After some major temperature swings, spring is finally in the air! Whether the weather will continue to balance with our expectations for milder days remains to be seen…
The spring season is synonymous with growth and renewal. It can also evoke the desire to bring about change, often in the form of ridding our lives of clutter, bad habits or excess. In the days surrounding the spring equinox there is a balance of light and dark, which can remind us to seek greater balance between the opposing forces in our lives as well. The hectic winter season can leave us feeling depleted, out of whack and out of time to give ourselves whatever it is that we truly need in the moment. If you’re seeking to do some “spring cleaning” in your life, connecting with a practice that helps to unify mind and body can jumpstart your journey toward balance. That balance may come in physical form or as a better way to handle life’s many balancing acts.
Practicing 108 Sun Salutations
With the start of each season, yogis and yoga studios around the world celebrate balance and change by practicing 108 sun salutations. This tradition is also known as a Yoga Mala, with the one-breath-one-movement connection leading us into a moving meditation. While there is great power and energy that can be felt by practicing this tradition with others, it can be accessible wherever you’re able to unroll your mat.
Begin by standing tall at the front of your mat with your arms by your side. Take a few moments to observe your breath and connect with where you are, exactly as you are.
Inhale as you bring your arms up overhead, gazing up.
Exhale as you fold forward, bringing your chest toward your thighs.
Inhale as you lift your head and chest to lengthen the spine. You may plant your palms beside the feet, bring your fingertips to the mat or place palms at your shins to find a flat back. Gaze outward.
Exhale as you plant your hands, step the feet back and bend the elbows to lower yourself into a hovering, four-limbed staff pose. Keep your elbows close to your body and gaze out*.
Inhale and straighten the arms while you open the chest and arch the back. At the same time, roll onto the tops of your feet. Gaze up.
Exhale to lift the hips up and back. Tuck your chin toward your chest and gaze toward your navel. Keep your feet about hip-distance (one hand turned sideways in between the arches of your feet) apart. Allow the heels to sink toward the mat. Stay here for five full inhales and exhales.
Inhale as you walk or hop your feet in-between your hands and lengthen the spine.
Exhale to forward fold.
Inhale to rise with the arms and gaze overhead.
Exhale to release the arms down to your sides to prepare to repeat the sequence.
The number 108 has significant meaning in many spiritual traditions. For example, there are 108 beads strung together on a Mala, which may be used during mantra-based meditation. There are 108 Upanishads, or ancient philosophical Hindu texts. The number also has a connection to sun, moon and Earth. The sun’s diameter is approximately 108 times the diameter of the Earth, while the average distance between the Earth and sun is about 108 times the sun’s diameter (the same can be said for the distance between Earth and the moon).
The personal meaning behind practicing 108 sun salutations can be renewed with the onset of each season. The first time I completed a 108, I felt restored (and exhausted!), recommitted to myself and better connected with my community. For others, this tradition has helped to inspire or establish a stronger home practice, aiming for a certain number of rounds to start off or end the day. Physically, benefits can include promoting healthy digestion, strengthening the abdominal muscles, improving flexibility, easing anxiety, promoting more restful sleep and more.
Have you participated in this tradition before? Share your experience with us and look out for future 108 Sun Salutation events at Your Inner Yogi!
*Check out our last post, “Yoga Vocabulary: What’s a Vinyasa?” for modifications and pictures to assist you during your sun salutation practice.
About the Author
Caroline Miles teaches and blogs for Your Inner Yogi. A transplant to Memphis by way of the D.C.-metropolitan area (and New Orleans), Caroline enjoys Ashtanga Vinyasa, good beats and dry humor. Yoga is a large part of her journey to live – and help others live – an authentic life centered upon well-being.
Yoga Students & Teachers: Everything You Need To Know About A Yoga Mala. (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2017, from http://yoganonymous.com/yoga-students-teachers-everything-you-need-to-know-about-a-yoga-mala/
108: The Number that Unifies the Big Picture with the Present Moment. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2017, from https://wanderlust.com/journal/108-number-unifies-big-picture-present-moment/