As the longest day of the year, Summer Solstice brings a period when the days are getting shorter, which represents a downward, inward, dark, contracting and *nourishing cycle and as the shortest day of the year, Winter Solstice brings a period when the days are getting longer, representing an upward, outward, expansive, light and cleansing cycle. If you are familiar with yoga language, Summer Solstice is symbolized as Prana moving down the Sushumna and Winter Solstice is symbolized as Prana rising up the Sushumna.
Plays of Oppositions
Both upward and downward energy or experiences have their challenges and joys. For example, if you’re a cyclist, think of the invigorating challenge of going uphill and in the same manner think of the invigorating challenge of going downhill. Different challenge, different invigoration and both have value and risk. The same is true with the opposition of inward and outward experiences. Think of the beauty and value of a sunrise (outward) and the beauty and value of a sunset (inward). In the same manner, there are periods in our life that are dependent on our willingness to be outward and other periods where we need to go inwards. Darkness is needed for sleep, rest, restoration, introspection and like plants who begin their journey underground, darkness is where we create our foundation and light is where we expand our energy, see beyond limitations and stay connected to possibilities. If we get stuck in darkness we contract and if we refuse darkness we lose our grounding. As for cleansing and nourishing, it’s easy to see that our body needs both. In fact, our health depends on our ability to know when we need cleansing and when we need nourishment. Too much of one at the expense of the other and we deplete.
Or, we can look at all of these opposites in terms of asanas; In a balanced flow of asanas we move up and down, we expand and contract, we nourish and cleanse and we move inwards and outwards. And there are even more plays of oppositions happening; We cool the body, we warm the body, we build muscle and reduce fat, we increase energy and reduce stagnation, we stabilize and ease our mind and body, we demonstrate effort as we cultivate effortlessness and so on.
Developing the eye to see and respect the plays of opposition is a powerful yoga practice. Solstice is a reminder of it.
Habits. Routines. Rituals.
“Watch your thoughts, they form your words. Watch your words, they form your actions. Watch your actions, they form your habits. Watch your habits they form your character and your character determines your destiny.” Upanishad
If we allow ourselves to believe everything we think without reflection, we fall prey to limiting and mechanical habits. If, on the other hand, we develop the ability to listen to our thoughts before we decide if we will believe them, we empower our lives. Regular rituals lead to more mindful routines which are daily practices done with care and attention towards what we value and this eventually evolves to habits (which remain mechanical) that allow us to manifest our desires and habits that heal our body and mind.
Winter Solstice Ritual Ideas Pick one, two or three or use these examples as ideas for your own ritual.
Power of Choice
1. Reflect on past choices you have made that have enhanced your life. They were most likely challenging at times but overall the gifts they have brought have been positive. For me, the three most life-enhancing choices I have made include motherhood, making yoga the foundation for how I live my life and 19 years ago I gathered the courage to ask Brian out for a bike ride.
2.Express gratitude for what is in you that has allowed you to move in a direction that brings light to your life and commit to keep activating this aspect of your mind/heart.
1. Contact someone who has helped you rise out of a dark situation and let them know you appreciate their energy.
Unity in Opposition
1. Acknowledge the power of opposition. Rest and Play. Silence and Sound. Aloneness and Community. Stability and Ease. Practice and Non-Attachment. And…
On the Mat and Cushion Practice
2. Practice Nadi Shodhanam
3. Practice seven Sun Salutations as a symbolism of feeding your inner Sun/light and devote each Sun Salutation to a chakra (symbolized by the Prana rising up the Sushumna - if you know the chants, chant them :)).
1. Spend time with nature. Watch the sunrise and/or the sunset.
Fire or Water Journaling
1.Find a comfortable seat by a fire place, candle or body of water such as the Ocean.
2. Meditate with eyes open gazing at the fire or water. (7 minutes)
3. Answer the following questions: What are my greatest strengths (light)? How can I best express and share my strengths (light)t? (31 minutes)
4.With closed eyes visualize yourself embodying your strengths/light. (11 minutes)
1. Chant the Gayatri Mantra 108 times or listen to the Gayatri Mantra.
*In my newsletter I reversed nourishing and cleansing.