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The Meaning of 108 Sun Salutations + What Practicing Them Will Teach You

Courtney Reed
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Sun Salutations are a sequence of yoga poses strung together in a consistent movement, typically found in Vinyasa-style yoga. In Sanskrit, Sun Salutations are referred to as “Surya Namaskar” and were traditionally practiced to usher in the new day, hence the name.
 
In Sanskrit, “Vinyasa” can be translated to mean linking breath with motion in a continuous flow. Thus, Sun Salutations are physically challenging and are an excellent cardiovascular workout. Yet there’s a lot more meaning beyond the surface-level workout, so let’s dive in!
 
 

What is the significance of 108?

The number 108 is sacred and significant in many ways, appearing in many disciplines from astronomy to yoga:

  • The number 108 appears in ancient, sacred texts. For example, there are 108 Upanishads and 108 Tantras
  • In numerology, 108 equals 9, which symbolizes universal love, eternity and awakening
  • In Ayurveda, there are 108 sacred points on the body
  • In astronomy, the distance between the Sun and Earth is roughly 108 times the Sun’s diameter
  • Mala bead necklaces have 108 beads, which are used to count during meditation

 
 

When do people practice 108 Sun Salutations?

Sun Salutations can be practiced any time and with any frequency. Traditionally, practicing 108 Sun Salutations is reserved for the change of the seasons (ie the Winter and Summer Solstice, and the Spring and Fall Equinox).
 
Spring and Fall Equinoxes
During an equinox, the day and night are equal lengths. The Spring Equinox represents a time of rebirth and new beginnings, making it a great time to detoxify the body. The Fall Equinox, also called the Autumnal Equinox, offers a time to go within and ground before the onset of winter.
 
Summer and Winter Solstice
The Summer Solstice is marked as a time of celebration. Many cultures have festivals to celebrate the sun and its life-giving energy. The summer marks a time of everything being in full bloom. The Winter Solstice symbolizes death and rebirth – new beginnings and fresh starts.
 
Some yogis like to practice 108 Sun Salutations for the new year, and for other big life events, like a marriage or birth in the family. The good news is you don’t need to wait for a particular time to practice 108 Sun Salutations. Find out why you should practice 108 Sun Salutations anytime, anywhere – and what you will learn about yourself.
 
 

Why do people practice 108 Sun Salutations?

It is believed that the fire (internal heat) that you build during this practice is cleansing, detoxifying, and gets you more in touch with yourself. There are many benefits to practicing 108 Sun Salutations.
 
Move Energy
Sun Salutations heat the body and activate Prana, or upward energy. You’ve probably heard in yoga class that the active parts of class (like a Vinyasa flow) help create and move energy and stuck emotions. The slower parts of class (like hip openers and reclined poses) help release energy and emotions that no longer serve you.
 
Surrender
During 108 Sun Salutations, you will at some point think, “Why did I sign up for this?” If you keep going, you will find a state of ease, and even a sense of flow. You will surrender to the process, acknowledge what arises emotionally, and then let it go. When you finish, you will feel lighter and find meaning in this ancient ritual.
 

Here are 6 things you will learn or experience when you practice 108 sun salutations:

 
 

1. You are stronger than you think

108 sounds like a lot – you may not reach that number the first time. 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, and 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. Once you accomplish 108 Sun Salutations, you may event notice a boost in your overall confidence!
 

4. You can find grounding amidst any challenge

The repetition and ritual of 108 Sun Salutations will provide a sense of grounding. Remember that Sun Salutations are named in honor of the cycles of the life. 108 Sun Salutations is definitely challenging, but while you practice them, you will find a sense of grounding and learn how to access it with any challenge you face.
 

5. You will discover your inner drive

While this will be different for each person, you will see emotions and sensations arise that you never knew existed (or thought were long gone). You may learn what inspires you to flow or even how your dedication can cultivate confidence. Throughout this practice, you will continue to witness your incredible drive.
 

6. You will have more energy afterwards

You will feel an increase in energy once you complete your Sun Salutations because they generate Prana. Afterward, you may find yourself feeling more energized, more alert, and empowered overall – now that’s a great feeling!
 
 

Tips for practicing 108 Sun Salutations

Ready to get on your mat and experience 108 Sun Salutations for yourself? Follow these simple tips to help you get started: First, listen to your body and modify poses as needed. As an example, bring one or both knees to the mat for Chaturanga. Try Baby Cobra instead of Upward Facing Dog.
 
Remember to continue your deep, conscious breathing and never hesitate to stop for a break if you need it. While it may seem obvious, find a quiet place away from your cell phone and other devices so you can stay focused and practice without interruption.
 
Now you are ready to get on your mat and start practicing your 108 Sun Salutations!
 
 
Doing all 108 Sun Salutations took me a little over two hours to complete, but it was worth every minute. There are no words to describe the feeling you have afterwards, and I think every yogi should experience it at least once.
 
Remember – the goal is 108, but always listen to your body. Whether you finish 34, 93 or 108 repetitions, it is the intent that counts. Make yoga a heart-centered practice, not an ego-based practice. If you need to take a break, take one!
 
Have you done 108 sun salutations before? Please leave a comment to share your experience below.
 

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Courtney Reed

Courtney is a yoga teacher and forever student. She teaches how to find peace through yoga. When she is not practicing or teaching yoga she is either working with crystals, hoop dancing, or reading a book.

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