The Magic Number of Yoga, Meditation, Pranayama and Astrology

Over the past couple of weeks, the number 108 has been everywhere in my life. I just returned from leading a yoga retreat in Bali and brought back some Mala necklaces consisting of 108 beads. I also hosted an astrology event with Leslie McGuirk of Lucky Stars Astrology and began researching how the number 108, astrology, yoga, pranayama, chakras and meditation all intertwine.

If you’ve ever wondered why this number is considered holy and auspicious in many cultures, the following are a few points of interest for you to ponder.

Yoga: Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga has 54 letters. Each has masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti). 54 X 2 = 108

Mala Necklaces: Sometimes referred to as prayer garlands during meditation, the beads of the mala are used to count the number of repetitions of a mantra, 100 are Mala beadscounted as completed. The remaining are said to cover errors or omissions. The 8 are also said to be an offering to God and Guru. At the end of the necklace is a larger bead, called a meru that is not part of the 108. It is not tied in the sequence of the other beads. It is considered a guiding bead that marks the beginning and end of the mala.

Chakras: In the subtle anatomy of the body, the chakras are energy lines. The heart ( Anahata) chakra which is considered the fulcrum point where the physical body meets the spiritual body is said to have 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.

Lucky Stars: Astrology is based on the planets and stars, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108. There are 12 constellations, and 9 arc segments called chandrakalas. 9 times 12 equals 108. Chandra is moon, and kalas are the divisions within a whole. In relation to the 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. In relation to the moon, The average distance of the Moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.

Meditation and Enlightenment: In a state of deep peace that occurs when the mind is silent, if you are able to be so calm in meditation as to have only 108 breaths in a day, enlightenment will come.

Pranayama: In the art of yoga breathing, Hatha Yoga estimates the average number of breaths per day at 21,600, of which 10,800 are solar (Surya) energy, and 10,800 are lunar (Chandra) energy. Multiplying 108 by 100 is 10,800. Multiplying 2 x 10,800 equals 21,600.

There are many other auspicious meanings of the number 108, showing up in chemistry, math, religions and even Pop Culture. I’m reading a book called The Martien by Andy Weir, about a space odyssey. I discovered that a Soviet cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin manned the first space flight on April 12th, 1961. Guess how long the flight lasted? 108 minutes.

Bali Retreat Raises Funds for Charity

Local Residents co-hosting Bali yoga retreat as fundraiser
By Kristina Houck

Two local yoga instructors are teaming up to rase more than hope for City of Hope.

With City of Hope’s fifth annual Yoga for Hope set for June 13 at Petco Park, yoga instructors Stacy McCarty and Heidi Shurtz are planning a unique fundraiser to raise awareness about the benefits of yoga, as well as funds for research, treatment and education programs: For one week in July, the pair will be hosting a yoga retreat to Bali.

Bali yoga retreat“It really goes hand in-hand,” said McCarthy, who has liven in Rancho Santa Fe for 17 years. “Yoga for Hope and City of Hope connects, renews, inspires and cures. That’s much of what we’re doing on a retreat.”

Every year, McCarthy co-leads the master yoga class during Yoga for Hope. Having participated in the event since it first launched, she has helped make it the success it is today.

Last year’s event raised more than $80,000 for City of Hope, one of the nations leading centers for canter treatment and research, through more than 70 donation-based yoga classes and the fundraising efforts of participants.

“It’s so rewarding,” McCarthy said. “It’s Southern California’s largest yoga event. It’s a phenomenal thing.”

Scheduled to co-lead the class again this year, McCarthy has looked for new ways to raise funds for the event. In previous years, she has hosted donation-given yoga classes. This year, she and fellow yoga instructor Heidi Shurtz are traveling to Bali with a group of yogis July 12-18. A portion of the proceeds from the retreat will benefit City of Hope.

“We want to give back to our retreat members, but we also want to give back to the community and help raise awareness,” Shurtz said.

This is Shurtz’ third time hosting a yoga retreat to Bali. She and her husband, Jason Shurtz, lead retreats through their local business Yoga Retreats Bali.

A Carmel Valley native and Torrey Pines High School alumna, Shurtz has been a yoga instructor for more than four years. After college in 2010, Shurtz traveled to Bali, where she and her now-husband trained as yoga instructors for about three months.

“I was not expecting to come out of it wanting to change my career path,” said Shurtz, who has a degree in Landscape Architecture. “But I fell in love with teaching yoga.”

Now a Carlsbad resident, she returned to the island in 2011 and hosted her first Bali retreat in 2012, with another one the following year.

“I wanted to find a way to bring people to Bali,” she said. “It’s just such an amazing place. The impact that it had on my life was so profound [and I wanted others to be able to experience that].”

Although McCarthy has never been to Bali, she has traveled around the world and has more than 20 years of teaching experience. In 1991, she helped launch the original Frog’s Athletic Club in Solana Beach, bringing yoga classes to the health club the next year. She began teaching in 1994.

McCarthy and Shurtz met years ago at the Pacific Athletic Club, now Bay Club Carmel Valley, where McCarthy is an instructor and Shurtz is a member.

“We wanted to have an experience where people who practiced yoga with us have more time, so we can really deepen our connection,” said McCarthy, who holds private classes and wellness retreats through her business, Yoga Namastacy, which launched in 1999. She is also a yoga teacher and faculty member at Mira Costa College and offers classes on SpiroFit, a live, on demand, online fitness network.

“It’s a very bonding and very spiritual area, where they will get away from their everyday life and also deepen their connection with their inner selves. We’re their to foster and cultivate that.”

The one week retreat features daily yoga classes, and cultural excursions. Up to 20 spots are available.

“Being in a place like Bali lends itself to a transformative, deep and emotional experience,” Shurtz said.

“It’s also a place to reconnect and refocus,” said McCarthy, noting that husbands and wives, as well as mothers and daughters, have signed up for the retreat. “Yoga does that.”

Single occupancy rates are $3400 and double occupancy rates are $2600 per person. Group discounts are available for 3 or more people.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit City of Hope. The last day to book is June 1.

“Time for yourself,” Shurtz said. “It’s important to take care of yourself.”

If you really want to go, make it happen. You won’t regret it.

For more information or to register for the retreat visit

We are also offering an additional discount to help raise money for Yoga for Hope. The promotion is DONATE AND SAVE! Donate to Yoga for Hope under the yoga retreats-bali team and get additional discounts for the retreat:

Donate $50 for $100 off – Donate $100 for $200 off – Donate $150 for $300 off

Click HERE to register for the retreat today!