Sun salutations are a cornerstone in many yoga classes. The 12 postures, all connected by inhales and exhales, are often used as a way to warm the body. In Sanskrit, the sequence is called Surya Namaskar which translates to ‘greeting the sun’, designating the movements as a way to start the day and energize the body.
On average, you may perform around 12 sun salutation sequences in a class or as a practice on their own. But on certain occasions, the flow increases from a few rounds to a whopping 108.
108 is an auspicious, recurring number in yoga. Although its meaning is open to interpretation, it has been referred to as a ‘yoga code’- a look into our own nature and understanding of self.
For example, breathing techniques (pranayama) are often performed 108 times. There are 108 beads in the japa mala, as well as 108 sacred points in the body according to yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda.
Why do it?
Performing 108 sun salutations may be used to welcome a change of season, like the fall equinox or summer solstice. The sequence is not restricted just to seasonal changes; any time a shift happens in life, you can welcome in the challenging and grounding sequence.
This is the special thing about sequential sun salutations: the movements go beyond just a warm-up. They easily become an entire warming sequence, helping to tap into inner strength and make space for change.
You find your rhythm.
Playing a soundtrack is a great way to get into your flow, but you will find that simply connecting with your breath (ujjayi can be particularly helpful here) will help you find the unifying rhythm of breath and body. This rhythm helps you find your flow and locate the flow state—a state of ultimate focus.
You find deeper connections.
Practicing 108 sun salutations connects you to your mind, body, breath and beyond. Most often, you connect with your mind first, as thoughts may come in and out of the flow (for example, “How did I get myself into this?”). You become aware of your body in a holistic way as you realize that the repetitive movements require you to adjust your alignment.
You also connect with your breath cycle, moving in sync with your inhales and exhales. You may even find that the connection goes beyond the mind, body and breath and into a deeper awareness.
You start to reflect on weaknesses and develop strengths.
The 108 sequence is made to test you, acting as a mirror into your mind.You will quickly have to face your misalignments and weaknesses. If you normally dislike sun salutations, you may start to enjoy them. If you normally love the sequence, you may begin to find it challenging. Enter the practice with an open mind and reflect on the experience afterward. There is always something new to learn!
You expend energy to create it.
It's not surprising that doing 108 sun salutations requires energy, but this invested energy pays off. Upon completion, you may feel even more energy than when you began the practice.
108 sun salutations has a lot to teach us, as long as we take the time to create space for them. They will, in turn, help awareness enter our practice, mind, body, and life away from the mat.