Winter Solstice: Why 108?

There is a long standing traditional practice of completing 108 sun salutations when the seasons change. That is, on the first day of summer (Summer Solstice), the first day of winter (Winter Solstice (TODAY!)), the first day of spring, and the first day of fall (Vernal/Autumnal Equinoxes). This is most often done in large groups and is performed as a ceremony or offering of peace and unity.

But why 108?

The number 108 carries spiritual significance through out a wide breadth of cultures:

  • 108 is the number of the Upanishads, the great Vedic texts.
  • 108 is the number of names for Buddha
  • 108 is the number of names for Shiva (a significant Hindu God)
  • 108 is the Chinese number that represents man
  • 108 is the number of beads both on a Catholic rosary and on a Tibetan mala
  • 108 is the number of marma points on the body
  • 108 is twice the number 54, which is the number of sounds that comprise the language of Sanskrit
  • 108 is six times the number 18, which is a Jewish number for good luck
  • 108 is 12 times the number 9, which the number of movements (postures) in a sun salutation
  • Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence (woah!)
  • Fun Nerd Fact- 108 is repeatedly mentioned in the TV Show Lost for many “why are we here” moments- eluding to the grand ending.

Any of you that practice with me on a regular basis know that I use the foundational Sun Salutations to open class each and every time I teach. Three Sun Salutations A, three Sun Salutations B (traditionally it is 5 of each, but most modern class times don’t allow for that time allotment!) and by the sixth one, the room is normally sweating, heart rates are up and breath is fully activated. The reason I choose to teach in this manner is because I believe there is great knowledge inside of the Sun Salutations. They were written with great care AND they accomplish a lot in a short period of time.

In the past I have facilitated many 108 Sun Salutation practices. One of my most memorable being for the Shine a Light foundation. All the proceeds were donated to help support efforts to stop sex trafficking in India. It was in a rather large auditorium and filled to the brim, candles lit around the entire basketball court and up the bleachers. It was a massive group of amazing humans, coming together to practice in union for a good cause. I will never forget it.

There is something extremely special about gathering in tradition with a large group of people, all of us here on Earth, not really knowing why, but dedicating our time and energy into bearing witness to our lives and learning more about who we are, so that we can show up in the world and truly shine as our brightest selves. If you’re participating in a 108 class tonight in honor of bringing in Winter, please remember;  go slow, stay hydrated, modify when needed, find JOY and breath, breath, breath throughout!

Happy Winter everyone.