Practicing 108 Sun Salutations may seem daunting, especially considering in most yoga classes the most you might do is ten, but I want to break this down and show you how to do 108 Sun Salutations and why.
The number 108 is auspicious
The number 108 is considered highly auspicious in many traditions. We yogis practice 108 sun salutations on special occasions like the birthday of our teachers or New Year’s Day, or to raise money for a special cause. It’s such a powerful practice.
Why I love the Yoga Mala practice
April 18th is the 108th day of the year, unless it’s a Leap Year, like 2020, then Day 108 is April 17. This date is significant for me because 2010, I set out to do 108 sun salutations for 108 consecutive days*. It was such a beautiful and powerful journey that eventually led to my Guinness World Record for the Longest Yoga Marathon.Often, I did my yoga malas (108 sun salutations) alone, but occasionally, I invited others to practice with me. Learning different variations of surya namaskar from yoga teachers of diverse backgrounds and traditions was one of the highlights of my 108×108 project. These community practices were so powerful and inspiring that every year since, I bring people together to do 108 sun salutations with me on Day 108.
Tips on how to do 108 Sun Salutations:
- Intention This practice is a prayer in movement. Create an intention, dedication, or prayer for healing.
- Time Best time for 108 Sun Salutations is in the morning. (Sometime we practice at night, because it’s most convenient for studios. I hope that the community-spiritness of it will out weigh any ill effects of practicing late at night.)
- Sets Divide the Yoga Mala in nine sets of 12 sun salutations. You can do something a little different in each set — change the variation of sun salutations, the focus, or the intention.
- Opening Your first set should be like a warm up or opening series. Gradually increase your back bends — small locust, sphinx, baby cobra, cobra, upward dog on your knees, then full updog. Do two sun sals of each for set one.
- Holding Hold downward dog for five breaths every six sun salutations and two breaths for every other.
- Counting If you’re practicing with a friend, count out loud. You count even numbers and your friend counts odd or vice versa. In a group, each person counts a sun sal in turn. Alone, count in fours, twelves and nine sets of twelves.
- Focus It’s interesting to focus on different body part in each set. Example: Pay special attention to the placement and movements of your hands for 12 surya namaskar; then your shoulders, neck, head, heart/chest, spine, hips and thighs, knees, and feet.
- Rests / Pauses If you are feeling dizzy or ‘Vatic’, do a brief child’s pose with your forehead on the floor, between your cobra / up dog and downward dog. You can also rest in child’s pose for five breaths instead of downdog.
- Alignment & Breath The movements are repetitive, so be sure you stay conscious of your alignment and breath in each pose. Create length in your spine at all times. Seek to liberate the space around the base of your neck — look forwards, back of neck lengthening, in cobra / updog as opposed to looking up. Engage the legs whenever and soften the backs of your knees. When lowering in chatarunga, keep shoulders at the same height as elbows and neck long. Breathe and enjoy.
PS You don’t have to do all 108 Surya Namaskar. Factors of 108 like 27, 36 and 54 are also auspicious numbers!