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Advanced Concepts

Unveiling the Mystical Significance of 108 in Yoga

In many traditions, the number 108 holds profound and symbolic significance, transcending the boundaries of mathematics. The sacred number 108 is present across the ethers, coming into expression in meditation, breathwork, postures, and other aspects of spiritual discipline. 

The sacrity of this number is woven into the fabric of yoga and beyond into the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Notably also in the realm of Mathematics that in its way seeks to unveil an understanding of our being on the planet.  

Let’s explore the mystical significance of 108 and its place in a modern yoga journey!

Yoga & Mathematics and Geometry

You may be questioning what the modern yoga practice has to do with the intricate world of mathematics. Yoga is a journey to and of the self; it is a unique path and journey for each practitioner to find their understanding of being. Mathematics is another language through which people have sought this understanding over thousands of years. 

As an astronomer, mathematician, and physicist Galileo Galilei said, “Mathematics is the language which God has written the universe”. Mathematics provides a scientific approach to unlocking the mysteries of creation; for mystics, through generations mathematics has uncovered a code for awakening, a code to realizing one’s nature. That code is 108.

Leonardo Fibonacci, born around A.D. 1170, posited in his theory that the number 108 has a way of representing the wholeness of existence; through his famous sequence named the Fibonacci sequence, he posited how everything grew out of nothing in an ever-expanding spiral. 

The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two preceding ones. It starts with 0 and 1, and the sequence goes 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on. Mathematically, it can be expressed by the recursive formula Fn = Fn-1 + Fn-2, with F0 = 0 and F1 = 1.

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The Fibonacci sequence has captivated minds for centuries due to its intriguing properties and prevalence in nature. It appears in various biological and natural phenomena, such as the arrangement of leaves on a stem, the spirals of pinecones and pineapples, the growth of corals, the patterns of sunflowers, and so on. Intrinsically, it has come to represent the concept of growth and development. That all comes from a natural space of order and harmony. 

From this understanding, we meet the belief that yoga is a path to the realization of this union.  Mathematical patterns serve as a reminder of the inherent beauty, balance, and order of the universe.

Reverence of 108 came way before Fibonacci’s famous sequence, although we don’t know how ancient mystics came to 108 across multiple traditions 108 is recognized as a representation of cosmic order in the universe.  Through this article, we will explore these meanings.

108 the code of spiritual completeness

Each digit in 108 holds is said to hold its symbolism 

  • 1 – divine 
  • 0 – completeness of self
  • 8 –  infinity. 
  • 1 – birth 
  • 0 – possibility, openness, and opportunity 
  • 8 – infinity

In numerology 108 equals 9 (1+0=8 =9), symbolizing universal love, eternity, and awakening. 

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✅ Cosmic Connections

As we see in Fibonacci’s sequence the meaning of 108 is reflected in natural order, linked to cosmic rhythms and universal truths. 

The distance between the Earth and the Sun is approximately 108 times the Sun’s diameter. And is believed to have an astrological cycle of 2160 years (20×108). In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. When each house is multiplied by the nine planets, the result is 108. There are also 27 lunar mansions in Vedic astrology spread over the four elements, or the four directions (27 x 4 = 108). 

This cosmic alignment is seen as a reminder of our interconnectedness with the universe and the cosmic energy that flows through all living beings. 

Internal Connections

In yogic philosophy lies the belief that the internal world is mirrored in the external, “as above so below” as it were that is why the ethical codes of the yoga sutras first begin with one’s relationship with oneself. Within the yogic framework and other somatic healing practices, we again see the number 108.

As we understand the energetic anatomy systems of yoga, there are said to be 108 energy channels (Nadi’s) that converge to form the heart chakra. The Anahatha Chakra or Heart Chakra is the center point of our connection to ourselves and all living beings. Further, it is also the connection point between the lower more physically centered chakras and the upper chakras which are more concerned with a spiritual connection.

Acknowledging and working with these energy pathways, practitioners aim to achieve balance and harmony in the flow of life force (prana) within the body. In other Eastern healing traditions there are thought to be 108 marma points or acupressure points on the human body. 

Moving west from Asian philosophy cultures to Da Vinci’s exploration of mathematics in art and science. In his depiction of man, we also see 108. As shown in his drawing, were we to draw a five-pointed star (representing a human being) inside a circle (representing a planet) and we would find 108 degrees staring back at us from every angle. Another representation of human beings is placed in the order of things. 

108 In Yoga practice

108 serves as a yogi’s reminder of spiritual completeness and has therefore been incorporated into many traditional practices of yoga.

Japa Malas are composed of 108 beads, commonly used in mantra meditations where practitioners will use these beads to count through 108 repetitions of a mantra. The rhythmic repetition of a mantra 108 times is thought to align the practitioner with a higher state of consciousness, fostering focus and mindfulness. This is especially powerful when a traditional Sanskrit mantra is used, not solely because of the profound energetic power of Sanskrit but also when we consider the makeup of Sanskrit as a language.

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The Sanskrit alphabet consists of 54 letters, each with a masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) aspect. The multiplication of 54 by 2 yields 108. This symbolic association stands to represent the balance and the union of opposites within the practice of yoga.

Mantra Meditation is not the only practice where we see the interweaving of 108, often pranayama is completed in cycles of 108, and traditional practices of Surya Namaskar or sun salutations traditionally move through 12 postures (total 108) and some lineages practice 108 rounds of Sun Salutations. In Hinduism, there are 108 Upanishads, which are ancient Indian scriptures that explore various aspects of spiritual knowledge.

By weaving 108 into the practices of yoga it is thought that practitioners can align themselves with the rhythm of the creation and edge toward the realization of Samadhi.

Beyond Yoga Cultural and Ritual Significance of 108 across the globe

In various cultures, we see the number 108 associated with rituals, ceremonies, and celebrations.

Across the globe, we see echoes of similar belief patterns in physical representations of 108, we can note the reverence of this mystical number as far back as the Mayan era with the building of the High Temple of Lamanai, which stands at 108 feet tall, in equal height we find the funerary Tikal temple in Guatemala. Within Central America, we also see the Kukulkan at Chichen Itza in Mexico, which archeologists believe is home to a second pyramid measuring 108 feet wide.

As we come to the west, sites such as Stonehenge and the Sarsen Circle feature 108 as the circles’ diameter, and there are said to be 108 Pithas or sacred sites throughout India. There are said to be 108 earthly desires or defilements that a person must overcome to reach enlightenment. To emphasize the importance of 108, many Buddhist pilgrimage sites have 108 steps or repetitions to reach the main shrine or stupa. 

The above are examples of how 108 has traversed culture, religion, and time. The ethos behind the reverence of 108 holds in the general belief that it symbolizes the presence of the divine in the physical world. As Galileo stated, Mathematics is the language of the universe, and this has held for millennia. Incorporating 108 into a regular yoga or meditation practice can be a guiding light and constant reminder of the interconnectedness of our place as individuals within the cosmos.

As we explore the depths of our being, establish a connection with the divine, and rest in unity within the diversity of existence. Whether through the rhythmic counting of mala beads or the cosmic symbolism embedded in the practice, the number 108 continues to be a beacon of spiritual wisdom in the vast landscape of yoga. 

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