Tuesday 22nd January - The Significance of the Number 108, and Lentils and Parsnips On My Plate

Class Notes... The Significance of the Number 108 in Yoga

Last week in some of my classes we did the pose Baddha Konasana (also known as Bound Angle Pose and Cobblers Pose) a little differently to how we normally do it.  We pulsed our bent legs up and down in a small, gentle, bouncing movement to release tightness in the hip joint - and we did it 108 times!  I mentioned at the time that 108 was a significant number in yoga but that I didn't know all the reasons why it was so auspicious. So I did some research and thought I'd share my findings with you here...

There are 108 beads in a mala - a necklace used as an aid for meditation (see a blog post I wrote about this ages ago HERE).

I remember from my teacher training course many years ago that there are 108 Upanishads - ancient Sanskrit texts which teach us about Indian philosophy.

Apparently the average distance from the Earth to the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun and the diameter of the sun is about 108 times that of the diameter of Earth. (You might need to read that twice!)

The average distance from the Earth to the Moon is 108 times the moon's diameter.  

There's a mathematical connection too, which I completely don't understand, but maybe you do! It's to do with the powers of 1, 2, 3,.. 1 to the 1st power = 1, 2 to the 2nd power = 4, 3 to the power of 3 = 27. Then, multiplying 1 x 4 x 27 = 108.  

And another... 108 is a Harshad number - a number divisible by the sum of it's digits - 1+0+8=9. If you love this mathematics stuff there is more... but you'll have to look it up on Wikipedia because it makes my brain go wonky!

There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each letter has a masculine form (Shiva) and a feminine form (Shakti) 54 x 2 = 108.

There are 108 Marma points in the body. A Marma point is similar to an accupressure point - an energy point at the junction where two tissues meet.

There are 108 sacred sites, known as Pithas, in India. 

Yogis practice 108 Sun Salutations at the Summer and Winter Solstices and at the Equinoxes too. (Anyone up for that challenge this year??)

These are just a few of the instances where the number 108 crops up in yoga, but there are some more.  There is detailed article by Iyengar Teacher Cora Wen HERE if you want to delve a bit deeper into this topic.

So, as you can see, I didn't randomly pick 108 out of the air when we did our Bound Angle Pose in class last week! Nothing is random in yoga - everything has a reason and has been studied and recorded and, although there is a lot of mystery and myth surrounding such an ancient practice, it's all interesting stuff and there's enough to learn to keep me going for the rest of my lifetime! 


This Week's Mother Nature's Magic... the Big Garden Birdwatch

Have you got an hour to spare next weekend 26-28 January? If you have why not sign up to the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch? Make yourself a cuppa, take a seat by the window and spend a pleasant hour counting the birds that visit your garden. Then, when you submit your findings, the RSPB will collate it to form a big picture about the health of the populations of our nation's birds. It's valuable information and your input will be really helpful.  Click HERE to go to the sign-up page on the RSPB's website for all the info.


This Week's Recipe... Parsnip, Leek & Coconut Gratin with Lentils and Wilted Greens

Oh, this one's a good 'un! It comes from Riverford, the veg box company, and it's hearty, healthy and tasty too.  The coconut milk makes it creamy and mild, and it's a lovely way to use parsnips that I have never tried before.  There are lots of other great recipes on the website too - you can take a look here  https://www.riverford.co.uk/recipes

You will need:

500g parsnips,
1 tin of coconut milk,
1 vegetable stock cube,
100g red lentils,
2 leeks,
1 onion,
2 garlic cloves,
300g spring greens,
a quarter of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper,
1 teaspoon of turmeric,
1 teaspoon of cumin,
1 teaspoon of black onion seeds,
vegetable or sunflower oil for frying,
salt and pepper

Serves 2

And here's how to make it:

  1. Wash and peel the parsnips. Cut them in half lengthways and slice at an angle, into half cm pieces. Fill a saucepan with cold salted water, add the parsnips and bring up to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes before draining, reserving the cooking water when you do.
  2. While the parsnip cooks, peel and finely slice the onion. Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in the other saucepan and fry the onion gently for 10 minutes until it starts to soften.
  3. While the onion cooks, trim the leeks of their root end and dark green leaves. Slice them into 1cm discs and wash them well. In a saucepan, mix the coconut milk with the stock cube, cumin, turmeric and a pinch of cayenne (see note at the end). Add 50ml of the parsnip cooking water and warm it through on a low heat, stirring to dissolve the stock cube. Preheat oven to 200˚C/Gas Mark 6. Rinse the lentils well in a sieve.
  4. Lay the cooked onion on the bottom of the gratin dish, layer the lentils on top, the leeks on top of that and finish with a layer of parsnips. Pour the warm coconut stock into the dish and bake for 25-30 minutes until the parsnips and lentils are tender and the parsnips are golden and bubbling.
  5. While the gratin cooks, strip the spring green leaves away from their tough stalks. Discard the stalks and wash the leaves, then chop them roughly. 10 minutes before the gratin is ready, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan, add the spring greens and cook for 5 minutes, until wilted.
  6. Add the black onion seeds to the pan and a seasoning of salt and pepper. Cook for a few more minutes until tender. Serve a generous scoop of the comforting gratin with a pile of greens on the side.
Note: Be cautious with the cayenne pepper, it can be very hot: add it to the stock in small and tentative increments until it suits your taste. 


This Week's Musical Offering... Hari Om by Nisha Narsai

I played this lovely, relaxing mantra track in class last week for Savasana - can you take 8 minutes out of your day to practice a little bit of restorative yoga while you listen to it? I think you'll like it...

This Week's Video... A Little Piece of Advice from Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey 

 Namaste, and thanks for reading. I wish you a wonderful week...