Counting is one of the easiest and most gentle ways of introducing a little meditation into our lives.

Some of you may be put off by the idea of meditation, believing it more the province of Buddhists and yoga teachers; but in fact, it is a form of relaxation most of us can enjoy. It can be described quite simply as the conscious decision to quieten the mind by focusing on one thing (in this case the count) to the exclusion of all else.

At the beginning or end of my yoga classes, I often invite you to follow or count the breath to slow down busy minds and access a more peaceful space inside.

There are different ways of counting the breath to relax, for instance counting up to 3 or 4 on the inhale and exhale; or counting up to 10 slowly and mindfully. You can try different methods, and opt for one you feel most comfortable with. 

Some people like to work around the number 108 which has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism. Traditionally, malas, or garlands of prayer beads, come as a string of 108 beads (plus one for the “guru bead,” around which the other 108 beads turn like the planets around the sun). A mala is used for counting as you repeat a mantra—much like the Catholic rosary.

Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. 

In last week's class, we used the hand, instead of mala beads, to count to 108. The fingers have 12 joints, and you can count them in a spiral inwards by moving the thumb. If you do this 9 times, you reach 108.  Regardless of spiritual significance, it's a good way of keeping the joints of the hand supple and arthritis at bay!