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Yoga History 101: The Number 108

Older woman sitting in her bedroom with thumb to forehead, eyes closed. She is preparing for a yoga practice

The number 108 has been important throughout yoga’s history. You may have heard of yogis doing 108 sun salutations. Or perhaps you’ve seen a friend wear a mala with 108 beads on it. 108 is even India’s emergency phone number!

So, why is the number 108 so significant to yoga? Let’s look at its role in yoga’s history.

The number 108 comes from the early days of yoga’s history

Yoga’s history begins with the ancient Vedic texts. The texts’ authors, the Vedas, considered the number 108 to be sacred. Specifically, they believed it represented the wholeness of the universe.

The number 108 also fascinated Vedic astronomers. They found that the distance between the earth and the sun and moon is 108 times their respective diameters. As a result, they believed the number linked the sun, moon, and earth. 

The number 108 even connects the universes within us through our chakras. You may recall that chakras are intersections of our body’s energy lines. 108 of these lines converge at the heart chakra.

Thus, in yoga, the number 108 represents a spiritual connection to the universe.

The number 108 connects us to the roots of yoga’s history

Early yogis wrote about the number 108 in the ancient yogic texts. These texts describe 108 sacred sites, called pithas, throughout India. There are also 108 Upanishads (Indian religious and philosophical texts) and 108 Puranas (sacred writings about Hindu mythology).

The number 108 is also important to Sanskrit. There are 54 letters in Sanskrit. Each letter has a masculine (shiva) and feminine (shakti) form. This thus forms an alphabet with 108 characters. We still use Sanskrit in yoga, so you are certain to hear it in a yoga class.

With its roots in the ancient yogic traditions, the number 108 truly connects us to yoga’s roots.

The number 108 has remained important throughout yoga’s history

Despite its ancient origins, the number 108 remains an important symbol in yoga today. There are several ways to use this sacred number in your yoga practice!

How Do I Use The Number 108 in My Yoga Practice?

Some yogis wear malas, which are strings of 108 prayer beads. Yogis use malas to count as they repeat a mantra. Completing a full cycle of mantras with a mala brings you closer to spiritual completion. This can help aid you in your path to enlightenment and reconnect you with your intentions.

The number 108 is also important to pranayama. Pranayama is yoga’s practice of controlled breathing. A full pranayama cycle is 108 breaths. Even if you don’t have the time for a full cycle, each time you practice pranayama, you connect yourself to the number 108.

Yogis also use the number 108 in sun salutations. Yogis often perform sun salutations over nine rounds of the twelve postures, totaling 108. This meditative practice connects your body, mind, and universe. Aligning these allows for reflection and rejuvenation.

Through mantras, pranayama, and sun salutations, we still use the number 108 today to connect with the roots of yoga’s history and the original purposes of the practice.

Now that you understand the number 108’s importance, it’s time to hit the mat. Head to flowell.co for yoga and meditation classes made just for you. Don’t worry, we won’t expect you to do 108 sun salutations… yet. Sign up for free and start flowing today!

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