August 17, 2013

A sunny Yogathon

By Fanny L. Arnaud 
The sun was shinning on Saturday morning for the 108 sun salutations Yogathon.

On August 17th, 50 yoga lovers met at McGill University campus to complete 108 sun salutations. The challenge organized by The Art of Living Foundation aimed at raising funds to support the Care For Children program.

Ariane Gagné came with a friend. She has never done yoga before and she doesn’t know the 12 movements of the sun salutation.

“I mainly came to support the foundation’s cause,” she says.

Indeed the Yogathon is less a sport challenge than a charity event.

The Artof Living Foundation is a non-profit organization based in more than 150 countries in the world. It offers yoga, meditation and stress-elimination programs in line with the founder’s philosophy: “Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace.”

On McGill lower field, the volunteers are welcoming participants. They distribute snacks and beverages. People talk to each other, choose a yoga mat, and sit on the grass. The music began and Ralph Matta, organizer of the event and yoga teacher, steps on the platform.

“Let’s dedicate these sun salutations to Care for Children,” he says.

Care for Children is a program of The Art of Living Foundation. It helps establishing schools and other educational infrastructure in India. The 2013 edition of Yogathon raised $30,000 across Canada.

Indeed the challenge was simultaneously organised in 10 cities: Vancouver, London, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, St. Mathieu-du-Parc (Mauricie), Windsor, Halifax, Ottawa and Pembroke.

Matta decomposes slowly the first salutation for the beginners. Some people are watching him, other are already doing it. He’s counting “one: inhale, two: exhale.” People join the movement, volunteers help the beginners and quickly the 50 people are moving to the same beat. The passers-by stop, have a look, and ask questions.

The sun salutation has physical and mental benefits. The combination of 12 poses help to reduce depression, anxiety and stress. It tones your muscles and burn excess calories. It is a tradition to perform 108 sun salutations. It has been a sacred number for a long time, notably because the diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.

People don’t hesitate to take a break. It’s really warm and they stop to drink water or to move their mat in the shade.

After almost two hours, the challenge has been met. For participants, it’s time to relax.

Adrienne Piggott has practiced yoga only a couple of time in her life. For the Yogathon, she accomplished 107 sun salutations.

“I will come back next year,” she says. “And until then, I will find time to practice regularly because yoga makes me feel really good.”

And she wasn't the only one to enjoy the challenge.

Sylvie Cournoyer has been practicing yoga for 10 years. She teaches yoga in Montreal. For her, it’s a completely different experience to complete the sun salutation in a group or alone.

“The group’s energy increases the sun salutation’s power, you can feel the vibrations,” she says.

For others, the Yogathon is an opportunity to practice yoga outside in a friendly atmosphere.

Roshan Pandey came for the music and the people. He has never done more than 30 sun salutations in a row until today.

“ It was more comfortable than I though,” he said. “I met the challenge.”

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