The Significance of 108

June 18 | The Lifestyle |

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In all cultures and traditions there is a significance to numbers, repetition and patterns. What is truly fascinating is that number seems to be the same across many moments of history, across many forms of human existence, It was astronomer, mathematician, and physicist Galileo Galilei who said the universe is written “in mathematical language”—that the shrouded mysteries of creation itself could be unraveled through numbers and equations. For the mystics, such numbers offered more than a scientific explanation—they offered a code for awakening, a code to our own nature. And for the yogis, that code is 108.

The number 108 refers to spiritual completion. It is why japa malas are composed of 108 beads, why pranayama, or breath control is often completed in cycles of 108, and why sun salutations are often performed in nine rounds of the 12 postures (totaling 108). By practicing in rounds of this sacred number, the tradition of yoga teaches us that we can align ourselves with the rhythm of creation, and the mysterious patterns of existence and evolution.

In yoga we are often reminded that all is connected from small to big. Stepping back even further, we continue to find the number 108 over and over again in the world and its natural order. The distance between the Earth and sun is 108 times the diameter of the sun. Is it possible that our ancient ancestors knew this? Around the time the ancient Vedic texts were being collected, far away Stonehenge was built—the Sarsen Circle is 108 feet in diameter.

Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters.

Bringing it back to the roots of yoga in India- there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India. Inside the body, yogis also believe that there are 108 energy lines, or nadis, converging to form the heart chakra, and 108 pressure points or sacred parts of the body. And 108 degrees Fahrenheit is the internal temperature at which the human body’s vital organs begin to fail from overheating.

Like the mantra Om, 108 seems to have an essence that connects us to the whole of the universe.  Be it used to guide sun salutations, to tally up the number of chants to the Divine, to count the steps leading up to a temple, or to measure the structures built for the heavens, it serves as a reminder of the wonder and interconnectedness of the universe.