Surprisingly, 108 sun salutations were exactly what I needed

A skeptical columnist agrees to an activity that ended up being transformative

Kristen Wheeden avatar

by Kristen Wheeden |

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“Let’s do the 108 Sun Salutations class on Wednesday morning!” my dear friend Nancie texted me. The special class was scheduled for the day of the summer solstice.

My initial reaction was to wonder if she really knew me. After all, I’ve spent a significant part of my personal and professional life at odds with the sun. Why would I willingly wake up at the crack of dawn to salute it?

The sun is the cause of severe and debilitating pain for my youngest son, who has erythropoietic protoporphyria. We go to great lengths to avoid it and harbor negative feelings toward it. Yet, I decided to keep an open mind and explore the reasons to attend the class. Although I’m no yogi, I do appreciate a meaningful and invigorating workout.

To my surprise, I discovered that the number 108 holds significant symbolism in Hinduism and Buddhism. Starting a new season with a repetitive sequence of 108 movements is believed to foster a connection between the body, mind, and breath while honoring a rich tradition. So why not engage in a workout that holds personal and symbolic significance?

Additionally, spending time with a friend is always restorative, not to mention an opportunity for some playful revenge for putting me through this challenge.

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With these factors in mind, I decided to take on the demanding class and show the sun who’s in control. Little did I know.

On the morning the summer solstice broke, I entered the yoga studio and found myself amid a sea of enthusiastic yogis. Signs around the walls invited us to “Set Your Soul on Fire” while candles lined the room.

The class was packed and brimming with anticipation and a sense of community. It was far from a quiet yoga retreat — the instructors wielded motivating music and reveled in friendship and togetherness. Finding my spot on the yoga mat, I set my intentions for a powerful experience, fully embracing the paradox of harnessing the sun’s energy as both an ally and a formidable foe in our lives.

Light purple writing on a dark purple wall in a yoga studio reads "Set your soul on fire." Two candles on the floor are lit.

(Courtesy of Kristen Wheeden)

A magical experience

As the class commenced, the energy grew more intense. With each sun salutation, I could feel the heat building within my body and permeating the room. The instructors pushed us to our limits, urging us for one more salute, and then another, and another. Sweat poured down my face, and my muscles began to protest. However, I remained determined. This practice wasn’t solely about honoring the sun — it was about honoring my son.

In that sweltering yoga class, I was surrounded by strangers who unknowingly became part of my journey. While guiding us through the agonizing moves, the instructors bellowed that “true light and power shines from within!” It was as if they were speaking only to me and my intentions for being there.

With each repetition, sweat and exhausted muscles made me thoroughly question my decision. This was far more difficult than anticipated. The instructors encouraged us to dig deeper and discover the untapped source of strength within ourselves.

And there, in that moment, I found it. The redness on my face was not solely a result of physical exertion; it was a testament to the fire that burned within me, fueled by the love for my son and the desire to honor him, all who live like he has to, and those who support them.

As the class ended, I mopped my face and departed the studio with a heart full of light. The sweat-soaked clothes clung to my body, symbolizing the effort I had poured into those 108 salutations.

So was I honoring the sun or my son? The truth is that it was both. Through that arduous yoga class, I saluted the sun that has caused my son so much pain, and I celebrated the indomitable spirit within him. It was a powerful reminder that the light shines inside each of us, even when external circumstances may be challenging.

And it turns out that, yes, Nancie really does know me. She did not underestimate the joy I would feel and the energy I would absorb in a moment of yogi-ness through a ton of sun salutations.

Note: Porphyria News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Porphyria News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to porphyria.


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