know if you’re interested in more info!
~Do 5 Sun Salutations- There are many days when getting on the mat seems daunting. Typically, if I can commit to 5 Sun Salutations, I get swept away and end up doing more. If not, at least I did 5.
~Pick an intention or Mantra- As if fighting MS wasn’t enough, picking a personal intention or mantra can help focus your practice. For several years I had “Yoga will keep me calm and healthy” written on a post in note and placed on my bathroom mirror. Now every time I practice, I say this to myself. It has been my motivation to return to the mat even when life has seemed too chaotic for a daily practice.
~Practice with friends and family- Travel plans, for me, typically mean a break from any sort of exercise. With my start date of 11/20, I know I will have to figure out how to practice while visiting family. My plan is to recruit them and get them to practice with me. By telling them ahead of time, I know I’ll be held to my word.
~Breath- I had a professor in college who taught me how something so simple can have such powerful effects. Just breath. Whether in a pose on a your mat or in traffic in your car, the power of breath is wonderful.
I sincerely hope you will consider taking this challenge with me. If you have any questions let me know!