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Practicing a few Sun Salutations in yoga class can be challenging enough, but have you ever thought of practicing 108 Sun Salutations in one go? Maybe you have seen a poster in your yoga studio about a 108 Sun Salutation practice, or possibly you are curious to try it on your own.
The practice of 108 Sun Salutations has ancient and spiritual meaning and can be practiced regularly or specifically during certain times of the year. While mentally and physically challenging, it can be a deeply personal and transformative experience to practice 108 Sun Salutations.
What is a Sun Salutation?
A Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskar, is found in generally every type of yoga practice. Regardless of if you practice Ashtanga or Anusara yoga, you are sure to practice at least one salute to the sun in your yoga class. This sequence of poses comes from the Sanskrit words— Surya (sun) and Namaskar (to bow to) and is a salute and adoration to the sun.
There are many variations of Sun Salutations, and depending on the lineage of yoga that you practice; you may do different poses within your salutation. However, most Sun Salutations include the following postures:
- Mountain pose (Tadasana)
- Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
- Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
- Half Standing Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)
- Plank pose
- Four-Limbed Staff Pose or a modified variation (Chaturanga Dandasana)
- Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) or Cobra pose
- Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Why do we practice sun salutations?
In addition to its physical benefits, Sun Salutations have numerous spiritual and emotional benefits. Like your yoga practice, practicing your Sun Salutations can have a deeper meaning that is personal to you. Some see it as a moving meditation that provides physical and inner transformation to the body and mind.
- Strengthen, tone, and lengthen your muscles: A consistent practice of sun salutations allows you to build upper body, core, and overall body strength. In addition, you may notice an increase your flexibility and longer, leaner muscles. Sun Salutations promote a healthy spine, joint lubrication, and openness in your body.
- Move the energy in your body: A few rounds of linking Sun Salutation poses to your breath can be as energizing as your morning cup of coffee. When you move with your breath through the sequence, your body starts to open up— promoting circulation and getting your blood pumping. Practicing Sun Salutations moves your body’s vital life force energy, or prana, and you may feel lighter and more open after your practice.
- Are meditative: Do you feel antsy sitting on a meditation cushion? Practicing a few rounds of Sun Salutations can prove to be as meditative as a seated meditation session. While moving with your breath, you allow yourself to connect to your body, breath, and the moment— filling yourself with peace, tranquility, and gratitude for the present moment.
- Detoxify your body: The postures included in a Sun Salutation matched together with your Ujjayi breath can build up a sweat, allowing for your body to detoxify. After a couple of rounds, you may find that your heart rate starts to increase and you begin to sweat.
- Promote gratitude and harmony in the mind and body: The practice of Sun Salutations can become deeply personal, reminding you of all that you have to be grateful for in the present moment. Moving through the different postures can be very relaxing and meditative, easing any stress or anxiety that you may feel.
What is the significance of 108 Sun Salutations?
So why the practice of 108 Sun Salutations? Why not 50 Sun Salutations or 102 Sun Salutations? The number 108 is considered to be a very spiritual and sacred number in the Hindu religion. The practice of yoga and the religion of Hinduism are both from the country of India, and many of their beliefs and practices are intertwined.
Yoga itself is a very sacred practice, and the sacred number of 108 with the sacred practice of Sun Salutations makes for a very powerful combination. It is traditionally practiced during specific seasons during the year and can be a very cleansing and energizing experience.
Practicing 108 Sun Salutations:
- Creates energy in your physical and mental body
- Detoxes and cleanses your body
- Builds internal heat
- Activates your prana
- Releases stuck energy and emotions
- Reminds you to surrender and be present
- Builds strength and stamina
Why is the number 108 sacred?
In the Hindu religion, the number 108 appears many times and considered to be a very important yoga symbol.
There are 108:
- Upanishads (Hindu spiritual texts)
- Names of Hindu Gods and Goddesses
- Sacred sites in India
- Sacred points in the body (Marma points)
- Beads in a mala (Hindu prayer beads)
As you can see, the number 108 is very prevalent in Hindu culture, and it is no surprise it is the number chosen for this specific practice of Sun Salutations. In addition, the distance between earth and the sun is 108 times the sun’s diameter.
When do we practice 108 Sun Salutations?
You can practice 108 Sun Salutations any time that you like, but often they are practiced during the change of seasons— specifically the two equinoxes and the two solstices. In the West, you may notice that many studios offer the 108 Sun Salutation practice during the Spring Equinox.
The Spring Equinox celebrates the beginning of spring and the end of winter. As the seasons change from darkness and cold into brightness and more life, it is a great time to shed what we no longer need and welcome change and new energy. The 108 Sun Salutation practice welcomes new energy in for the spring, and allows you to release what may be weighing you down from the past winter.
108 Sun Salutations are also commonly practiced during the:
- Fall Equinox: a nice time to ground before the cocoon of winter comes
- Winter Solstice: symbolizing new beginnings and going inward
- Summer Solstice: a time of life, celebration, and full bloom
Additionally, you can practice 108 Sun Salutations as a personal challenge, to prepare for a big event, for your birthday or New Year, or for charity. There are many events that take place across different studios that include the practice of 108 Sun Salutations for different reasons and causes.
Tips to Get Through 108 Sun Salutations
While the practice of 108 Sun Salutations can be challenging, it is definitely doable and exciting to undertake. Before you attend your 108 Sun Salutations event or start your personal practice, make sure to follow these useful tips.
- Listen to your body: As in every yoga practice, it is extremely important to listen to your body before, after, and during your practice. Stay connected to how your body feels while you are practicing and give yourself what you need.
- Modify your poses: The first few rounds of Sun Salutations may feel really good and strong, but once you reach the 53rd Sun Salutation your body may start to tell you something else. It is important to listen to your body and modify your poses if you need to. This may mean taking the knees down to the floor instead of a full Chaturanga Dandasana, or taking a Baby Cobra instead of an Upward Facing Dog.
- Breathe: The movement of each Sun Salutation is linked with breath. Stay with your inhales and your exhales throughout the practice to keep you calm, centered, relaxed, and grounded.
- Prepare before your practice: Make sure that you are hydrated before you practice, but try not to eat a heavy meal at least 2-3 hours before. If you need to have something in your stomach before you practice, keep it light and eat at least 90 minutes prior. A banana, some yogurt, or a handful of almonds are good snacks to fuel your practice.
- Hydrate: Make sure that you drink enough water before, after, and during your practice. Fill your water bottle up and have it next to your mat so that you can reach for it anytime you need.
- Warm up: Before you start your Sun Salutations, warm up with a few poses that feel good in your body. This can be Cat/Cow, Ragdoll, Childs pose, or any other poses that you may need.
- Rest: If you need to take a break halfway through the practice, listen to your body and do so. Rest for a few breaths in a Childs pose and return back to the practice when you feel ready.
- Pace yourself: It is normal to feel hyped up and go all out right at the beginning, but remember that you have 108 Sun Salutations to practice! Take your time, find a steady pace, and breathe through your poses.
- Fuel yourself after practice: Make sure that you hydrate and eat something after your practice. Take care of yourself and give your body what it needs after your 108 Sun Salutations.
How To Modify Sun Salutations
Whether you are new to yoga or a yoga expert who would prefer to pace yourself during your 108 Sun Salutations, it is always a great idea to modify your vinyasas at any time. You should never feel that you need to take the full version of any pose and the most important thing is to always listen to your body. Try these modifications while flowing through your 108 Sun Salutations:
- Lower your knees in Chaturanga: You can lower your knees or your knees, chest, and chin down to the mat when you are descending down from your plank pose. This is a great modification if your upper body starts to get tired, or if you are still building your upper body strength.
- Baby Cobra or Cobra instead of Upward Facing Dog: Instead of taking an Upward Dog, lower your chest and legs down on the mat by taking a baby cobra pose or cobra pose. This backbend is less intense.
- Child’s pose instead of Down Dog: Feel free to take yourself back into a Child’s Pose for a few breaths instead of your Downward Facing Dog. This can feel very relaxing and grounding during your practice.
On average, how long does 108 sun salutations take?
One round of Sun Salutations typically takes about 3 minutes to complete. So if you are taking 108 rounds of Sun Salutations at an average of 3 minutes each, it should take you approximately 324 minutes! Keep in mind that there are different variations of Sun Salutation, so you may take a little shorter or longer depending on the variation you choose to practice.
How many calories do you burn doing 108 sun salutations?
Depending on your body, you can burn an average of 10 calories per Sun Salutation. Practicing 108 Sun Salutations could burn around 1,080 calories (!). But remember, the practice of 108 Sun Salutations isn’t so much about the workout or calories burned, but about going deeper into your personal yoga practice.
Experiences You May Have When You Practice 108 Sun Salutations
So you have decided to take on the challenge of 108 Sun Salutations! The experience of the practice is deeply personal and will feel differently for everyone. However, here are some common experiences yogis have:
- You are able to move through challenging moments: During your 68th Sun Salutation, you may have felt like giving up. But you were able to breath, take a moment, and move through any discomfort or challenge that you were faced with. Finding this strength on the mat can be deeply empowering, and you realize that you can meet any challenging moment with determination and strength.
- You release what you no longer need: The practice of yoga is very transformative and it is not uncommon to feel lighter and clearer after a practice. When we practice, we move energy around the body and release what no longer serves. After your 108 Sun Salutations, you may feel clarity and release in your entire body.
- You realize your strength: Maybe the thought of practicing 108 Sun Salutations sounded daunting, or even impossible at first. But you did it! Sometimes we may not realize how much strength we truly have until we are able to fully experience it and accomplish something great. You might feel more energized, alive, and invigorated after your amazing 108 Sun Salutation practice.
What are the different variations of Sun Salutations? Depending on the type of yoga you practice, you may practice a different Sun Salutation variation during your 108 Sun Salutations. These charts show illustrate the different variations that you can practice.
What is the best way to hydrate after practice? Water is always a good option but make sure that you are also replacing electrolytes. Skip the sugary drinks and sip on some electrolyte enhanced water, coconut water, or add some chia seeds to your water.