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Through the years I have had the personal pleasure and honor to lead many a Yoga Mala. I have been heavily influenced by my esteemed teacher Shiva Rea in this process. She has been generous in her guidance and I in return want to pay it forward to help others.

There are different ways to lead a Yoga Mala which is 108 Sun Salutations. Here is what has worked best for me but please know there are many approaches to leading a Yoga Mala.

It all starts with intention.  What is the mala dedicated to? An equinox, a charitable event, a way to build community. All reasons are honored. 

In communicating about your Yoga Mala or half Yoga Mala be clear if you are making it accessible to all levels of practioners or not.  For instance do not hesitate to include if previous experience is recommended or not.  It is important to set the expectation in order to create shared dialogue. 



How long will a full 108 Sun Salutation Yoga Mala take?

3.5 to 4 hours 


How long will a half 54 Sun Salutation Yoga Mala take?

2 hours


Do I have to do only Sun Salutation A?

No, you could do 7 A’s and 2 B’s in groups of 9. This will total 3 groups of 9 salutes to total 27 in each set. 


What is Sun Salutation A?

This is formally known as Surya Namaskar A, from Krisnamacharya’s sequence and Ashtanga.


How do I keep everyone safe?

I highly recommend not jumping, have everyone step forward and back. Other kind modifications include: Bent knees in forward folds (there are 216 forward bends in a 108 mala); 
2) Modified Plank with knees down; Cobra instead of Upward Facing Dog


How do I count the Sun Salutations and not lose track?

If you are doing 108 Salutations then have ready two bowls to count from. Bowl One with 27 seeds, beads, beans – Bowl Two – Empty. Every time you go into a forward bend put one seed into the empty bowl. This way you will not lose your count. The 27 will equal 4 sets of salutations for the Full Mala.  If you are doing a half mala then you will do only 2 sets of 27 salutations.

The other method is if you are doing 7 A Salutations and 2 B Salutations in each mini set then having just 9 seeds, pennies, beads on one side of your teaching mat and simply moving one over to the other side every forward fold works brilliantly.


Should I use music?

There are lots of options, no music, a live band, music that fits the intention of the event. It is whatever you feel will be the most powerful. I like to start in silence and then bring music in, and end in silence for savasana.


How do I teach the Salutations to stay within the time allotted?

Remember this is not so much an alignment driven experience where we are breaking down the poses instead you are guiding the practice and holding the space to lead the rhythm. The pacing is the challenge for you as the teacher: to stay easeful and steady for the group may want to start speeding up. Stay the course with mindful movement and kind economy of effort.



Decide in advance how you want the mats set up and just like for any workshop put some mats down to give nonverbal direction. Also helpful if you have a yogi friend there to offer direction how to set-up as folks entire the space.  I find it helpful for best flow if lines of energy are organized whether in a classroom style, river format or circle. In this way no one feels left out of the community.

Also plan on the time it will take to introduce the intention of the mala. I like to begin by taking 2 minutes for everyone to casually introduce themselves to yogis around them. Then we formally begin with a unity meditation or Anusara invocation or chanting of Om’s.  You’re already 5 minutes in at this point.

Before we begin I like to show the options for the practice. That it is more important to stay in the intention of 56 or 108 of something than it is to do the physical practice. So I give options to OM 108 times, to count breaths, to recite mantra 108 times as all equal to moving meditation of Salutations. I also demonstrate the physical options of not doing the half vinyasa of Plank, Chatarunga, Updog, Downdog but instead to hold Malasana for those 5 breaths and pick back up when folks step forward again to finish that Salutation. I ask for questions or clarifications and then we begin.

To start the practice I like to offer a dedication which could be a reading, a poem, at the beginning of every set of salutations based on the larger intention or theme of the event. 


7 Sun Salutation A’s:

2 Sun Salutation B’s:

*Downward Dog is only held a complete breath cycle: inhale/exhale

*Instead of jumping in order to be kind to our wrists and low back we step forward mindfully.


Once the Salutations are completed depending on the amount of time we have I transition the group to seated and do some wrist stretches, easy forward folds and twists. Final wave of practice is lying back where we do gentle supine twists and supine child’s pose to relieve any tension in the low back. Keeping strong core for 54 or 108 salutations is challenging for everyone.

And finally Savasana: I do a brief closing reading before and after but have complete silence during final relaxation. I am also careful to allow enough time for everyone to process their own emotions.

The next day I send a thank you email or note making folks mindful that if they are sore (most common are hamstrings and low back) to do some gentle yoga. I also offer my time to them if they have felt an energetic shift or just want to talk about their experience And I include some interesting facts about the magic of 108 as below

The Significance of the number 108

  • First man in space: The first manned space flight lasted 108 minutes, and was on April 12, 1961 by Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut.
  • 9 times 12: Both of these numbers have been said to have spiritual significance in many traditions. 9 times 12 is 108. Also, 1 plus 8 equals 9. That 9 times 12 equals 108.
  • Powers of 1, 2, and 3 in math: 1 to 1st power=1; 2 to 2nd power=4 (2×2); 3 to 3rd power=27 (3x3x3). 1x4x27=108
  • Harshad number: 108 is a Harshad number, which is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits (Harshad is from Sanskrit, and means “great joy”)
  • Desires: There are said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals.
  • Lies: There are said to be 108 lies that humans tell.
  • Delusions: There are said to be 108 human delusions or forms of ignorance.
  • Heart Chakra: The chakras are the intersections of energy lines, and there are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra. One of them, sushumna leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to Self-realization.
  • Sanskrit alphabet: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.
  • Pranayama: If one is able to be so calm in meditation as to have only 108 breaths in a day, enlightenment will come.
  • Upanishads: Some say there are 108 Upanishads, texts of the wisdom of the ancient sages.
  • Sri Yantra: On the Sri Yantra there are marmas where three lines intersect, and there are 54 such intersections. Each intersections has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti qualities. 54 times 2 equals 108. Thus, there are 108 points that define the Sri Yantra as well as the human body.
  • Pentagon: The angle formed by two adjacent lines in a pentagon equals 108 degrees.
  • Marmas: Marmas or marmasthanas are like energy intersections called chakras, except have fewer energy lines converging to form them. There are said to be 108 marmas in the subtle body.
  • Time: Some say there are 108 feelings, with 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, and 36 related to the future.
  • 8 extra beads: In doing a practice of counting the number of repetitions of the mala, 100 are counted as completed. The remaining are said to cover errors or omissions. The 8 are also said to be an offering to God and Guru.
  • Chemistry: Interestingly, there are about 115 elements known on the periodic table of the elements. Most of those, around or higher than the number 100 only exist in the laboratory, and some for only thousandths of a second. The number that naturally exist on Earth is around 100.
  • Astrology: There are 12 constellations, and 9 arc segments called namshas or chandrakalas. 9 times 12 equals 108. Chandra is moon, and kalas are the divisions within a whole.
  • River Ganga: The sacred River Ganga spans a longitude of 12 degrees (79 to 91), and a latitude of 9 degrees (22 to 31). 12 times 9 equals 108.
  • Planets and Houses: In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108.
  • Goddess names: There are said to be 108 Indian goddess names.
  • Gopis of Krishna: In the Krishna tradition, there were said to be 108 gopis or maid servants of Krishna.
  • 1, 0, and 8: Some say that 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or eternity.
  • Sun and Earth: The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
  • Moon and Earth: The average distance of the Moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.
  • Silver and the moon: In astrology, the metal silver is said to represent the moon. The atomic weight of silver is 108.
  • Numerical scale: The 1 of 108, and the 8 of 108, when added together equals 9, which is the number of the numerical scale, i.e. 1, 2, 3 … 10, etc., where 0 is not a number.
  • Meditations: Some say there are 108 styles of meditation.
  • Breath: Tantra estimates the average number of breaths per day at 21,600, of which 10,800 are solar energy, and 10,800 are lunar energy. Multiplying 108 by 100 is 10,800. Multiplying 2 x 10,800 equals 21,600.
  • Paths to God: Some suggest that there are 108 paths to God.
  • Smaller divisions: The number 108 is divided, such as in half, third, quarter, or twelfth, so that some malas have 54, 36, 27, or 9 beads.
  • Hinduism: 108 is said to refer to the number of Hindu deities. Some say that each of the deities has 108 names.
  • Islam: The number 108 is used in Islam to refer to God.
  • Jain: In the Jain religion, 108 are the combined virtues of five categories of holy ones, including 12, 8, 36, 25, and 27 virtues respectively.
  • Sikh: The Sikh tradition has a mala of 108 knots tied in a string of wool, rather than beads.
  • Buddhism: Some Buddhists carve 108 small Buddhas on a walnut for good luck. Some ring a bell 108 times to celebrate a new year. There are said to be 108 virtues to cultivate and 108 defilements to avoid.
  • Chinese: The Chinese Buddhists and Taoists use a 108 bead mala, which is called su-chu, and has three dividing beads, so the mala is divided into three parts of 36 each. Chinese astrology says that there are 108 sacred stars.
  • Stages of the soul: Said that Atman, the human soul or center goes through 108 stages on the journey.
  • Meru: This is a larger bead, not part of the 108. It is not tied in the sequence of the other beads. It is the quiding bead, the one that marks the beginning and end of the mala.
  • Dance: There are 108 forms of dance in the Indian traditions.
  • Praiseworthy souls: There are 108 qualities of praiseworthy souls.

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