108 Sun Salutations
Of all the numbers used to explain how the universe works, 108 appears in countless different interpretations and contexts, from mathematics and astronomy to religious rites, spiritual practices, and even medicine and architecture. It is probably the number that holds the most significance for yoga and meditation practitioners. So, why is the number 108 so special? And why do we practice 108 sun salutations at the summer solstice?
In the context of yoga practice, 1 is said to represent the focus on one thing and the verticality of breath as it flows through the body, 0 is for having zero senses and preconceptions when stepping on your mat, and 8 stands for uniting with the flow of infinity.
Yogis traditionally do 108 sun salutations on solstices and equinoxes in order to express their gratitude and devotion to the practice. Occasionally these are performed as 9 rounds of sun salutations composed of the 12 asanas in a Surya Namaskar, again totaling 108. Some schools of meditation teach that the practitioner should perform 100 cycles of a mantra meditation for himself, plus 8 extra rounds for those who don’t have the opportunity to practice meditation themselves. Pranayama is traditionally taught and practiced in at least 108 repetitions to unfold its full effects.
Why do we practice the Sun Salutation Sequence?
Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskar, is a way of showing gratitude for our lives, and all that we are blessed with. Namaskar means “to bow to” or “to adore”, in this case, the sun. The sun is the very source that gives all living things life. When we rise up to Mountain Pose (Tadasana), we honor the sun, the heavens, the universe, the unlimited space and opportunity that is above us. When we bow down to a forward fold (Uttanasana), we honour the earth, our stability, our home.
The Sun Salutation sequence is designed to create “tapas” or inner heat that cleanses the body. And the “mandala” or circular pattern of the poses brings us into a state of focused moving meditation. The inner heat and focused moving meditation enables us to peel away unnecessary layers of thought, emotions or physical baggage. As we let go of these layers, we allow our full potential and highest ideals to emerge.
In Sun Salutations, your breath is your guide that links one pose to the next. Breath takes you in and out of each pose. When we practice Surya Namaskar with focus on breath, we are able to use our exhale to let go, releasing those things that no longer serve us; and then inhale new ways of being that will nurture us.
108 Sun Salutations to celebrate the Summer Solstice and International Yoga Day!
We invite you to join us to celebrate the longest day of the year and the International Yoga Day with 108 Sun Salutations, 7.30pm in the studio on 21st June 2023.
This is an uplifting ancient tradition that is used by yoga communities all over the world to celebrate each change of season. It might sound like a lot but surprisingly is more mentally challenging than physically! All levels welcome, you will always have time to rest if necessary, and Marie-Laure will be guiding you at all moments through the event.
Come and celebrate the official arrival of summer – we will harness the transformational energy into our yoga practice. Through this moving meditation you will feel deeply connected to yourself and mother earth.
This is your time for transformation, and everyone can experience the empowering effects of this supercharged day! Booking essential.
How to get the most out of this special practice
The Summer Solstice is the marking point half way through the year, use this opportunity to examine what you have learned in the last six months, then consider what you might like to achieve in the next half of the year.
To prepare for the beautiful and meditative practice of 108 sun salutations, ask yourself: what am I nurturing that really matters to me, where am I growing?
Remember – the goal is 108, but always listen to your body. Whether you finish 18, 80, or 108, it is the intent that counts. Make yoga a heart-centred practice, not an ego-based one. And if you need to take a a long child’s pose, take one, do what works for you!
You will find a state of ease in surrendering to the flow, letting every moment come and go, inhaling and exhaling. Acknowledge what arises emotionally and then let it go. Once you get into a rhythm, your mental chatter will decrease as your awareness turns inward. This is why it is called a moving meditation. As we flow through one round after another, our collective breath and intention will expand far beyond the four walls of the studio. It is the synergy of hard work and intention that leads us closer to the ultimate goal of Yoga – a state of oneness with all that is.
Why practice 108 times?
The number 108 is considered sacred in many Eastern religions and traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and is also found in yoga and dharma based practices. There is a long established tradition of practicing 108 sun salutations all around the world.
In the Vedic age, the era in which the most ancient Hindu scriptures were composed, renowned mathematicians regarded 108 as the number that symbolises the wholeness of existence and the universe. It is a so-called Harshad (which in Sanskrit means “joy-giving”) number, an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. The number 108 is connected to much more:
- In astronomy, the number 108 intriguingly connects the sun, moon and earth: the diameter of the sun is 108 times that of the earth, and the distance between sun and earth is approximately 108 times the diameter of the sun. Similarly, the diameter of the moon multiplied by 108 equals the distance between earth and moon.
- A five-pointed star (which is a common symbol for human being) has exactly 108 degrees between any two adjacent points, and a pentagon in its center with interior angles of 108° as well.
- In Hinduism and Buddhism, 1 represents the Divine or the universe, 0 symbolizes the emptiness or completeness at the beginning of a spiritual journey, and 8 stands for infinity and eternity.
- It is said that there are 108 energy lines (nadis) converging to form the heart chakra. In Ayurveda there are 108 sacred intersection points (marmas) that hold the vital energy in the body.
- In Hinduism, there are 108 early Upanishads that make up the theoretical basis for the religion. Hinduists knows 108 names for female deities, 108 forms of Indian dance, 108 types of meditation, 108 sacred sites (pithas) throughout India, 108 steps that lead up to most temples, and 108 alleged stages the soul has to pass through until it can reach enlightenment. Legends even tell of Indian sadhuswho could reach such deep states of meditation that they required only 108 breaths a day.
- To this day, the significance of the number is still deeply rooted in India: if you ever happen to get in the undesirable situation to need medical help while traveling the country: 1-0-8 is the national emergency phone number.
- The Sanskrit alphabet has 54 letters, each with a masculine and feminine form called shiva and shakti respectively, making a total of 108 letters.
- In Kriya Yoga, a system consisting of a number of levels of Pranayama (breathing exercises) based on techniques that are intended to rapidly accelerate spiritual development, the maximum number of repetitions allowed to be practiced in one sitting is 108.
- Tibetan mala beads, or prayer beads, are used to count mantra repetition in meditation and chanting, number 108, as do the number of beads on a Catholic rosary and the number of knots on a Sikh mala.