Yoga Mala & Fire Bowl Ceremony

What does a moving mediation of sun salutations have to do with a stylish necklace?

For the second year I am offering a Yoga Mala and fire bowl ceremony to close out 2018 and welcome in 2019 on New Years Eve. I am not a big New Year’s reveler. Since the addition of kids into my family the idea of staying up until midnight just sounds like torture the next day. And before kids, I was usually the one that got a little over enthusiastic about the evening and ended up in bed before midnight feeling tortured with the addition of a heaping helping of embarrassment the next day! This is my new tradition and I hope you will join me!

What is a Mala?

I can remember the first time I encountered a mala event to celebrate the spring equinox. I knew that the trendy necklaces with tassels were called malas and now I was learning that 108 sun salutations was also a mala. Honestly, I was thoroughly confused and too embarrassed to ask. Why was this physical moving mediation and event of celebration called the same thing as a popular necklace… which at that point I didn’t understand the significance of either?

I learned a yoga mala is 108 Surya Namaskars or sun salutations. Generally all of the salutations are Sun A’s. As someone who doesn’t practice or teach many traditional sun salutations any longer, undertaking this many during one practice sounds like lunacy. In 108 sun salutations there are 108 down dogs, 108 planks, and 108 up-dogs or cobras. That is not to mention stepping forward and back a total of 216 times!!

However, the 108 salutations are broken up into 4 groups of 27 with the opportunity to rest and reset after each group. Each group has a distinct intention beginning with the self in the first round and ending with something much more universal for the final round. If breaking up the 108 into 4 equal chunks still sounds grueling, there is no obligation or expectation that you must complete all 108. But once you get in a rhythm with your breath and the community of participants around you, you might be surprised at how many you can and want to complete!

Why 108?

Seems pretty arbitrary, right? 108 is considered a sacred number in yogic traditions. 108 is considered to be divine number as it shows up again and again throughout the universe. It is said that the distance from the Earth to the sun and moon is 108 times their respective diameters. In Buddhism there are thought to be 108 feelings. As for the connection to the mala necklaces…traditionally there are 108 beads on a mala necklace (plus the guru bead(s)). Malas are used, much like Catholic rosaries, to hold while meditating or praying to keep count of a mantra. And in the card game UNO there are 108 cards.

And the number truly becomes inconsequential as you move. You fall into a rhythm with our breath and potentially the community of movers around you and the physical demands fall back as the calm, meditative movement and breath take over! It is definitely something you have to experience to fully understand.

What is a fire bowl ceremony?

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of what a mala is and the reason for the undertaking. We will end the celebration with a simple fire bowl ceremony.

Before we begin to practice the sun salutations, everyone will write down things they would like to let go of in the New Year. These can be material things, emotional states, behavioral patterns, etc. Intentions for 2019 may also be written to begin to attract what you desire in the coming year. Your individual release, prayer, intentions inscribed on a piece of paper will be placed under your mat for the duration of the mala. After the mala is complete, in silence, we will take our writings to the fire bowl and watch as they dissipate, turning from written words and intentions to smoke.

Fire represents rapid transformation. From a practical standpoint we burn things – food for energy, wood for heat, coal for electricity (hopefully transitioning to solar power but that is a different topic!). Symbolically, fire is a powerful metaphor for change. Using fire in conjunction with the end of a year and the start of a new one, it represents the ability and power to release what we no longer need – old patterns, beliefs, and experiences; the clearing and cleansing of the old; the creation of space to allow the new to take root and flourish. It is simple and primal yet so poignant and powerful.

Details for the event

If any or all of this piqued your interest please join me!

Where | Ishine Yoga & Wellness

When | December 31, 2018 from 10:00 – 1:00 pm. (We will probably finish well before the 3 hour time frame. The mala will take about 90 mins to complete, the fire bowl ceremony will last about 20 mins and there will be an option for a small celebration after the event.)

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