Today, June 21, many yoga studios are offering a special class to celebrate the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year – with 108 Sun Salutations! But, why?
A series of Sun Salutations – or Surya Namaskar in Sanskirt – is traditionally practiced in the morning to usher in the new day and wake up the body. It’s a flow that gets your heart pumping, the sequence of poses is great for stretching nearly all muscles and tendons along entire muscle chains and it’s repetitive in a way that has meditative qualities. Just as Sun Salutations are great for beginning the day, they are also the perfect way to welcome the change of season and celebrate the longest day of the year. Many yogis have made it a tradition to practice 108 Sun Salutations on the June 21 (Summer Solstice), September 22 (Autumnal Equinox), December 21 (Winter Solstice) and March 20 (Vernal Spring Equinox), as well as on significant events like birthdays or New Year’s Eve.
So why 108?
The number 108 appears in ancient texts and is referenced by many different disciplines across the globe. Why are humans so drawn to this number? It’s considered a sacred number full of symbolism with roots in traditional disciplines from India. Here are just a few examples:
- Religions – Many ancient religions use 108 in sacred texts and refer to the number often.
- Hinduism: There are 108 Upanishads (a collection of ancient Sanskrit texts that share central philosophical concepts with Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism).
- Buddhism: It is believed that there are 108 virtues. Some believe that carving 108 small Buddhas on a walnut or that ringing a bell 108 times on New Year’s brings good luck.
- Mala Beads: Buddhists and Taoists use mala beads, which contain 108 beads and are used for meditating or praying.
- Harshad number: Harshad is translated to Sanskrit to mean “great joy” and refers to a number that is divisible by the sum of its digits. 1+0+8=9, 108/9=12. That is a nice even and pretty number!
- Numerology: 108 is the product of 1 to the power of 1 times 2 to the power of 2 times 3 to the power of three (11 x 22 x 33).
- Ayurveda: There are 108 sacred points on the body.
- Astronomy: 108 describes the relationshipof the Earth to the Sun and Moon.
- The distance from the Sun to the Earth (93,020,000 miles) is 108 times the diameter of the Sun (865,000 miles).
- The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.
- The average distance of the Moon from the Earth (238,800 miles) is 109 times the diameter of the Moon (2,180 miles).
- Sun Salutations: 108 is 12 times 9, which is the number of vinyasas in a Sun Salutation
If you haven’t signed up for a Yoga Mala led class, get on your mat or in the park and start saluting the sun on your own! Break it down to 9 sets of 12 Sun Salutations A, which is the traditional Surya Namaskar series of physical poses connected by your breath.
Sun Salutation A: Tadasana, Uttanasana, Urdhva Mukha Uttanasana, Dandasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, Bhujangasana or Urdva Mukha Svanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Urdhva Mukha Uttanasana, Uttanasana, Tadasana, Samasthiti
Before beginning the practice, set an intention. You can dedicate your practice to being present, letting go of the past, focusing, a specific person in need or manifesting a specific goal. Whatever your intention is reflect on it before and after your practice.
How long will 108 Sun Salutations Take?
3.5 to 4 hours going at a mindful, moderate pace.
You can cut your time in half by doing 54 Sun Salutations or even less by completing a divisible number such as 27, 12 or even just 9. This practice is about challenging yourself and setting an intention for the new season.
Pose modifications to keep your knees, back and joints safe include:
- Bend knees in forward fold to be kind to your lower back.
- Lower your knees to the ground in plank for less weight on your arms.
- Do low cobra instead of Upward Facing Dog.
- Walk instead of jumping back to plank from forward fold.
Remember to let your breath guide you and let yourself “get in the zone”, lose yourself, feel the moment. I wish you love, light and all good things this summer! Ommm.