Soundtrack of life to welcome winter solstice in Port Townsend

PORT TOWNSEND — Motown, rock ’n’ roll, ancient mantras.

It won’t be your ordinary Thursday yoga class.

Room to Move, the yoga studio upstairs at 1008 Lawrence St., will host its third annual winter solstice celebration from 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Thursday, starring 108 sun salutations — yoga poses greeting the sun — to a varied soundtrack.

Orchestrator Jen Bates believes it’s high time to welcome back the sun, which will shine just a little bit longer each day from this day forward.

So Bates, a veteran yoga teacher and music maven, will mix those two ingredients for a solstice party that’s open to everyone.

“Our playlist includes East-West fusion, reggae, electronic, blues and more. From Prince to Ravi Shankar, we’ll have it all,” she promised.

Children, grownups, longtime yoga practitioners and novices are all invited to participate, added Room to Move owner Ilana Smith; admission is $15, with all proceeds going to Dove House, Jefferson County’s provider of free services — including a 24-hour crisis line, 360-385-5291 — for people affected by domestic and sexual violence.

This will be a night of peaceful poses, Smith said, to promote peace across the community.

For those who can’t quite imagine doing 108 sun salutations, she offers encouraging words: “Everything is optional. People can participate at whatever level,” she said.

“They can help us count, or they can learn the [salutations] . . . we’ll do nine sets of 12,” with each set led by a new yoga instructor.

“We ask different teachers in the community to lead a segment,” Smith added.

“Any [teacher] can step up and ask to lead. It’s a community event.”

The whole point of Thursday is simple, she said.

It’s to give thanks for the sun and all that it gives: life, illumination, warmth.

Room to Move will be filled with candlelight — and cushions for those who want to kick back, relax and watch.

Periodically, participants will pause to chant the Gayatri mantra, a Sanskrit text that expresses gratitude for sunshine.

Why chant in that ancient tongue, and why 108 salutations?

The Sanskrit language, Smith explained, was formulated to create certain vibrations in the body.

So chanting it is a healing practice.

“It has always been a sacred language used for healing,” she said.

Chanting, however, is just an option like everything else. People may choose to do one, nine, 12, 48 or 108 of the pose sequences.

The number 108 corresponds to things spiritual and physical, Bates noted.

There are 108 pressure points on our skin, for one thing; these points connect to the body’s meridians according to Chinese medical tradition.

The distance between the Earth and the sun is 108 times the diameter of the sun; and for practitioners of the Hindu religion, there are 108 deities.

Last December, when Room to Move hosted the solstice salutations, about 70 people circulated through; some stayed from start to finish while others slipped in and then out.

The studio can hold 35 to 40 practitioners at one time, Smith said, so the natural ebb and flow of participants made it work.

It’s something like a dance.

She encourages people to come and observe, and to join in when a space on the floor opens up.

“It’s part of the excitement of how it all unfolds,” Smith said.

Yoga, with its attendant deep breathing and mindful moves, is a way to warm up at this chilly point in time, Bates added.

“By coming together on the darkest day of the year,” she said, “we’ll generate internal heat and open our bodies and hearts to the eternal light within.”

For more details, phone the yoga studio at 360-385-2864 or visit


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at

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