Sun ‘dance’ slated for the solstice in Port Townsend

PORT TOWNSEND — At this “dance,” there will be oranges for peeling, for eating and for filling the room with fragrance.

And since this is the Pacific Northwest, there will be cedar boughs and plenty of water to drink.

And there will be 108 sun salutations: 108 sets of flowing yoga poses saluting the sun, done to music from all over the world.

Jen Bates of uptown’s Room to Move yoga studio, is inviting every body — sun-salutation-experienced or not — to take it all in this Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The suggested donation is $10, and a portion of proceeds will benefit Dove House Advocacy Services.

Children will be admitted free to Room to Move, upstairs at 1008 Lawrence St.

Winter solstice

Tuesday, of course, is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

Come Wednesday, the days will begin to lengthen, albeit slowly in this part of the planet.

So, Bates and other yoga instructors believe, this is a good time for people to get together, look inward and share the natural light within.

But 108 sun salutations? In one room, on one night? Isn’t that a little excessive?

First, you don’t have to do them all, Bates emphasized.

When Room to Move hosted its first solstice 108 last year, people came in, stayed awhile, then went on their way.

There were men, women and children, she said, and there was enough room for all.

“We’re going to have great music,” from Aretha Franklin to Ravi Shankar, she said, and Room to Move will be lighted by candles and furnished with cushions.

Nine sets of 12

A series of teachers will lead the way, and “we’ll probably divide the 108 into nine sets of 12.”

“I’m inviting people to come and practice at their own level. Part of yoga is learning about your body, paying attention to what’s happening inside.”

The 108 will be something to behold, Bates believes. Imagine 30 people in the room, all breathing together. Or chanting — since the group will pause several times to do that.

Ilana Smith, founder of Room to Move, led the assembly last year in a version of the Gayatri Mantra, a Sanskrit chant to “the giver of light and life,” the sun.

It’s one of the oldest Sanskrit chants in continuous use, Smith said.

Again this year, the words will be distributed on handout sheets so people can read and listen if they choose not to chant. Like everything, “chanting is optional,” Bates added.

Still, the question of “why 108?” hasn’t been answered.

Meaning of 108 salutations

Bates said the number has many meanings in India, the land from whence yoga came: According to Vedic tradition, there are 108 nadis, channels of subtle energy flow in the body.

In much of India today, 1-0-8 is the number people dial for help in an emergency, just as Americans dial 9-1-1.

The distance between the Earth and the sun is 108 times the diameter of the sun, Bates noted. And get this: A baseball has 108 stitches.

Yet, when it comes to sun salutations, the sets of movements that can warm the body to the core, 108 may be a daunting amount.

“You can do any part,” Bates said. “You can just be there” to be with others in a warm and peaceful environment.

“We treat the event as an open house,” she said, while the sun salutations are a dance.

This evening isn’t for only the bendy people, added Bates, 46, who emphasizes yoga’s promotion of not only physical feats, but also inner fitness.

Not an exercise class

“To me, yoga is a science and a philosophy, not an exercise class,” she said.

While teaching a yoga class recently, she invited her students to do a standing forward bend and let their heads sway in front of their knees.

Then she had them come up very slowly, a single vertebra at a time, to standing.

One man breathed a long, languorous sigh as he lifted his head up and gazed forward.

“I could see his whole body melt and relax,” Bates said.

“It’s for that moment, that face, that I teach yoga.”

So don’t worry about carving your body into a particular pose, she said. Do think about enjoying yourself — and about how the sunlight is coming back after the solstice.

For information about Tuesday’s event, visit or phone 360-379-1710.


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

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