The Meaning Behind 108 Sun Salutations

The Meaning Behind 108 Sun Salutations


Why 108?

This number continues to appear in many places in the worlds of yoga, religion, and ancient tradition. The japa malas are composed of 108 beads, pranayama is completed in 108 cycles, and the Sun Salutations are completed in nine rounds of 12 postures (total of 108). The significance of the number 108 is open for interpretation. However, it has long been considered a sacred number symbolizing spiritual completion – the something, something, something.  

108 appears plenty of other places too:

  • 108 is the number of “Upanishads” comprising Indian philosophy’s “Vedic texts”.
  • 108 in Eastern philosophy symbolizes a complete circle.
  • 108 in Numerology symbolizes the ultimate number of the divine.
  • 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India.
  • 108 is the number of names for Shiva.
  • 108 is the number of names for Buddha.
  • 108 is the Chinese number representing “man”.
  • 108 is the number of beads on a Catholic rosary.
  • 108 is the number of beads on a Tibetan “mala”
  • 108 is twice the number “54”, which is the number of sounds in Sanskrit (sacred Indian langauge).
  • 108 is twelve times the number 9, which is the number of vinyasas (movements linked to breath) in a Sun Salutation.

“The universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself; everything that you want, you already are.” – Rumi

So what makes the number 108 so special? It is often said that “the entire universe is within us“, or “what is happening above us is mirrored within us“. Not only do we see the number 108 in our external surroundings, but what is even more astonishing is that we see the number 108 manifesting right in the inner core of our being. It is said there are 108 energy lines, or nadis, converging to form the heart chakra, and 108 marmas(pressure points) or sacred parts of the body. And 108 degrees Fahrenheit is the internal temperature at which the human body’s vital organs begin to fail from overheating. Incredible, isn’t it?

Like the mantra Aum, 108 seems to have an essence that connects us to the whole of existence. Whether it’s used to guide sun salutations, to tally up the number of chants to the Divine, to count the steps leading up to a temple, or to measure the structures built for the heavens, it serves as a reminder of the wonder and interconnectedness of the universe.


Why 108 Sun Salutations?

The practice of 108 sun salutations is a moving meditation in honor of the sun as the life giving force, the change of season, and in honor of our changing selves. Typically this ritual is performed 4 times a year, with the start of each season to acknowledge the changing world around us. Personally, I practice twice a year with the Earth’s major seasonal changes – the Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice. Consider it a time to connect with your goals in alignment with the seasons’ turnings points. 

Summer Solstice – The summer solstice is the marking point half way through the year, the height of summer and the Earth’s longest day and shortest night. On the longest day of the year, the sun radiates its energy directly into your being, filling you with the purest form of power and vitality. Summer Solstice serves as a half way mark to check back in with your goals, and to see what opportunities need to open up for the rest of the year leading up to Winter Solstice.

Winter Solstice – The winter solstice brings the darkest day of the year, symbolizing death and rebirth. Winter Solstice is a time to look back at what you’ve achieved in the year, to let go of what doesn’t serve your self-development (death), and to set clear intentions and objectives to look forward to in the new year (rebirth).