We practice 108 Surya Namaskars to mark the close of a chapter, and invite in new energy.
This heat-building meditation helps us detoxify, reground, and activate our prana, or life force, as we move buried emotions out of the body and let go of what no longer serves us.
The number 108 has appeared in many forms as a sacred and significant symbol.
Malas, which are used to count as we repeat mantras during meditation, have 108 beads, plus one for the “guru” bead that all others revolve around. In Ayurvedic medicine, a system of health which originated in India and is thousands of years old, there are 108 sacred energy centers in the body. And guess how many times we can travel from the sun and the earth versus the sun’s diameter? 108.
When I first agreed to practice 108 sun salutations for the changing of the season, I had little expectation for what was to come apart from the knowledge that over 100 yogi push-ups would likely pose as a physical challenge.
At the time, I had my first yoga teaching job ever at an eco tent lodge, snuggled away in the jungle of Isla Bastimentos in Panama. A retreat was taking place on site, and the leader, the wonderful Becky Eschenroeder from Richmond, Virginia, guided a group of about 10 of us through 9 sets of 12 mindful Sun As.
I committed to completing all 108 salutations, without modification, and had an extremely joyful, powerful experience.
In this time in my life, the practice helped bring in new perspective and wisdom, and celebrate the present moment. I felt soft, like a pillow for my fellow yogis who were sorting through emotional baggage. Yoga during this period was less of a tool for letting go than it was a means to celebrate, and share my love and happiness with the world. Upon completing the sets, I jumped in the ocean, empowered and surprised by my own strength.
The second time I completed 108 Sun As, the practice was much more of a flushing out of old energy and a processing of the previous season, than a simple moving meditation.
I completed the practice at Kindness Yoga in Denver, in a room crowded with yogis who I had never met. Prior to the exercise, I was conscious that I was entering a period of self-work, bringing with it a heightened focus on solitude, honesty, and discipline. This time, I laughed, cried, and felt a full range of emotions leaving my body as the mirrors fogged, and I became alone in a room where the mats had nearly one inch between one another.
Jen Hicks led the practice, and before beginning, noted that it’s often helpful to dedicate each salutation or a set of salutations, to certain loved ones or memories.
We were given 11 beads to help us keep count, flowing through 10 blocks of 10 Sun As, while the last block of 8 was intended to be slower than the first 100. For the 10 blocks of 10, I dedicated each to a different “category”—memories with certain individuals, including my closest friend, a previous partner, and my sister. During other blocks of salutations, I honored some of my favorite places, such as the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado, and the mountains in Patagonia, Argentina.
During each flow, I focused on recalling the specifics of each of the memories such as faces, words, smells, and emotions. I revisited activities like skiing, hiking, and camping, and an entire block was spent focusing on a recent trip with my family to Mexico.
While many of these memories plastered a smile on my face and warmed my heart, some brought with them the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia, and triggered feelings of betrayal, pain, loneliness, and regret. Ultimately, I felt blessed to have experienced them all, and as I moved into the last block of eight at a snail’s pace, I decided that for every salutation, I would focus on something I was grateful for.
I sent gratitude out in all different directions, for my health, for my mistakes, for my passions. Finally, for sweet 108, I gave it up to the present moment. That it is full, alive, real, and enough.
In that recognition, something incredible happened. I returned back to my body, back to the room, and back to a place where the past and the present could not touch me, and were no longer real. I recognized that these memories, whether “good” or “bad,” no longer defined me, and that they weren’t necessarily the truth, but only my perception of past events.
In that small, crowded room, I had taken myself on a roller-coaster ride, and in returning back to the here and now, I was able to get past the events of the recent season. It felt as though the universe had played a joke on me for the past two hours, and I filled with laughter.
Practicing 108 sun salutations can be done individually, with a group of strangers, or friends, at home, at a studio, or probably best, if the weather and circumstances permit, outside in nature. Shoes should be off, and clothing is always optional.
You can break the 108 sun salutations into four groups of 27, nine groups of 12, or whichever way you feel called. You can focus on memories, take breaks in between to read passages out of books, or return to your favorite quotes—or just simply come back to the breath in silence.
Completing all 108 sun salutations isn’t the main purpose, but it’s the process of working to that point which helps us shed the weight of the past, and quiet the mind’s obsession with the future. To lighten our load and prime us for a new season of growth.
In doing so, we step more firmly into our power, we surprise ourselves, and we can again marvel at how the universe has organized our lives up to this point. We see clearly the futility in all of the obstacles distracting us from the truth that everything will work out the way it should. That we are enough, and that we need not grasp, but rather trust and flow.
108, thank you for allowing me to accept change, and reconnect with that place in me where there is no fear. Namaste.