Summer Solstice - The Meaning of 108 Sun Salutations

image (CC-BY-2.0) by Taro Taylor


The summer solstice is a time of honoring the earth and the sun’s blessing of warmth and light. In Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras 3.26 it’s written in translation, “One learns from the perfect discipline of the sun and solar system.”

The summer solstice is the marking point half way through the year, the height of summer and the earth's longest day and shortest night. Solstice means 'standing of the sun' and it is a time that we can connect to this great turning point in the earth's yearly cycle. 

We can take a moment to stop and stand still, look back at what we have achieved from the winter's solstice and look forward to the opening of the doorway to the next half of the year to what we might like to achieve. 

  • What new steps are you taking that are really important to you?
  • What are you nurturing that really matters to you?
  • Where are you growing?

To help define the answers to these questions create a Fire Mandala (Mind Map). Take a piece of paper and fold in half. On one side draw a circle representing The Present Moment and put yourself and what is consuming your life right now. On the other side draw a circle and put yourself in it and include everything that you want more of in your life. Now compare circles. Where you are is constantly evolving towards where you want to go.

Often in yoga it is celebrated at this time with the practice of 108 rounds of sun salutations. The number 108 is a renowned and sacred number in many traditions.  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. Such phenomena have given rise to many examples of ritual significance:

  • 108 is the number of "Upanishads" comprising Indian philosophy's "Vedic texts"
  • 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India
  • 108 is the number of names for Shiva
  • 108 is the number of names for Buddha.
  • 108 is the Chinese number representing "man".
  • 108 is the number of beads on a Catholic rosary.
  • 108 is the number of beads on a Tibetan "mala" 
  • 108 is twice the number "54", which is the number of sounds in Sanskrit (sacred Indian langauge).
  • 108 is six times the number "18", which is a Jewish good luck number.
  • 108 is twelve times the number 9, which is the number of vinyasas (movements linked to breath) in a Sun Salutation.

So maybe take a moment this solstice to be still, notice what you have achieved and where you want to go. Even commit to the beautiful and meditative practice of 108 sun salutations.