What’s it like to do 108 sun salutations in a row?

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KL in upward Dog, a part of sun salutations

By Kara-Leah Grant, author Forty Days of Yoga

Mention doing 108 sun salutations in a row to most people, even regularly practicing yogis, and their eyes widen as their mind says “No way!”

Yes way!

Not only can your average yoga practitioner easily complete 108 sun salutations, but it’s such an energizing practice, that at the end of 108, some people actually feel like they want to do more.

Remember, yoga is not “exercise”. It doesn’t wear out the body, but energises the mind, body and soul.

Sun salutations open and energise the entire body, and done with total awareness, bring more and more prana (life force) into the system.

In fact, the greatest obstacle to completing 108 rounds of sun salutations is not the body but the mind – but more on how to work with the mind later.

First, why 108 sun salutations?

Why 108? The number 108 has long been a number of significance in India, birthplace of yoga.

Nobody knows for sure why it is so, but some of my favourite reasons are:

  • The chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra. One of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to Self-realization.
  • The ancient Indians were excellent mathematicians and 108 may be the product of a precise mathematical operation (e.g. 1 power 1 x 2 power 2 x 3 power 3 = 108) which was thought to have special numerological significance.
  • 1, 0, and 8: 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or eternity.
  • There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.

Shiva Rea, who began Global Mala, an annual event marked by practices repeated 108 times, often sun salutations, says this is where the significance of 108 comes from:

Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. Such phenomena have given rise to many examples of ritual significance.

According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India. And there are also 108 Upanishads and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body.

But you don’t have to know why to experience the power of 108 sun salutations. Last year, over 150 yogis attended Global Mala in Wellington, and these were some of their comments after completing the sun salutations:

I  wanted to ‘crack the ton’ and try a moving meditation again.. so on I went on that wintry Sunday. The first and second set seemed to fly by,  the third set was more challenging. It was harder to keep the moment and to focus on me and not have my thoughts wander everywhere. It took me most of the final set to get that sorted and I just felt like doing another 100 or so when we finished! – Antony

I thought the experience was meditative and invigorating at the same time. It was like being in rhythm with your own body rhythm as well as the rhythm that as a group we created.  – Sheridan

Hi I’m not one for great words. But it brought me into a nice flowing trance state… and it was amazing to me how the 108 seemed to be completed faster and easier  than expected. – Fiona

Last week I led one of my Prana Flow classes through a 27 round sun salutation practice in preparation for the Wellington Global Mala. They had that same look on their face when I announced it at the beginning of class. 27 sun salutations! But I reminded them that the only obstacle is the mind – the body is more than capable. Child is always available as a substitute for downward dog. Half plank is as powerful as plank.

And so we began. At the end of each round as we pulled our hands down into our heart, the energy from the room increased. At the end of the 27, one student told me afterward:

I felt more energised than when we began, I just wanted to keep going! – Miguel

It’s a month until Global Mala, so the perfect time to begin a daily practice of sun salutations in preparation.

Aalthough you don’t need to train – you can just turn up on the day and give it  go. This is what most people do, and they complete the 108.)

Start with five every morning, and add an extra sun salutation each day. Make it a daily practice as this builds consistency. At the end of the first week, you’ll be doing 11 sun salutations, and starting to get that energising high everyone talks about. Past ten is also when the mind starts to come into play – this is our opportunity to play witness, and be non-reactive.

When we practice the same movement over and over, invariably it is the limits of the mind we come up against first:

  • “There’s so many left!”
  • “This is boring.”
  • “I’m over it.”
  • “I can’t be bothered.”
  • “How many more?”

And on and on it goes… give it free rein and your mind can weave quite the story. But all you need to do is keep coming back to the breath. Inhaling, exhaling, inhaling, exhaling. Forget about how many you have to do. Forget about whether or not you can do it. Forget about what it will feel like when you finish. All that truly exists is the breath and the movement that you are currently doing. Give yourself fully to that movement, that breath.

In essence, there is only over one sun salutation to complete – the one you’re in. If you can stay present focused, on this one sun salutation, on the breath required to complete it… you will effortlessly drop into the meditative trance state that people talk about, and before you know it the 108 will be over.

This is the key.

Stay here and now, stay with the breath, with with the one place you are at the moment – because you’re no-where else.

Remember too, as you practice at home, doing it in a large group is an entirely different experience. The group energy also carries you through, and time seems to speed up. There were 150 yogis at Wellington’s Global Mala last year, we expect there to be around 500 this year. Imagine the energy of that – 500 people moving and breathing in unison as they complete 108 sun salutations.

Now that’s powerful.

 

Read more: All-time Most Popular ArticlesWill Yoga Give Me a Great Body?

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Comments

  1. Anne-Marie says

    Hi Kara-Leah, I think I will start with doing five and build up each day. That sounds like a great idea! I have one question. Is one sun salutation just one round of the movement, or is it one on each side? Hope that makes sense …
    Anne-Marie

  2. Kara-Leah Grant says

    Hey Anne-Marie,

    It’s one round of the movement – like Astanga style where you jump straight back, not like lunge style where you need to keep changing legs.

    Does that make sense?

    Cheers,
    KL

  3. rama says

    I have been doing 100 Surya namaskars everyday for the last 21 days. My only doubt is whether 1 round means doing with both the right and left leg or it doesn’t matter.
    Anyway I do 50 Surya namaskars in the morning and 50 in the evening,and I thought I would do 50 with right leg going backin the morning and 50 in the evening with the left leg going back, that way I would complete both sides equally.
    But then I have a doubt if doing both sides only make a complete round of 1 surya namaskar then I maybe doing only 50 altogether.
    Please correct me, and guide me.
    I am really liking this routine,and along with this I do my pranayama also, twice daily.
    And instead of chanting the Bheej mantra i am reciting gayatri mantra with each surya namaskar.
    Thank you, Rama Ananth.

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Rama,

      It’s my understanding that each leg counts for one round, so you are doing 100. But I could be wrong – I practice with jumpbacks so it’s always two legs at once. Regardless, that’s a great practice you’ve got going and I’m sure you’ll be seeing some interesting results. It’s wonderful to hear about it!

      BLessings,
      Kara-Leah

  4. Tash says

    I think it depends on what style you do. Because at Tyag’s satyananda we count doing both sides as one round whereas at other classes it’s one side counts as one round.

  5. rama says

    Thank you for clearing my doubts. I also feel it depends on which style one is following. There are so many variations in Surya Namaskars itself.
    Mine itself is a little different from the usual one, or the one I learnt in my yoga class years ago.
    The thing is after doing so SNs it has become quite easy to do some of the tough asanas. I am really enjoying every bit of it. I also noticed many years ago that, doing aerobics, has made it easier for me to stretch a lot while doing yoga. Whe i first learnt yoga it was very difficult and boring, although the teacher was very good, but when i learnt aerobics, I felt that the same asanas were quite easy to do and no longer boring. But now with 100 SNs everything is so good and comes to me in beautiful flowing way.
    I am really glad I decided to take up SNs, it has opened so many options to me.
    Love, Rama.

  6. Elizabeth says

    me and my mother hate sun salutations! they are so boring. there are so many other postures, why cant we do those instead?!

  7. Kara-Leah Grant says

    Hey Elizabeth,

    Two options:

    1. Come and do one of the other practices instead, meditating, drumming or chanting.

    2. Get curious about WHY you hate sun salutations and move toward the area of greatest resistance.

    After all, what does it mean to hate a posture?

    Isn’t it that you hate the way the posture makes you feel when you do it – so it is actually that you hate your own feelings?

    Why do you hate those feelings – because you don’t want to feel them?

    And isn’t the whole process of yoga one of coming into acceptance of whatever we feel in the moment and not reacting to it – not avoiding it, nor hating it?

    Many blessings,
    Kara-Leah

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Premratna,

      Global Mala is held as close to the Spring/Fall equinox in September as possible, usually around September 23rd.

      Blessings,
      KL

  8. Amber says

    I did 108 sun sals last night. What a powerful experience! We did 8 Surya Namaskar a’s with 1 Surya Namaskar B, 12 rounds. WOW! After the first 18 or so, I was basically in a trance, flowing with my breath. And when it was over, I was/and still am super energized.

  9. Adam says

    I did 108 today for the solstice, and it wasn’t so hard. I’ve only done yoga once a week for a couple years and I rock climb a bit as well. Anyways, I found running a half-marathon to be far more mentally and physically challenging. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sore but even at the end I felt I could go on and do some more. I think good form is important.

    I did jump backs and jump ups for about 2/3rds, but for 1/3rd I went to stepping up… just because my jumping form wasn’t looking so good after about 70.

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Adam,

      I love hearing from people about their experience of completing 108 sun salutations – thanks for taking the time to comment. Good to hear how often you’ve been practicing and to realise that even on just once a week… it’s totally possible to do 108. Great stuff!

  10. Nelson says

    Hi Kara-Leah,

    I have been thinking about doing the 108 reps. I have never seen a person or group actually performing them, so I would like you to confirm this for me: one round is two set of movements starting with one leg and completing with the with other. I have been doing 6 rounds every morning for three months. I have been experiencing a great feeling of well-being and positive body energy. Do my 6 rounds count as 12 reps? How many of my rounds should I perform to reach the 108 count? Is it 9? Many thanks!!!!!

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Nelson,

      I guess it depends on how you do your sun salutations, and it can be whatever you make it. When we’ve done Global Mala, we lead the sun salutations as jumping or stepping straight back so there were no lunges in them… hence no need to do first one leg and then the other to complete anything.

      You could decide to count every time you come to Tadasana as one sun salutation. Or you can decide to count every time you do both legs as one sun salutation… it’s up to you really.

      By this reckoning, you need to do 54 rounds to get to 108 sun salutations. Well worth the journey!

  11. Hannah says

    Hey yogis/yoginis – I led my yoga class through 108 last night for Spring Equinox! It was exhilarating – euphoric! What an adventure – I felt that the sun was just lighting up my face as I worshiped her, even though it was night time! And there where so many nuances I could explore while cycling through – AMAZING! It took us 3 hours!
    I can’t wait til Winter Solstice! We are going to do it again!!
    Sat Nam!
    Hannah

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey Hannah,

      Love getting comments like this! It’s great whenever anyone shares their personal experience of doing 108 sun salutations. It is a magical process eh?

      Blessings,
      KL

  12. Maria Bowers says

    I am going to be leading a 108 sun salutation on september21 at the Breathing Room in Delmar, NY.
    Your article had good useful info–I want to make it interesting, spiritual, relaxing and energizing–I want to do 1/2 sun, step back, sun A and Sun B–but mix it up a little with 3 leg dog and warrior 1 and 2. any suggestions would be helpful–namaste

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hay Maria,

      I’m not sure what kind of suggestions you’re looking for… have fun and stay with the breath!

  13. nanditha says

    Is there any rule that surya namaskar should not be done over the night?As i dont have time in the morning i do it after coming from office is it ok? I am doing to find good results…plz help

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hi Nanditha,

      There isn’t any right & wrong here… more a case of different results. Practicing in the morning can set us up well for the day. although we often find we’re stiffer in the morning which can be disconcerting. Practicing in the afternoon or evening can be easier as we’re warmed up, but sometimes it can energise us too much if we practice too close to bed time. After the office can be a great way to leave work behind and center yourself too.

  14. BalMukund says

    I used to do 13 SNs every morning. Everything changed last February when we were encouraging as many to do some SNs for fitness. In the process those actively involved got to do more & more. For almost a year now I am enjoying 54 SNs twice daily with bliss as a byproduct. One has to experience it but difficult to describe in words. One more development since has been to add one Hare Krishna Mantra during first half & one during second half of each SN. In effect it makes one Mala of HK twice daily & one Mala of SN daily within only a few minutes twice daily. It just happened & maybe more to come for more bliss……

      • Dr BalMukund Bhala says

        Namaste!
        Sun Salutations Offerings (Surya Namaskar Yagya) to the community is spreading quickly to the general masses, from children to elderly. In US January (& beyond) is agreed month every year, UK in February (& beyond) for maximum numbers. Personally I am joyfully continuing with daily two malas of SS & two malas of HK Mahamantra, while teaching & encouraging others to do the same or maximum to the best of their abilities and time limitations.
        How about NZ & Australia for SNY in March (or your preferred month & continue)? Big event on a special day is fine, but regularity is even better with the two mixed the best, possibly. This seems to be the way forward to make the whole community fit for the longevity….with a few minutes Meditations twice daily added extra for those inclined that way for more bliss…
        Any comments from our friends welcome!

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