A japa mala or mala is an eastern rosary with 108 beads. The mala is used both in Hinduism and Buddhism for counting mantras, chants or prayers. 108 has been a sacred number for a long time, and this number is explained in many different ways.
In Indian culture, the number 108 appears many times, in the most prominent aspects of our life. For example, on a traditional mala, or prayer beads, there are 108 individual beads and 108 forms of meditation. In Ayurveda, there are 108 “Marma” points that are vital for giving life to the beings of earth and there are said to be 108 nadis, or prana channels that form Anahata, the heart chakra. There are said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals, 108 lies that humans tell and 108 delusions or forms of ignorance. In Sanskrit, the language of yoga, there are 54 letters in the alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, Shiva and Shakti, and 54 times 2 is 108. Nearly all of the ancient Vedic texts carry a theme of 108 in one form or another: for instance, there are 108 Upanishads.
However, the number 108 extends beyond our 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, and the average distance of the moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the moon. At a foundational level, the word “Hatha,” as in the physical practice of yoga, is the alignment of sun (ha) and moon (tha), a balance of opposing forces, dualism, masculine and feminine energies. In Indian astrology, there are 12 houses and nine planets, when you multiply the two you get 108.
In addition to the repetition of the number in our daily lives, the singular numbers 1, 0, and 8 are said to represent God (the one higher truth), emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice and meditation (0) and eternity (8). So do those 108 sun salutations and count all those mala beads because we all need a little higher truth in our lives! :)