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Lead a Yoga Mala: 108 Sun Salutations

There are many approaches to leading a Yoga Mala, 108 Sun Salutations, and some yogis and yoginis will go through all without a break. Some new Western approaches open to a Yoga Mala like a marathon, receiving donations for how many salutations they do.

A Yoga Mala is a minimum of two hours best at 2.5 or 3 hours so there is time to introduce the mala and time for a long relaxation period (shavasana) and the addition of meditation and music (kirtan).    

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Pre-Event Prep

Step One: Create a sacred space.Decide if you are doing a mala in a circle with an altar in the center (as simple as candles, fruits and flowers or of your own choice) or with everyone facing forward. The circle empowers the community and is symbolic of a mala but not all spaces lend themselves to a circle.

Step Two: Placing the Mats.
If you are doing a mala in the round, place a few mats as guidelines as people enter. The mats radiate from the center like rays of the sun.

Step Three: Preparation - Counters and MusicYou can create two bowls to count from if you are leading the mala and moving with participants. Bowl One with 27 seeds, beads, beans - Bowl Two - Empty. Every time you go into a forward bend put one seed into the empty bowl. This way you will not lose your count.

Step Four: Intro to the Yoga Mala - 10-15 minutes
Start by unifying the group with OM or an invocation chant to introduce your yoga mala-global mala and your intention.
Some communities may want to have a talking circle which everyone speaks taking a bit longer, but can be done with everyone making one-word dedications.          

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)

Flows, but Downward Dog is not held for 5 breath, only a full ihale and exhale. You will need to guide the first 3-5 Sun Salutations. Remind people of the power of moving togehter and to not get ahead or behind on another.

Listen and try to step forward together. This is the part that takes some communication. As the first time "just say step forward" until people find the rhythm - you are the rhythm maker so breathe slow.

Modifications

The most important modifications are:

  • Always step forward and back - jumping is too intensive for most people for 108 rounds.
  • Always give people permission to rest in child's pose, to prayer in a seated position. Or with Kirtan accompanying your mala, they can chant along.
  • Bent knees in forward bends (there are 216 forward bends in a 108 mala)
  • Bent knee chaturanga, knees chest chaturanga, or event cat's breath
  • Cobra or Cat's breath instead of Updog.
  • Bent knee downward dog or child's pose.
  • If people listen to their bodies and feel this as a moving prayer, they will be empowered by the whole process.
Dedications - Four Rounds

Dedications are made at the top of each Sun Salutation. You can create a pause in the beginning but believe it or not one's heart begins to teach you in the flow. As you make the dedication at the beginning of each salutation, meditate, move, breathe and circulate that prayer through the whole round.

The Ritual Begins:
  • Round One: Dedications for Personal Transformation and Realization.This round is for all of one's prayer for your personal activation, healing, fertilization and manifestation of the potency of one's life. Self-realization and actualization. No prayer is to earthy or heavenly. If your car is broken down and unsafe or a gas guzzler, you may need a round in dedication to a hybrid car. Typically, the prayers are for healing qualities: compassion, love, creativity and the specific areas and projects that are part of the transformative fabric of one's life.
  • Round Two: Dedications for Family, Friends and Precious Jewels (anyone you have unresolved conflict with)
  • Round Three: Dedications for the World – The Bodhisattva round where we pray for what we care about and are active in transforming from war, global warming, children with AIDS, to your local needs. A very powerful round.
  • Round Four: Dedications to the Source – The conversation between you and God, the praise, gratitude and joy.
    You can finish the last 3, 5 or 8 rounds in Surya Namaskar B if you like with celebratory music.
  • Last Round: Shavasana (Relaxation) and Meditation; reading of Sacred Texts or Poetry.
    Swaha! Om Shanti Shanti Shanti ... bathe in the radiance and empowerment of your community or personal Yoga Mala.

Namaste,

Shiva Rea