Happy autumn solstice! September 22 officially marks the beginning of fall, and what better way to pay homage to the withdrawing sun than with 108 sun salutations at sunrise or sunset? It’s a number that’s auspicious in Buddhism and many more religions. The malas (rosaries) of Tibetan monks include 108 beads, which is a nod to the 108 volumes Buddha dubbed the Tibetan Kangyur. Zen priests also wear 108 beads in a juzu on their wrists. In the Lankayatara Sutra, Buddha is asked 108 questions and later provides 108 statements of negation regarding “a statement concerning X is not statement concerning X.”
In some places, Buddhist teachers tell students that humans have 108 feelings. The Bhante Gunaratana notes that 108 is the number you get when multiplying all senses including touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing and consciousness. In Japan, a bell is rung 108 times in Buddhist temples to mark the end of a year, each one representing one of the earthly temptations you need to tackle to reach nirvana. The number also plays a big role in Judaism and Hinduism, and is considered an imperfect, semi perfect and tetranacci number.
Ringing in the Autumn
Many people consider autumn their favorite season. Chunky sweaters, pumpkin-flavored everything and longer nights naturally bring people closer. I challenge you to honor the shifting seasons on September 22 with 108 sun salutations of your own. Dawn or dusk is the perfect time of day, and it’s often easiest to perform five sun salutations at a time, mark it on a notepad nearby, and indulge in child’s pose between each set. Otherwise, you’re bound to lose count.
Honoring the sun helps us to honor ourselves, our practice, and our fellow yogis. Spend the time reflecting on the seasons that have past, what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown, and what you hope to achieve in the coming season. Gather a group to practice with you, do it solo, head outdoors or stay inside—it’s all up to you.
What will the autumn bring you?