For those who salute the sun every day, life expectancy, conscious, strength, courage and vital power shall grow.
108 Sun Salutations: Why we do it.
By Brittany Kaza, Street Yoga Board Member
The practice of completing 108 Sun Salutations is an act of reverence, honor, and commitment.
The practice of joining together as a community to engage in yoga, mindfulness, and a collective purpose of energy is immensely powerful. As we prepare for the upcoming YogaLOVE event, many people ask, “Why is it 108 Sun Salutations?” The number and postures of the practice have special cultural importance that transcends a typical yoga experience.
The number 108 and its divisions (54, 36, 27, 12, and 9) have significant historical, spiritual, scientific, and symbolic meanings in many cultures around the world. Although open for interpretation, 108 has long been considered an auspicious and sacred number for Hinduism and yoga. Mathematicians of the ancient Indian Vedic culture viewed the number 108 as the wholeness of existence, and according to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites in India, and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body. This number also relates to our solar system: the average distance of the Sun and Moon to the Earth is 108 times their respective diameters; there are 12 astrological signs and 9 planets. Furthermore, mala garlands (prayer beads much like a Catholic rosary) used for meditation and counting mantras, are a string of 108 beads plus one “guru bead” around which the other beads circulate like planets around the sun.
“Salute to the Sun” is the literal translation of Surya (the Hindu solar deity) Namaskar. The notion of practicing a Sun Salutation is to pay respect and offer appreciation to the sun, the life-giving source of our universe, and the world around us. Within each cycle of Sun Salutation, consisting of 12 yoga poses, one can harness the power and energy of the sun. The Sun Salutations themselves can serve as a complete practice; the poses help lengthen, strengthen, flex and extend many of the main muscles of the body while also increasing cardiovascular strength and stimulating the chakra energy centers. The repetitive nature of Sun Salutations allows one to achieve focus in their practice and experience the meditative quality of the series. The rhythmic flow of breath and movement calms the mind and distributes the prana life-force throughout the body.
The completion of a Yoga Mala practice of 108 Sun Salutations is often in conjunction with special occasions and seasonal changes such as the summer solstice, autumnal equinox, or the coming of a new year. It is an opportunity to mark the passing of time and to honor the gift of life and energy we receive from each new day. For YogaLove, it is a chance to celebrate the work of Street Yoga, to honor its volunteers, and to commit to changing the lives of youth. As a community we come together to be grateful for life and light!
Tips for a Successful Practice!
Practicing 108 Sun Salutations takes endurance, commitment, and focus. If this sounds a bit intimidating, know that you are not alone! As you endeavor to complete the practice, here are some tips to keep you focused and engaged.
Break up the practice into smaller more achievable numbers such as nine cycles of 12 salutations.
Focus each round of 12 on a different intention or purpose. For example, concentrate on a physical focus of hands and feet placement, core engagement, shoulders, etc. and then choose a mental focus like peace, strength, clarity, etc.
Stay in tune with your body, go at your own pace, and take breaks and water as you need – child’s pose is always available.
Breathe. Connection to your breath and movement is the most important part of the practice.
Have fun! The Yoga Mala is an achievement you can be proud of!