The 108 Suryanamaskar Craze and Crash

What does repeated practice of a 108 Suryanamaskars or any intense yoga practice do to your body and at what cost?

108 Suryanamskars has become a massive craze! From the Bollywood divas swearing by it for the size zero body, to Yoga Studios creating a 10 day challenge for people to feel accomplished, to those trying for a Guiness record for the fasted 108, let’s face it, it’s there!

In age old lineages of Yoga Ashrams, it is said that an ideal practice is about 3-6 rounds for a Beginner, practiced slowly with breath and awareness, and perhaps 12 rounds for adepts. In some cases a 108 Suryanamaskars are practiced as a kriya, or a form of purification. Clear contraindications are provided that anyone with fever, rashes, inflammation or loose bowels must discontinue such a practice. And yet, when I read about the local Yoga studio having a “Yoga challenge” and people signing up to do a 108 Suryanamaskars everyday for 10 days in a row, I found myself thinking “there begins the decline of Ancient Wisdom once more. 

Another big craze in yoga was the advent of Bikram Choudhury, and the massive craze of hot yoga. In a world where every yoga teacher tries to create brand value by personalising yoga, a science which is age old and without ego, Hot Yoga become such a massive craze that Indians coming back from the West were missing their Hot Yoga sessions! For decades his branded yoga was selling in millions, and no one knew about what was going on beyond his popularity. 15 years ago when someone in my class asked me what I thought about such a practice or doing a 108 Suryanmaskars, my reply was that it must be done with caution, as such unnatural overheating of the body, in both situations, was bound to have it’s harmful effect. My husband, who lived with a Himlayan Guru in a cave for 2 years, also firmly believed in this thought. I felt validated many many years later, as more information came out, and one brilliant man recently who broke apart Bikram Yoga from the science of Ayurveda, Dr John Douillard. 

Coming back to a practice like a 108 Suryanamaskars, from a Functional perspective, exercise is a major mediator, something which can both aggravate and relieve an individual’s symptoms. It’s very important that the form of exercise that you undertake is suitable to you personally. Adrenal function or balance is the backbone of all endocrine function including thyroid function and sex hormone function. In today’s world when most people are overworked, under nourished, and in a constant state of Sympathetic nervous system functioning, the fight or flight response, rather than in a Parasympathetic nervous system functioning, the rest and digest response, Adrenal fatigue is on the rise. What starts as being contantly in stress, with physiological reactions like increased heart rate, high blood sugar, and slowing down of non essential processes like muscular, digestive and reproductive systems, and elevated Cortisol, eventually reaches a state of Adrenal burnout, where Cortisol reserves are depleted. Think that it’s good? Think again. Depleted Cortisol leads to short term memory impairment, low output of most hormones, and not feeling any rejuvenation even with excessive sleep. Here starts the requirement for more and more stimulants! 

So with so many people showing symptoms of Arenal dysfunction, what can a repeated practice of a 108 Suryanamskars do? Exercise itself induces inflammation, which is why it is so important to replenish post exercise. But when we are in a state of Adrenal fatigue, we are unable to recover from such a practice. So we stay in chronic inflammation, which is the root of most disease today. If we continue practicing in this manner, when we do not have the internal resource to recover, it can lead to everything from depletion of adrenal hormones, drop in Vitamin D levels, drop in sex hormones like Progesterone and Testosterone, increased illness and infection, increased irritability and depression, increased body weight, and lack of libido. 

Yes such a practice leaves you feeling like you have achieved something and maybe feeling great that day. But do be aware of what happens when it is practiced often. It really is meant to be just a cleansing practice, rarely, which is why it induces a fever like state to allow for self detoxification. But like most things, moderation is crucial!

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16 Comments

  1. really good one

    • Thank you Purnima. So glad you enjoyed it

  2. Thank you deepa for the insight about 108 surya namskar from a functional perspective. Its high time the world realises the ancient wisdome had a science behind it.

    • Thank you for the depth of your teaching Shyam

  3. Thanks for raising this important topic Deepa. I have intuitively found Bikram Yoga, 108 Suryanamaskars and other such extreme or repetitive forms of yoga regimens to be harmful. Personally, I have always enjoyed and relished the slow, breath-aware yoga with a still mind and deep stretch.

    I hope sense prevails and people view their bodies and minds holistically rather than this mechanistic version of Yoga and diet programs we see today. Glad you are bringing this practice back.

    • You are a yoga student who truly understands the depth and philosophy Indira!

  4. Very informative post Deepa. I don’t know much about yoga but I can understand that it should be learned from a good teacher and exercised with caution depending on our health condition.

    • Absolutely Mahati Ramya. I’m so glad there are women like you who can understand this!

  5. This is one of the most intelligently written article I have read off late about Yoga. I haven’t heard of 108 suryanamaskar before, even though I practice yoga regularly. Is it so important to understand the needs of your body rather than blindly following the trend.

    • Thank you Rajalakshmi! And you are so right about not blindly following something simply because it is a trend! It might actually be harmful to you personally

  6. Thanks so much Deepa for such an informative article. I used to feel very inadequate that I couldn’t do 108 suryanamaskars.. For the first time, I am glad that I didn’t do it for the sake of it. I have heard a lot about it and wanted to do it just for the sense of accomplishment. This article just made me feel doing things in our own pace for the wellness of our body is better than to follow the trend.

    • Am so glad it made sense and made you feel reassured Jayanthy. Many times, we do need that when our intuition is telling us something, but the world is telling us something else

  7. Great article, love the way you have explained what over exercising does to the body.

    • So glad you found it interesting Nita!

  8. Great article, Deepa! It’s so relevant for us in the US, too. I’ve been in 108 surya namaskara classes before where the teacher never warned the students of the contraindications as I don’t think they understand them themselves.

    • Thanks Crissy! Yeah it’s such a fad these days and everyone is falling for it withour understanding how dangerous it can be. These were kriya practices meant only for cleansing, not for routine practice or to lose weight. The repurcussions are quite severe

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