Why Yoga 108?

From Jane: Why Yoga 108?

My move to the St. Louis central west end - zip code 63108 - brought me to yoga.  The boys were not yet in school, I was working 50 hours a week as a bank accountant, and my California-dwelling sister said I should take a yoga class.  I told her I didn’t have an extra hour in my week. Her reply? “Well, when you get an extra hour, spend it in a yoga class”.  She was right. A class soon came to the nearby City Studio at a time that worked.  My first downward dog adjusted that nagging place in my spine…and I was hooked.

That was in 1996.  In that time I have had two business names - Yoga To Go (I took the classes to you) and the ever-practical JCF Yoga. 

I am ready to do a real Numbers Guru-Yogini kind of thing and connect my zip code and the mystical number associated with the practice that I love.  Hence, YOGA 108.

One hundred and eight. What is the significance? As it turns out, there are many meanings, traditions and connections associated with the number.  I had always known there was a connection to yoga. For example, it is traditional to practice 108 sun salutations to mark an auspicious occasion or at a time of tragedy to promote peace. What I didn’t know was that the number 108 is said to be “related to the whole of existence” and that there are connections to Numerology, Hinduism, Buddhism, Astronomy, Astrology and far too many others to list here.  For this information, I turned to author, Stephen Knapp[1].

First, 108 is an interesting number mathematically, if you like that kind of thing – which I do.
9 x 1 =9
9 x 2 = 18:  1 + 8 = 9
9 x 3 = 27:  2 + 7 =9
9 x 4 = 36:  3 + 6 =9…
9 x 12 = 108: 1+0+8 = 9

Plus it is a Harshad Number – it is divisible by the sum of its digits (1+0+8= 9 and 108/9 =12).
Proudly I am making this change in a leap year, with 366 days, and 3 x 6 x 6 = 108.

108 is also connected to the sun, the moon and the earth. Did you know that Hatha Yoga is comprised of the Sanskrit words Ha (sun) and Tha (moon)? Mr Iyengar says the sun is Soul and the moon is Consciousness and that hatha yoga, the yoga of action, involves cleaning the Consciousness so that the Soul, sun, can shine through it [2].

Thus it is interesting to me to note that the distance between the Earth and Sun is approximately 108 times the diameter of the Sun.  The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth, and the distance between the Earth and the Moon is 108 times the Moon’s diameter.

There are 108 beads on a Tibetan mala or rosary used to count mantra repetitions. There are said to be 108 form of meditation and 108 lines of energy in the body leading to the heart chakra. In a Japanese Buddhist temples, 108 bell chimes mark the end of the year and welcome the new one. Even the prehistoric monument, Stonehenge is 108 feet in diameter. And the first manned space flight lasted - you got it - 108 minutes.

My favorite connection to 108, however, is that there are said to be 108 steps between our ordinary human awareness and the divine knowledge in the center of our being – that shining sun Mr. Iyengar wrote of.  While I shy away from keeping an exact score there, I do know that each time I wake up another bit of my cells though a yoga posture and make some space in my body, I accomplish what Mr. Iyengar also said to do – “move from the known to the unknown”.  And then over time, that unknown becomes, well, known. Then I take another step, no matter how small, and do it over again.  I think that if the truth be told, I am way past 108 steps in this regard, but, again, yoga is not about keeping score. 

Yoga Sutra 3.33 says that “through keenly developed intuition, everything can be known.“  Knapp pointed out that “highly developed intuition is called pratibha in yoga. It is accessible to those who have stilled their mind, focusing their attention on one object with laser-like intensity.  Those who have limited their mind are no longer limited to the fragments of knowledge supplied by the five senses. All knowledge becomes accessible to them”.  One of these days…  

I hope you too will become enchanted by the number 108.  I encourage you to read the referenced article and then some. Then, whether you are looking to wake up a few sleeping cells step by step and maybe fix your aching back, or develop laser-like attention in order to know the unknowable, my classes will be there for you.

[1] http://www.stephen-knapp.com/108_the_significance_of_the_number.htm

[2] Light on Life, BKS Iyengar p.151