108 Sun Salutations: Your Ultimate Guide

Sign on a blue wall with the number 108
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Sign on a blue wall with the number 108 signifying the 108s sun salutations

If you have ever been to a yoga class, you will most likely have practiced sun salutations. But have you ever practiced 108 sun salutations?

Most yoga classes start off with sun salutations.

Sun salutations can be considered as different shapes in space we create with our bodies.

And so through this series of movements that involve forward folds, planks, lower planks, and downward-facing dog, we heat the body and build Prana.

The beauty in this series of poses in our yoga practice is that they are practiced in synch with the breath.

We work with the body, the breath, and our sensory powers and we are training ourselves to find a place of steady presence. And this training is what helps us stay present and focused throughout all the inevitable changes we experience in nature and in our lives.

Consider sun salutations as training, to stay present. And in turn, consider 108 sun salutations as a yogic tradition teaching us to train with a hint more dedication.

Keep reading and hopefully, I can help you understand why and how to do 108 sun salutations.

Me doing my 108 sun salutations. The three poses I'm showing in the photo are chaturanga, upward facing dog and downward facing dog.
Chaturanga, Upward facing dog and downward-facing dog whilst doing 108 sun salutations

Why Practice 108 Sun Salutations?

We practice 108 sun salutations because the number 108 is highly revered in Hinduism and Buddism. By moving our body through 108 sun salutations, we connect our body, mind, and breath and honor a rich tradition. It is mainly practiced to raise awareness of a worthy cause or to celebrate an event.

Over the years there has been a rise in popularity with people aiming to practice 108 rounds of sun salutations. The first time I ever heard of 108 sun salutations was when I was in Mysore, India and I took part in a Yoga Stops Traffic event.

I have been noticing more and more how 108 sun salutations are associated with a change in season, to signify an important event such as welcoming the new year or even to raise money and awareness for a worthy cause.

The more we look, the more we may notice how the number 108 appears over and over again. According to the Himalayan Yoga Insitute, there are many reasons why 108 is a sacred number. Below I will summarise a few:

  • The average distance from the Moon from the Earth is 108 moons.
  • The average distance of the Sun from the Earth is 108 suns.
  • The Sun’s diameter is 108 Earths.
  • There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has a masculine and feminine form and so 54×2=108.
  • The number of beads on a yoga mala is 108.
  • 108 is even found in the Fibonacci Sequence.

My inner geek had to do a little fact-checking with some of these statements.

The following figures are from NASA, so I’m assuming they’re as correct as I’ll even be able to find!

In km
Diameter of the Moon3,475
Diameter of Earth12,742
Diameter of the Sun1,392,700This equals 109 Earths
Distance between Earth and Sun150,000,000This equals 108 Suns
Distance between Earth and Moon384,400This equals 110 Moons*
108 and the distance between the Sun, Moon, and Earth

*It is worth mentioning that the moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical and so there are certain points in time when the distance between the Earth and the Moon is indeed 108 moons.

And so by practicing 108 sun salutations, we are connecting our deepest levels of being with our ever-changing reality. We bring all parts of our being (heart, breath, body, and mind) and ask them to stay focused as we salute the sun and flow through this meditative practice.

When do People Practice 108 Sun Salutations?

People practice 108 sun salutations to celebrate a big day, to raise awareness of a worthy cause, to celebrate the change of the seasons, such as the spring equinox, summer solstice, fall equinox or winter solstice. It is even a great time to celebrate fresh starts, such as the opening of new yoga studios.

Getting ready to practice 108 sun salutations in Mysore India
108 Sun Salutations at the Yoga Stops Traffick Event in Mysore, India 2014

As I mentioned previously, I first heard about the 108 Sun Salutations in Mysore India for the Yoga Stops Traffic event in 2014. There, ashtanga practitioners from all over the world practiced a subdivision of the 108 sun salutations. More specifically, we practiced 27 sun salutations.

The reason being that we were in the sun and also we had children we were raising money for actually practice with us.

How to do 108 Sun Salutations?

We generally practice surya namaskara a when doing 108 sun salutations. Depending on your fitness levels, you can choose how dynamic or not you want to make the practice. One method is to follow an audio guide, another is to call out each set, and another is to add modifications if you get tired.

And so if we are aiming to do 108 rounds of surya namaskar a. allow yourself to go at your own pace and rest when needed. In the table below you will find the sequence of poses that are practiced as well as the corresponding breath.

1Mountain poseInhale
2Forward foldExhale
3Half liftInhale
5Upward facing dogInhale
6Downward facing dogExhale
7Send hips backInhale
8Step forwardExhale
10Mountain poseExhale
108 sun salutation breath count

And so let’s have a look at how I would guide a sun salutation:

1) Stand with your feet together, belly engaged. Inhale raise your arms and look up at your thumbs.

2) Exhale and fold forward, bend the knees if there is any lower back pain.

3) Inhale and look forward and lengthen the spine.

4) Exhale and lower to chaturanga (lower plank) or come down to the floor.

5) Inhale and press up to upward facing dog (or cobra).

6) Exhale and come to downward facing dog.

7) Inhale send the hips back.

8) Exhale step forward

8) Inhale lengthen

9) Exhale and fold forward.

10) Inhale and raise your arms up and look at the thumbs, exhale bring your hands by your side.

Modifications during 108 sun salutations. Downward facing dog, puppy pose and child's pose
Puppy pose and child’s pose as modifications for downward-facing dog

Tips to help you complete your 108 Sun Salutations

1. Modify if needed

Let’s be honest, 108 sun salutations can be a transformative experience, but it is also a lot of hard work!

We’re asking the body to move into plank pose 108 times! And so if you are interested in trying out 108 sun salutations but you’re concerned it may be too hard, the good news is that you can modify if needed.

Here are some modifications you can try out:

  • Bend knees on the first forward fold – This is a nice way to protect the lower back, especially if you have tight hamstrings.
  • Bring your knees to the floor and lower all the way to the floor from plank pose – This is a more gentle modification for the arms. And so if you are still working on your arm and upper body strength, then consider this alternative.
  • When in downward facing dog, come into child’s pose or puppy pose – Both are more gentle options, with childs pose being the most gentle!
  • Replace your updog with baby cobra pose – And so instead of lifting the hips and straightening your arms in upward facing dog, consider gently lifting the torso and keeping the hips on the floor and keeping the elbows bent. This will be a nice modification for upward facing dog.

2. Go as slow as you want

When I started my 108 sun salutation practice, I realized how important it was to keep a constant pace. This would help me stay focused and in constant movement.

What worked for me was one breath per movement and just once breath in downward-facing dog. If this however seems too fast for you, consider staying in toward facing dog (or even child pose) for 5 breaths.

Of course, this will make the whole practice last a lot longer, however, it’s more important to find a pace that works for you.

3. Take baby steps

Consider building up towards your goal of 108 sun salutations. I am an experienced ashtanga yoga practitioner with a regular practice and I will admit to finding the 108 repetitions challenging!

And so for anyone who is still working don’t their strength and endurance, I would recommend building up gradually. One this you could try is a subdivision of the 108.

So for example you could try 108/4 = 27 or even 108/2 = 54 sun salutations.

4. Keep track of the 108 sun salutations

The worst thing could be to get lost in the count and forget where you are in your practice.

And so to make sure that doesn’t happen, there are various ways of counting your 108 sun salutations

  • Say the number out loud at the start of your sun salutation.
  • Follow a guided practice.
  • Divide the sun salutations and count up to that number. For example 4 rounds of 27.
  • Take a break once you reach a set number, for example after every 5, or 12, or 27.
  • Consider having a piece of paper nearby to score out a set, e.g. after every 5 or 12 or 27.

5. Take a break when needed

It’s not so much about the finish line, but rather the whole experience. And so make sure you take breaks when needed. This could be doing some silent sitting or resting in child’s pose.

And when you feel ready, return to your practice.

6. Change your focus on each set

Another method you could try is to divide your 108 sun salutations into 12 more easily digestible chunks.

And so something you could try is to play around with your focus and intention during each set. For example:

  • During one set you could work on the count
  • Then focus on your breath
  • Next focus on your heart beat
  • Another alternative is to close your eyes

Play around with all the options and see what works for you.

7. Play with how long you stay in downward facing dog   

When I practiced the 108 sun salutations, I just stayed in downward-facing dog for one breath. I like how playful this felt as I’m used to staying there for 5 breaths.

And so one breath in downward-facing dog became my preferred option.

If that seems too fast-paced for you, you could try to stay 2 breaths, or even 5.

Or even, you could vary the length and give yourself a breather. So, for example, every 6 sun salutations you could stay for a bit longer than you normally would.

9. End it with a smile and a rest

When I finished my first day of 108 sun salutations I couldn’t get off the floor! I was exhausted!

I took some time to collect my thoughts and energy before attempting to get up.

My last tip is to really take your time in savasana and really give your body a rest. We just did a yoga marathon and now is the time to really rest!

Cobra as a modification for upward facing dog during 108 sun salutations
Cobra as a modification for upward facing dog

How Long Does it Take To Do 108 Sun Salutations?

In general, it can take 50 minutes to practice 108 sun salutations with only one breath in downward-facing dog and no rest. If you add more breaths to downward-facing dog then expect the 108 sun salutations to take much longer. Consider 50 minutes to be the minimum time it takes for this practice.

4 Things I Learned Doing 108 Sun Salutations Every Day

I set myself a challenge to do 108 sun salutations every day for 7 days. If you’d like to see more about the whole experience, check out my video here:

But for now, let’s see the key things I learned from this process.

1. They’re simple to make easier

Come day three, I realized that doing 108 sun salutations every day was, frankly, a mammoth task! I was exhausted and on the second day my hamstrings, in particular, were incredibly stiff!

Luckily it turns out there are a whole host of things you can do to make it much easier.

As mentioned above, I found a wide range of modifications, and so make sure you make use of them when you feel like it’s becoming a bit too challenging.

2. They’re a very good full body exercise

My practice generally involves practicing 8-10 sun salutations (5 sun salutations a and 3-5 b). And so by having sun salutations as the main practice made me realize what an incredible full-body workout it can be.

Of course, they can be made easier or harder, and so depending on how you practice them they really can be a great workout.

3. They get results

By day five, I notice I’ve already got what I’m telling myself is more muscle definition in my arms during this intense workout. And no wonder considering I was doing 108 planks every single day for 7 days!

4. They become a moving meditation

I was very curious to see if I experience this. And in my experience, when I got beyond the halfway mark it was as smooth sailing.

Yes, I was tired, ok, very tired! But I knew that I was already halfway there and it all felt more downhill from there.

And knowing that, I focused on my breath and just enjoyed the ride.

5. They helped me work on my dedication and patience

Interestingly, I became really dedicated to completing my 7-day challenge. I actually found myself looking forward to it each day. Yes, it was physically demanding, however, mentally it became rather addictive!

On a side note, as I was counting each sun salutation, I found that once I got over the halfway mark of 54 sun salutations, it was all just that much easier.

If you would like to practice 108 sun salutations with me, check out my video:

How many calories do you burn doing 108 Sun Salutations?

One study found that 108 sun salutations burn an average of 280 calories. This is the only academic study that has examined calories burnt using sun salutations. However, the calories burned really do depend on our weight and on how easy or challenging we make the sun salutations.

To be more specific, the study mentioned examined how many calories are burnt during 120 sun salutations. Additionally, they specified that the calories burnt depend on the person’s weight.

More specifically:

  • 55kg burns 186 calories in 120 cycles of sun salutations
  • 65kg burns 275 calories in 120 cycles of sun salutations
  • 77kg burns 380 calories in 120 cycles of sun salutations

For more information, this is the study: A mathematical model of effects on specific joints during the practice of the Sun Salutation – A sequence of yoga postures

Is it OK to do 108 Sun Salutations?

As a general rule, it is ok to do 108 sun salutations. It is a dynamic practice that will help strengthen your arms, lengthen your hamstrings, and will help you experience the yoga version of a marathon. It may be challenging for beginners, so consider working you up from 27 to 54 sun salutations.

During special occasions, your local yoga studio may be hosting a 108 sun salutation practice. Be sure to check it out if you want to do it with the guidance of a yoga teacher and a yoga community.

Can I do 108 Sun Salutations daily?

As a general rule, you can do 108 sun salutations daily. However, keep in mind that it is a physically challenging practice, and you may want to take some rest every other day. Consider mixing it up with more grounding practices so as to prevent any injury from the repetitive movements.

Just remember, thick practice can be quite the aerobic workout so be sure to rest in child’s pose when needed!

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