I’ve tried to estimate the number of sun salutations I’ve done in my lifetime, but my brain gets stuck at something more than one hundred. The number must be somewhere in the thousands. Yet I never tire of practicing sun salutations. Each round is different. The practice is like walking the same path every day and seeing the subtle changes in the natural world. If you’re mindful, there is always something new to notice.
Yes, repetition can get boring, but there are ways to create variety in the practice: changing where you put your mat or taking it outside, focusing on the movement of one body part one day, another the next, or, as I did this morning, practicing with your eyes closed.
My body knows how to do a sun salutation, no question. I don’t need to think about the sequence of movements; I simply do them. Sometimes my body ends up on automatic pilot and my mind goes off pursuing its own agenda. By closing my eyes I am roping in the wayward thoughts and bringing the focus back to what my body is doing. Without being able to see where I’m going, I need to be very aware of where my body is in space. Proprioception, usually automatic, becomes a conscious process. And my mind is wrapped up in lifting my foot off the floor here and setting it down there and way too busy for silly thoughts.
This is what it means to be present.
And there is an added bonus – when your eyes are closed, the only way your mind can decide you’ve gone far enough into a pose is to feel it. During my practice today I surprised myself with a huge standing backbend. At least it felt huge, and that’s really all that matters.
The next time you are on your mat flowing through sun salutations, close your eyes and open up to a whole new practice within.