At 10:15am on Memorial Day, in a donation-based class at Encourage, we are proud to once again support Veterans Yoga Project and Tommy O’Toole as he leads practitioners through 21 Sun Salutations to honor the fallen.

As a former Marine and Iraq War veteran who was discharged early, but honorably for medical reasons in 2008, Tommy is intimately aware of the realities of the battlefield. He initially had a very difficult time re-assimilating to civilian life but drew on his longterm meditation practice and time spent in nature to rekindle the love he once knew for himself.  Taking up the practice of yoga (and then the teaching of it) grew out of this turn towards a healthier lifestyle.

By practicing 21 Sun Salutes, we are echoing the ritual of a 21-gun salute.  That salute stems from a naval tradition whereby a warship fired its cannons away from its adversary until all of its munitions were spent. This act signaled that the warship was disarmed and meant no hostile intent.

Some may find that practicing 21 Sun Salutations is physical challenging; feel free to practice as many as you can. We’re asking you to consider what is being ‘spent’ along the way? Is it just the glycogen stores in your muscles that are being emptied? Is the task just ‘plain hard’ or is there anything that’s softening along the way? And when you take up the question of intent, do you notice hostility within you at any point, perhaps as (or because) you fatigue? When you meet difficulty, how do you meet it?  How does the inhale meet the exhale?

In addition to the live class that Tommy is offering, and in an effort to involve more members of our community in this event, we’re sharing stick figures of the sun salutation for people who can’t come to the studio.  We are inviting you to make a cash or check donation at the studio or a donation with a credit card online to Veterans Yoga Project to help their ambassadors (like Tommy) share the benefits of yoga with veterans, their families and our community.

At the studio, Tommy and everyone practicing there will be lighting a tea candle, harnessing the light of the sun to honor, pray for, love, remember and/or grieve. If you’re practicing alone or with others, we’re inviting you to likewise light a candle, to take a picture and share it (and the stick figures!) with others to encourage them to actively honor the many who have fallen.