The number 108 is a sacred number in many cultures, across the world, and if you practice yoga, chances are you’ve heard it referenced in class before.
108 represents the perfect balance of the universe, and it is often used in yoga practices to connect with the divine within and without.
Whether this number feels familiar or it is a new concept for you, we invite you to read on to discover more about:
- What is the number 108 and why is it sacred?
- Traditions with 108 symbolism
- The number 108 in yoga
- 108 Sun Salutations
- Fun facts about 108
Read on and learn about this sacred number!
What is the number 108 and why is it sacred?
The number holds great spiritual significance in yoga and meditation and represents the union between the individual and the universal.
It is considered sacred in many cultures and Dharmic religions including:
- In Hinduism, it is a sacred number representative of the universe, and additionally, like in many other prayer beads from other traditions, there are 108 beads on a Hindu mala, a traditional prayer bead necklace.
- In Buddhism, there are 108 defilements that a person must overcome to attain enlightenment. Practitioners of this philosophy often recite mantras or perform prostrations 108 times as a form of meditation.
- In Jainism, 108 is a sacred number because of the 108 virtues or attributes of a perfect soul.
- In Sikhism, there are 108 stages that a person must go through in order to attain union with God.
Traditions with 108 symbolism
As you may have noticed by now, 108 is strongly connected to the concept of divinity.
Here are some other connections to this interesting number:
1# Vedic Astrology
According to ancient Vedic astrology, there are 27 constellations, the nakshatras, each with 4 padas or parts. This totals to 108, which is related to the placement of the planets at the time of your birth.
Together, the 27 nakshatras represent the cosmic wheel of time and are considered to be symbolic of the cycle of life.
2# Nadis and Chakras
The Sanskrit word “Nadi” means “channel” or “flow”.
According to some traditions, there are 72,000 of these energetic channels within each one of us, and 108 of those are considered to be the most important.
The three most relevant nadis are the Sushumna, Ida, and Pingala nadis, which run through the spine and govern the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a person’s being.An easy way to start is by simply meditating on the number 108 which, with practice and patience, can help you balance and activate the chakras, promoting physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.
The repetitive nature of chanting mantras is an excellent tool to learn to quiet your mind’s unnecessary chatter and focus the attention on the present moment.
The sacred sound of the mantra enhances your awareness of higher frequencies of consciousness and may offer you access to more self-awareness.
A great way to practice mantras is with a japa mala.
The mala or prayer beads are used as a tool to help you stay focused and help you keep count as you recite your mantra and enter a meditative state.
By completing 108 repetitions of a mantra, one is said to have completed a full cycle of spiritual development or achieved a specific spiritual goal in some traditions.
If you’ve never tried chanting mantras and you’re unsure of how to get started but you’re interested in giving it a go, we recommend you start with the simple, yet powerful mantra Om.
Try this video to help you get started.
4# Sacred texts
There are 108 Upanishads, composed between 800 BCE and 400 BCE.
They are considered the final part of the Vedas and are known for their philosophical and spiritual teachings.
According to the Upanishads, the number 108 is significant because it is believed to represent the 108 stages that a person must go through in order to attain enlightenment.
These stages include:
- the 12 zodiac signs and their corresponding houses.
- the 9 planets in the solar system.
- the 27 nakshatras or lunar mansions.
- the 4 yugas or ages of mankind.
- the 108 divinities or deities.
The concept of “marmas” is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine and yoga.
In Ayurveda, the 108 marmas are described as vital energy points, or sensitive spots, located throughout the body.
Each marma is said to correspond to a specific organ or physiological system, and stimulating or accessing these points can affect the flow of vital energy, or prana, in the body.
According to Ayurvedic texts, the 108 marmas are grouped into three categories:
- Sthana marmas: These are located at the junctions of bones, muscles, and ligaments. There are 41 sthana marmas in total.
- Sandhi marmas: Found at the joints of the body and are said to be the most important marmas for healing. There are 32 sandhi marmas in total.
- Kala marmas: Located on the surface of the skin and are the smallest marmas. There are 35 kala marmas in total.
The practice of marma points involves applying pressure or touch to the sensitive spots along the body’s meridian lines to release blockages and improve the flow of prana.
Marmas are considered to be a powerful tool for healing and maintaining both physical and mental well-being.
The Number 108 in yoga
According to yogic philosophy, there are 108 nadis (energy channels) in the body that lead to the heart chakra, where the individual soul (jivatman) is said to merge with the universal soul (paramatman).
Thus, the number 108 represents the ultimate goal of yoga: to realize the oneness of the individual self with the cosmic whole.
In many yogic traditions, Malas (prayer beads) are used for japa meditation (repetition of a mantra), and they often consist of 108 beads, just like in some of the other traditions mentioned above.
108 Sun Salutations
This invigorating practice can be really cool as a group experience, helping you harness the energy of Surya (the sun) which is considered a symbol of life, light, and sustenance.
It embodies the divine light and provides energy and nourishment to all living beings.
Each of the 108 rounds of sun salutation is done with a specific intention or dedication. It can serve as a way to release negative emotions, cultivate mindfulness, and connect with the community.
The poses in a Sun Salutation A are:
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
- Ardha Hastasana (Extended Mountain Pose)
- Uttanasana (Standing forward fold)
- Ardha Uttanasana (half standing forward fold)
- Phalakasana (plank pose)
- Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff pose)
- Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward-facing dog)
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog)
The practice can be challenging and requires discipline, focus, and endurance and it can always be practiced with variations and modifications to make it more accessible, even dividing it down.
If you choose to practice 108 Sun Salutations it’s essential to prepare your body before attempting this ritual and to listen to yourself throughout the process; pause, modify, and adapt as you need.
It’s also important to approach the practice with respect and intention and to honor the traditions and cultures from which it originated, so make sure that you know why you practice.
If you’d like to try the tradition of practicing 108 salutations a try, follow along with this YouTube class:
Fun facts about 108
Here are some more facts you may want to know about 108 that can help you gain a little more insight into the sacred nature of this number:
- The distance between the sun and the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the sun.
- In astrology, there are 12 zodiac signs and 9 planets, resulting in 108 possible astrological combinations.
- The angle formed by two adjacent vertices of a regular pentagon is 108 degrees.
- In traditional Chinese medicine, there are 108 acupressure points on the body.
- There are 108 stars in the Chinese constellations.
- In numerology, the number 108 (1+8) is 9, which is the number that represents the end and teaches us how to let go.
To sum it all up…
In conclusion, the number 108 is a sacred number in the practice of yoga and has numerous spiritual, philosophical, and mathematical meanings.
In the yogic tradition, the number 108 is a sacred and auspicious number with deep symbolic significance.
It is a reminder of the infinite possibilities and expansive nature of the universe.
Whether it is through completing 108 sun salutations, chanting a mantra 108 times, or using mala beads with 108 beads, incorporating this number into one’s yoga practice can deepen the spiritual connection and focus the mind.
Dive deeper into malas and chanting here.