After the breathtaking decay of autumn, we are now left in the dark and bitter chill of winter. Yesterday, people all over the world celebrated the solstice, which marks the official beginning of the winter season in the northern hemisphere. Here on the East Coast, the solstice officially began at 6:03 p.m. on Dec. 21, starting the longest night of the year. Yet from this day forward, we can look ahead to increasingly longer amounts of sun. And with the coinciding new moon, we celebrate new beginnings!
A solstice occurs when the North Pole is tilted the furthest from sun, or 23.5 degrees, and is at its greatest angular distance from the celestial equator . On the solstice, the sun stops moving northward or southward along its orbital plane. This is how the word solstice gets its meaning: “sun standing still.” In winter, the solstice begins when there is the least amount of sunlight, and on this day the sun barely rises above the horizon.
Over the course of history, the sun has been celebrated as the source of light and life. Traditionally, the sequence of yoga poses called sun salutations are done in the direction of the sun. The poses that comprise the sequence—prayer pose, upward salute, forward fold, plank, chaturanga, cobra, downward facing dog and potentially high lunge—are meant to bring focus and clarity with the breath, restore balance, center and energize the body, as well as show respect and gratitude for the sun. It is fitting then, that yogis all over the world celebrate the solstice with sun salutations, or surya namaskara—108 of them, to be exact.
The number 108 is considered significant in many different cultures, in religion, geometry, medicine, astronomy and astrology. In Greek Architecture, the “Golden Rule” of the height-width relationship is measured by taking two points that are 108 degrees apart on a circle, joining them with a straight line and comparing that to the circumference of the circle. The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. The number 108 is the product of the powers of 1, 2 and 3 in: 11=1; 22 (2×2)=4; 33 (3x3x3)=27; thus, 1x4x 27=108. In astrology, there are 12 houses and nine planets; multiplied together also equals 180. The product of the 12 constellations and the nine arc segments, or chandrakalas (divisions of the moon), is also 108.
In Ayurvedic medicine, there are 108 marma points, junctures on the body where two or more types of tissue meet, such as muscles, veins, ligaments, bones or joints. Marma points are also where concentrated life force energy is said to be located. Putting gentle pressure on marma points improves the function of the connecting organs, increases the flow of energy and promotes healing. There also 180 forms in the meditative and martial form of Yang-style tai chi ch’uan.
In Islam, the number 108 can refer to God. There are 108 beads (or divisions of that number) on the Hindu and Buddhist mala, an Eastern rosary used for counting mantras, chants or prayers. Of the ancient sacred Vedic texts revered by Hindus, in the Mukhya, or primary, Upanishad there is a list of 108 canonical Upanishads, which span a period of 2000 years. Finally, the human soul, or atman, is said to go through 108 stages of life.
In honor of the significance of the number 108 with the winter solstice, we Toe Talk ambassadors are giving away a total of 108 pairs of socks that remind us to be mindful, seek balance, celebrate our strength and call us to Namaste, or honor the best in ourselves and in one another. I personally will be giving away seven pairs of Toe Talk socks to seven lucky readers.
To be considered for the giveaway, leave a comment sharing what the season of winter means to you.
Today is also Mindful Monday at Toe Talk. Receive $2 off a purchase of Be Mindful Socks with the discount code “BEMINDFUL” Get a pair here.