Next Thursday, June 21 marks the first day of summer, also known as summer solstice. It is the longest day of the year in terms of daylight and is welcomed in the yoga tradition with the practice of 108 Sun Salutations. This moving meditation offers us the chance to reflect on the true transient nature of all things as we watch the body transform from one state to another, honoring the passing of time as string rolls into summer.
The significance of the number 108 is robust, but in brief, the individual numbers 1, 0, and 8 represent one thing, nothing, and everything (infinity). 108 represents the ultimate reality of the universe as being (seemingly paradoxically) simultaneously One, emptiness, and infinite. In Hinduism, deities have 108 names, and it is said that the recital of these names, often accompanied by counting of 108-beaded Mala, is considered sacred and often done during religious ceremonies. The distance of Sun from Earth divided by diameter of Sun and distance of Moon from Earth divided by diameter of Moon is (apparently) approximately equal to 108. It is claimed that the great sires of Vedanta knew this relationship and thus 108 is a very important number in Vedantic chantings. Likewise, Tibetan Buddhist Malas or rosaries are usually 108 beads, sometimes 111 including the Guru Bead(s), reflecting the words of the Buddha in 108 volumes. Zen priests wear juzu (a ring of prayer beads) around their wrists, which also consists of 108 beads. For more about the significance of the number 108, visit Wikipedia or the Yoga Journal, where Shiva Rea shines a light on the number.
The practice of a sun salutation can be challenging in its own right; some even say it is like the marathon of yoga. As this truly becomes a moving meditation, after the 90-120 minutes that it takes to typically complete a session, you feel physically and spiritually cleansed.
Counting is the hardest part.
Please join me in practicing 108 sun salutations at Indaba Yoga Studio on June 21, 2012. We will begin at 6pm, but you may join later if it is more conducive to your schedule. Jason Kalidas and Liza Lilinthal will be on hand with an offering of live music throughout the sequence. We will end with a short Kirtan (chanting) at around 8.30pm.
I promise to keep count!