Ringing in the New Year: 108 Sun Salutations
January 8, 2016
Yoga Mala for 2016
Yoga is a practice that stems from thousands of years of tradition; it’s a practice that was passed down from father to son and other disciples. Yoga brings physical, psychological and spiritual benefits to all its practitioners, and all these thousands of years later, although it has morphed to suit our Western ways, the essence of yoga is still alive.
Although the Western world has transformed many aspects of yoga to suit our different views on well-being, lifestyle and what success looks like, there is no denying that this practice stems from ancient traditional roots. From daily sadhana (dedicated practice), to meditation circles, to welcoming a new season through sun salutations; yoga presents many forms of tradition in its many styles.
In Western society, New Years Day symbolizes a new beginning; a fresh start and an opportunity to drop old, unproductive habits and develop new healthy, mindful ones. Many yoga practitioners do this is by practicing repeated Sun Salutation A sequences on New Years Day. Traditionally, the sequence is repeated 108 times.
The answer lies in many theories that have mathematical and sacred explanation. As a student of yoga who has much to learn on this journey, I too wondered this and it is actually quite astounding how many explanations there are as to why 108 is such an auspicious number.
Here are some theories:
- The Sanskrit alphabet has 54 characters; each one with feminine and masculine forms; Shakti and Shiva. This totals to 108.
- In the body we are said to have many lines of energy; 108 of which interconnect at the center-most energy point in the body; the heart chakra called Anahata.
- The Japa Mala, a traditional Eastern rosary string of holy beads used for prayer and chanting has 108 beads on it to guide in counting mantras, prayers or chants.
- The sun is said to be 108 times larger than the Earth in diameter; shedding light on why this salute that we repeat 108 times is directed at the sun.
Want to read more? Check out this link for a fascinating explanation on number 108.
Before getting started
Here are some things to consider:
What do I bring?
Your favourite yoga mat, lots of water, a towel or two, music to flow to, perhaps mala beads or some way of counting to 108, resources on how to modify, an open mind!
Are you going to practice at a local studio or attend a New Years Day yoga workshop and be guided through the sequence?
Many studios host New Years Day or season change Yoga Mala ceremonies, and you can even stream Yoga Mala online from many different yoga platforms.
Are you going to set up with flow music in your home and move through the sun salutations on your own?
If so, be sure to maintain awareness of your body and mind through the journey of Yoga Mala.
How will you keep count?
Often Yoga Mala is practiced in nine sets of twelve Sun Salutations, each round differing slightly in intention, focus and intensity. Once you decide how many sets of SSA, use small items to help you keep track of which set you are on. (EXAMPLE: after round one, move an item to the “done” pile, and so on).
How will you get through it?
Start slow, gentle and modified, take long breaks when needed, pause in child’s pose whenever necessary or if you feel faint or too warm. Return focus to your breath, check in with yourself and set reasonable expectations.
When will you take breaks?
Perhaps you will take a break every 12 Sun Salutations, if not more often. I encourage you to do so out of respect for your body.
How will you modify?
There are many ways to modify; check out this post on ways to modify your Sun Salutation A.
What if you cannot do 108?
This point should perhaps be at the top of the list! You do not need to do 108! Any multiple of 108 (27, 36, 54) are considered sacred numbers too.
As a yogi who had personally never done 108 sun salutations in a row, New Years Day 2016 was the first day that I ever attempted this traditional practice. The above questions certainly came up in my preparation for the New Years Day Yoga Mala practice, so take them into consideration when you try this amazing tradition out for yourself! It was beautiful to experience what my body and mind were capable of and to notice the connection I made between the two.
If this practice of 108 Sun Salutation A sequences on New Years Day or at the turn of every season seems like something that would be meaningful to your life, then I suggest you join myself and the thousands of other yogis across the globe in this ancient tradition. There are many live streams of guided Yoga Mala practice online, as well as many local studios that host Yoga Mala celebrations.
Enjoy the journey!