On the Summer Solstice, the earths semi-axis is most inclined towards the sun. This is the longest day of the year. It’s been marked as a time of celebration throughout history and in numerous cultures. And in Yoga it is one of the most important periods for strengthening practices.
The Summer Solstice symbolises the moving from the darkness into the light of summer. The Earth has sprung back to life. Crops thrive under the heat and light of the sun and so do us humans.
The Summer Solstice is a perfect opportunity to bring the suns energy and symbolism to our yoga practice. And this is the reason we practice 108 Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations. The Surya Namaskar sequence is a “mandala” or circle of poses celebrating the sun.
Why practice 108 times?
The number 108 is regarded as a sacred number for the following reasons:
- 108 is the number that connects the sun, moon and earth. The average distance of the sun and moon to earth is 108 times their respective diameters.
- There are 117 Marmas in the human body – however we can only activate 108 of these. Marmas or marmasthanas are points on the body where energy flow can be trapped or stimulated. Energy – nerve impulses, biochemical reactions etc. flow through these marmas – creating a pattern of energy flow through the body. Numerous energy patterns intersect at areas called chakras which coincide with nerve plexuses. We practice 108 Surya Namaskars to ensure the we activate all of these marmas and energise the entire body.
- 108 is twelve times the number 9, which is the number of vinyasas (movements linked to breath) in a Sun Salutation.
- 108 is the number of “Upanishads” in Indian philosophy – These texts directly inform Yoga practice.
- 108 is twice the number 54, which is the number of letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Two sets of the Sanskrit alphabet are always presented – one set of masculine (Shiva) and one set of feminine (shakti) letters.
- There are 108 beads on Indian and Tibetan “mala” (meditation beads) and also on a Catholic rosary.
- 108 is the Chinese number representing “man”.
Why do we practice the Sun Salutation Sequence?
The Sun Salutation sequence is designed to create “tapas” or inner heat that cleanses the body. And the “mandala” or circular pattern of the poses brings us into a state of focused moving meditation. The inner heat and focused moving meditation enables us to peel away unnecessary layers of thought, emotions or physical baggage. As we let go of these layers, we allow our full potential and highest ideals to emerge.
In Sun Salutations, your breath is your guide that links one pose to the next. Breath takes you in and out of each pose. When we practice Surya Namaskar with focus on breath, we are able to use our exhale to let go, releasing those things that no longer serve us; and then inhale new ways of being that will nurture us.
Our I-Yoga Sun Salutation Challenge
I would like to invite you to find your own sacred space within your own home and body. Over the next 5 Sundays – 28 June, 5, 12, 19 & 26 July – please join IYogaa for a 108 Sun Salutation Personal Challenge. You may initially only do a few rounds of this sequence – 6, 12, 18 or maybe you will do all 108. All we ask is that you try over the next 5 Sundays to develop your practice. This is your time, for you, to honour your own experiences. For you to ignite your own light.