What is so sacred about the number 108? And why do yogis traditionally practice Sun Salutations at the beginning of every season?
Since the beginning of recorded of human history, the number 108 has been associated with deep spirituality and connection between the universe and humankind.
The number 108 is connected with the Sun, Moon, and Earth. The average distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the sun's diameter. And the average distance from the Moon to the Earth is 108 times the Moon's diameter.
Is it possible that our ancient ancestors knew this? There are too many to list, but here are a few of the most notable examples. Stonehenge's Sarsen Circle is 108 feet in diameter.
In Belize, during the era of the Mayans, the High Temple of Lamanai was erected at 108 feet tall—the same height as the funerary Tikal temple in Guatemala. And within the temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza in Mexico archeologists believe there to be a second pyramid inside measuring 108 feet wide. These temples, built to worship and to house the souls of great leaders upon their death, perhaps used this number, 108, to connect humans not just to our sun as a giver of life, but to the Creator. India is known to have 108 sacred sites across the country; the High Temple of Lamanai in Mayan culture was erected 108 feet tall; Buddhist temples are often built with 108 steps representing the 108 steps to enlightenment.
The area of the Vatican City is approximately 108 acres.
Mathmatically, the number 108 is related to the golden ratio, phi and the Fibonacci Series. While there probably isn't one magical equation that governs the entire universe, the Fibonacci Series is a sequence of numbers and a corresponding ratio that we find again and again in the natural world. It reflects various patterns found in nature, from the swirl of a pinecone's seeds to the curve of a nautilus shell to the twist of a hurricane. Pictured below is the spiral pattern of a Roman Cauliflower.
The order goes as follows: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 and on to infinity.
Some plants express the Fibonacci sequence in their growth points, the places where tree branches form or split. One trunk grows until it produces a branch, resulting in two growth points. The main trunk then produces another branch, resulting in three growth points. Then the trunk and the first branch produce two more growth points, bringing the total to five. This pattern continues, following the Fibonacci numbers. Additionally, if you count the number of petals on a flower, you'll often find the total to be one of the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. For example, lilies and irises have three petals, buttercups and wild roses have five, delphiniums have eight petals and so on.
In astrology, there are 12 Zodiac Signs (houses) and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108.
A Traditional Mala Necklace contains 108 beads that circle like the planets of the solar system and represent prayer and meditation.
Will we ever understand the deeper meaning of 108? The Greek mathematician Archimedes offers us a clue when he said: “Mathematics will reveal its secrets… only to those who approach it with pure love.”
In yoga, the number 108 refers to spiritual completion. A full Sun Salutation is comprised of 12 poses and it is often performed in sets of 9 rounds (totaling 108). Yogis are known to practice 108 sun salutations at the change of each season - The Spring and Fall Equinox and The Summer and Winter Solstice.
The Spring Equinox marks the day and time when the day and night are equal in length all over the globe. It is the balance point at which the days begin to grow longer as the light wins out over the dark. Spring time symbolizes rebirth and new beginnings, making it the perfect time for this meditative practice that connects the body, the mind, and the universe specifically when nature is undergoing a fresh change. Through this purifying ritual of Sun Salutations, yogis can start once again, feeling fresh, renewed and inspired.
Things You Will Learn When You Practice 108 Sun Salutations:
1. You are stronger than you think
108 sounds like a lot and you may not reach that number the first time - and that's perfectly OK! Regardless of the total number, you will be surprised at your strength and how many rounds you can do. Give yourself some credit for what you’ve accomplished, because you are powerful and deserve the recognition!
2. Negative energy does not define you
Negative energy can stay trapped in the body. Sun Salutations activate stuck energy, help you move through it and ultimately let go of things that no longer serve you. Releasing negative energy is an important step on the path to happiness. This practice will show you that you have the power to release anything holding you back.
3. You have the power to shift your perspective
If you practice with a positive mantra, like “I am at peace,” then you may see significant changes in your mood and perspective. Focusing on positivity as you practice has the power to transform your entire outlook.
4. Feel grounded amidst any challenge
Sun Salutations are named in honor of the cycles of the Sun, the solar energy that rises everyday, no matter what - bringing life and light to all things. The repetition and ritual of 108 Sun Salutations provides a grounding sense of consistency you can learn to access off the mat - no matter what challenge you face.
5. Discover your inner drive
Notice when emotions and sensations arise during your practice - feelings that you never knew existed or thought were long gone. Tune yourself in to what thoughts inspire you and lift you up and what thoughts tend to drain your energy and drag you down. By dedicating your practice to what fuels you, you will continue to witness your incredible will power, your positive energy and steadfast sense of self.
6. You will have more energy afterwards
Whatever energy you put out there - that's the energy you get back! Sun Salutations create a tremendous amount of upward energy in the body, releases stale energy and generate Prana (vital life force). They leave you feeling more energized, more alert and empowered. That’s a great feeling!
Final Tips for Practicing 108 Sun Salutations
First, start slowly, perhaps doing half salutations for the first few rounds. Listen to your body and modify poses as needed. As an example, bring both knees to the mat for Chaturanga or do a round of Cat and Cow instead. Do Baby Cobra instead of Upward Facing Dog, Child's Pose or Puppy instead of Down Dog. Take as many steps as you like back up to the front of the mat and bend your knees deeply to ease tension in the low back and hamstrings during a forward fold.
Remember to continue your deep, conscious breathing and never hesitate to stop for a break when you need it.
Remember, 108 is just a number. Whether you finish 9, 18, 27, 93 or 108 repetitions, it is the intention behind your movement that counts.