What’s the magic about 108?

Have you ever heard about this number? It has many important and symbolic meanings in diverse disciplines ranging from mathematics to religions and spiritual practices, martial arts, yoga and you even find it in buildings and temples. It appears to have been a mystical number back in the day.

In yoga, the number 108 refers to spiritual completion – it seems to have an essence that connects us to the whole.

Can a number connect us to our place in the cosmic order? 

You will find tons of examples where the number 108 appears, but asking for why 108, we’re thrown back to believes and interpretations rather than proof points.

Let’s have a look to where we find this magic number:

  • Based upon the sacred cycle of 108 yogis practice once a year, usually at spring equinox or to honor the international yoga day 108 Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salutations)
  • 108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and Yoga. Traditionally, malas, or garlands of prayer beads, come as a string of 108 beads (plus one for the “guru bead”). A mala is used for counting as you repeat a mantra.
  • Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence.
  • There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet; each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times two is 108.
  • Stages of the soul: Atman, the human soul or center goes through 108 stages on the journey.
  • The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.
  • There are said to be a total of 108 nadis (energy lines) in the body converging to and from Anahata, the heart chakra.
  • In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108.
  • 108 degrees Fahrenheit is the internal temperature at which the human body’s vital organs begin to fail from overheating.
  • 1 = God or higher Truth
    0 = emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice
    8 = infinity or eternity

Does 108 has any meaning for you? Without really thinking about it, my number of luck has always been 9 and some years ago I figured out, that 9 is also my number following the Mayan astrology. 1 + 0 + 8 = 9, here we go….

What is a Mantra?

Even if there is no generally accepted definition of mantra, let’s shed a bit light on it with a simplified translation:

The Sanskrit word can be broken down into two parts: “man”, which means mind or to think and “tra”, which means instrument or vehicle, hence a literal translation could be “instrument of the mind”.

Let’s look at the more significant explanation: Mantra is the fifth yoga described in the Yoga Upanishads. The word mantra is generally translated as sound vibration and the literal meaning is “the force that liberates the mind from bondage.” In Sanskrit the word mantra is derived from several roots: “Mananaat” means bondage of mind, “trayate” means freed or liberated, “iti” means through or thus and “mantraha” means the force of vibration.

The earliest mantras were composed in Vedic Sanskrit by Hindus in India, and are at least 3000 years old. A mantra can be just one word or more and believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers.

The ultimate mantra is anahada nada, an unstock sound or the sound of the vibrating nucleus within an atom. That is the anahada nada which, of course means nothing also because it is the soundless sound. This is where yogic physics comes in. Wherever there is motion there is bound to be a vibration. This in turn creates a subtle sound. The atoms are constantly in motion and creating a set of vibrations.

Confused? Although finding the term “think” and “mind” in a simplified translation, mantras don’t work on that layer. Through repetition we create a certain rhythm and through this rhythm sound frequencies occur. We can feel the effects of this energy in our body and mind.

How to practice a mantra:

A mantra can be a sound, word or phrase and should be repeated often, used in meditation, as a prayer or it can simply express someone’s beliefs. You can just recite it in your mind or also write it down. It can also be used for counting e.g. in pranayama – I love to use the Gayatri mantra (see below) for my counts when practicing Nadi Sodhana (alternate nostril breathing).

A nice visualization is to think about a mantra of as a seed for energizing an intention. Much in the same way you plant a flower seed, you plant mantras in the fertile soil of practice. You nurture them through repetition and over time they bear the fruit of your intention.

Give It a try and use your favorite during your next meditation (repeat it silently), chant it as an opening for your asana practice, use it as an intention for your practice, close with one or use it to count.

Some examples of my favorites:

Mantras come in many forms, the simplest and most important is

OM

Made of the three characters AUM, it presents the trinity of the universal principals, such as past, present, future or the three main gods in Hinduism, Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. The sound of OM is supposed to be the primordial sound of the universe and has a harmonizing frequency, that can be felt through the body.


The shanti mantra– is a Hindu prayer for peace, found in the Upanishads. It is supposed to calm the mind of the reciter, as well as the environment around.

Om sahanaavavaatu

Sahanau bhunaktu

Saha viiryan karavaavahai

Tejasvi naavadhiitamastu

Maa vidvishhaavahai

Om shaantih shaantih shaantih

 May we be protected together. May we be nourished together. May we work together with great vigor. May our study be enlightening. May no obstacle arise between us. Om peace, peace, peace.


The Gayatri mantra– is considered one of the most universal of all Hindu mantras, invoking the universal Brahman as the principle of knowledge and the illumination of the primordial sun. The mantra is extracted from the Rig Veda:

Oṁ Bhūr Bhuva Swaha 

Tat Savitur Varenyam

Bhargo Devasya Dhīmahi

Dhiyo Yo Naḥa Prachodayāt

There are lots of slightly different translations, here is what I’ve learned:

Let us meditate on the glory of Ishvara*, who has created this universe, who is fit to be worshipped, who is the embodiment of knowledge and light, who is the remover of all sins and ignorance. May he enlighten our intellect!

(*Ishvara is the personification of god – untouched by suffering and karma, the teacher of all teachers and his expression in OM)

What has Aparigraha to do with happiness?

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Yamas and Niyamas. The ethical and spiritual observances that should help us develop the more profound qualities of our humanity. They represent a series of “right living“, kind of rules or guidelines within Hinduism and Yoga. They were first detailed in the Upanishads and then Patanjali describes them his Yoga Sutras some years later.

One of the Yamas is Aparigraha. Which means nonpossessiveness, detachment.

On the mat it could be translated into „let go“. Let go of expectations. Let go of your desperate desire to master a certain posture. We’ve got the tendency to „hold“, particularly when it gets challenging. Either active, when it’s about holding the breath. Or more passive, when it’s about holding any emotions that manifest into tension and stiffness. When practicing asanas, try to not just push and stretch, but be aware of what’s going on in your body AND in your mind. Release and let go of what you are afraid of. Be careful and easy with yourself. Let it flow and follow your breath! Our hips are well known as a storage for emotions. So hip opening postures are quite useful, practicing with the appropriate intention and breath.

Off the mat, it’s also about letting go of your attachments. On a rather material level, think about cleaning out the clutter by getting rid of all the things you don’t need anymore. Make room! Get rid of any weight! In your relationships, it might be about forgiving others and with this, free yourself from resentment. If there’s anything dragging you down, ask yourself „is it really about me?“, I beg it’s not.

Make happiness your attitude. Life on and off the mat is so much easier and effortless when you’ve found YOUR happiness within yourself. Independent of any possession, independent from anybody’s mood or even appreciation.

Read more about it in my happiness post on my other blog love.breathe.shine.

Practice Aparigraha and keep on rocking your happiness yogis!