You’ve probably experienced sun salutations (surya namaskar) if you’ve participated in a vinyasa yoga (flow).
Sun salutations help bridge the connection between the mind and body with the use of repetitive movements and breath.
If you want to up-level your sun salutation experience, participate in 108 (yes, 108!) sun salutations for an unforgettable experience.
“Sun salutations warm up your body and focus your mind,” explains Ann Swanson, M.S., E-RYT 500, a certified yoga therapist and author of Science of Yoga.
Yoga students of all levels can integrate the 108 sun salutations series into their practice.
How to Do 108 Sun Salutations
You have to walk before you can run, and likewise, you have to do one sun salutation before you can do 108.
Different types of yoga do sun salutes differently, so first learn the basic sun salutations. If you’re new to yoga, use this practice as a goal to test your strength and stamina.
Start with these yoga videos for beginners.
Traditional 108 yoga sun salutations consist of 108 sun A salutations that contain the following postures:
- Mountain pose
- Forward fold
- Half lift
- Upward facing dog
- Downward facing dog
Tips to Master 108 Sun Salutations
So, you’ve decided to give 108 sun salutations a try. Read the following tips for ways to tailor this series to your needs.
1. Plan to incorporate variations
108 of anything is a lot, so add variety to your sun salutations with the following suggestions.
I suggest you write them down ahead of time so you are prepared to mix it up when the moment comes.
- Do child’s pose instead of downward facing dog
- Add a twist in your forward folds.
- Consider swapping cow/cat for chaturanga.
- In place of upward facing dog, lower your knees or do a baby cobra pose.
- Take a puppy pose instead of a downward dog.
2. Take it slow
Slow and steady wins the race — and it applies to yoga, too. Doing 108 sun salutations takes time, so allow at least 90 minutes for the class.
Racing through the class could put you at risk for injury and shift your focus from the present moment to the “finish line.”
While a marathon is about speed, the practice of 108 sun salutations is not.
3. Train for it
I suggest that even if you are a seasoned yogi, you may want to train your body to handle 108 sun salutations.
Begin with one sun salutation, then add one more each time you practice.
If you’re already integrating several sun salutations into your regular practice, continue to increase the amount to test your comfort level.
4. Modify if needed
No matter what, 108 sun salutations are a lot of repetitive movements, so listen to your body and make whatever changes necessary.
“Go at your own pace with your breath,” says Swanson, who suggests using props, including a chair or the wall.
If traditional yoga isn’t possible for you now, she says, “you can even do sun salutations sitting in a chair, mimicking the same movements as the version on the floor.”
5. Keep track
While timing doesn’t matter, the number of movements certainly does.
If you’re completing this practice with a teacher, you’re in luck. Your teacher will count out all 108 sun salutations for you.
If you’re doing this practice solo, you’ll need to find a way to keep track without breaking your focus. You can try:
- Writing out the numbers five to 105 by fives (plus three to get to 108, of course) on a piece of paper. Each time you complete a set of five, mark it off.
- Swanson suggests repeating “the number you are on in your head with each breath.” This prevents your mind from wandering.
- Place two bowls at the top of your mat. Put 27 beads or seeds in one bowl. The other will stay empty. Each time you complete a round, transfer a bead from the full bowl to the empty one. Repeat four times.
6. Pause and take breaks
Drink plenty of water, rest when you need to, and consider taking an “intermission” halfway through or after each set of 27.
“You will know it is time to rest if your breath is short or irregular (or you are holding your breath),” says Swanson. “Also, stop if you are experiencing any pain.”
If your mind starts to wander, it might also be time for a break. Remember: slow and steady!
7. Leave time for rest
Savasana will feel even better after an extra-long practice like 108 sun salutations.
Don’t skimp on your final rest — allow at least 15 minutes to recover and feel the benefits of your practice, before going on with your day.
If time allows, spend a few minutes journaling about your experience.
Why Do 108 Sun Salutations?
Why do 108 sun salutations instead of, say, 100 or 107?
Swanson explains that “108 is a sacred number in Indian culture, Hinduism, and yoga.” That’s why you may see this auspicious number integrated into prices or names of yoga studios.
There are many ways 108 shows up in yoga culture; for example, you may love mala bead necklaces. But did you know your favorite fashion accessory is a great meditation tool?
“Traditionally, there are 108 beads on a mala that are used to count mantras during meditation,” says Swanson. “Sun salutations are done 108 times to bring luck for special occasions.” Counting the beads on a mala necklace is a great way to keep track of your 108 sun salutations, too.
(Learn more about mantras and other yoga terms.)
Benefits of 108 Sun Salutations
Here are some of the benefits of 108 sun salutations for mind, body, and spirit.
1. Build outer strength
Sun salutations are whole-body movements.
“When you do sun salutations, you move and lubricate every major joint, strengthen and stretch the largest muscle groups in your body, get your blood and lymph flowing, and build cardiovascular resilience,” says Swanson.
2. Cultivate inner strength
“The repetitive movements anchor your mind on the present moment,” explains Swanson. “You are paying attention to the movements and your breath, making it harder for your mind to wander. Research shows that the more your mind wanders, the less happy you are.”
Since yoga trains you to stay present and focused, “training your brain by redirecting it back to the present moment can lead to a greater sense of inner peace,” she says.
(You’ll get 108 chances at inner peace!)
3. Celebrate or honor a special occasion
Some yogis mark the change in seasons with the practice of 108 sun salutations (think of it like a mental and physical seasonal cleanse).
I’ve participated in 108 sun salutations as part of a New Year’s Day celebration, to raise money for worthy causes, and to celebrate the opening of a new yoga studio.
You might opt to do 108 sun salutations to honor your birthday, to signify a fresh start, or to say you accomplished it.
Some yogis consider 108 sun salutations to be like the marathon of yoga, something they want to build inner and outer strength to achieve.