Yoga: Summer Solstice
Our bodies have now attuned to the late light nights, which have reached their pinnacle today. This means that we pack much more into our day, our productivity should be at its peak. If it isn't then you may be out of balance. I am a great believer in ritual as a form of sadhana or spiritual practice. A few rounds of daily sun salutation facing the sun and a blessing to the day will help you connect with the rhythm of Summer.
There is something so utterly magical about the idea of the Summer solstice as it conjures images of colourful landscapes, verdant grass and vibrant flowers, fluttering butterflies weaving through airy wild flowers asserting an applaudible image of productivity. Although, on a grey Summer's day it is sometimes difficult to remember that the sun is still there. The sun is not absent, we are. Perhaps an anecdote for all our Southern Hemisphere friends; June 21, a pivotal point in the year, is actually the beginning of winter for them whereas (rejoice) in the Northern Hemisphere it is the beginning of our summer and the longest day of sunlight.
London’s sunrise is at 4.42am and the sunset is at 9.20am. Sunrise at 4.42am is London’s earliest from June 11 – 22. But the sunset is at 9.21pm from June 22 – 28. So although we call June 21, the longest day, it is not strictly true. This should make you feel infinitely more positive about the occasion - the longest day actually signifies the beginning of the longest WEEK! That gives us all a little bit more time to enjoy the experience! And enjoy it we must.
To really pay our respects to this wonderful occurrence I propose that this week we all set a gentle alarm for 4.42am and leap out of our beds and perform a Yoga Bananas exercise I call ‘The Sunrise’.
Stand with your feet hip width apart in Tadasana.
Breathe in and raise your arms over your head and lock your elbows and interlock your thumbs so that your fingertips are pointing up to the sky like the rays of the sun.
Keep your legs straight as you breathe out take your outstretched arms with thumbs interlocked all the way over to the right and then down to the ground and breathe in as you take them all the way over to the left and back to centre. You are outlining the shape of the sun.
Repeat six times each side experiencing the momentum gather.
The days are long, and we can achieve so much more; nourished by the sun and the fruits of the land. Throw in a few rounds of The Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar too.
The Sun Salutation:
Stand tall in Tadasana, take 4 slow breaths in and out of the nose.
Breathe in and raise your arms high and spread them and look up at the sun and smile.
Breathe out and touch the hallowed earth in front of your toes.
Breathe in and step your right leg back straight and drop your left knee and look up again toward the sun.
Breathe out and step your left leg back and hold Plank, a product of the earth and sun.
Breathe in and move into Down Dog; raise your hips toward the sun, straighten your legs and root your hands to the earth.
Breathe in and step your right foot forward and look up to the sun.
Breathe out and step your left foot forward and look down to the earth.
Breathe in and stand tall once again raising your arms high and spreading them wide and beam.
Then spend the weekend outside in the park, the common or your garden and enjoy the Sun’s work.
At 9.21pm bow to the sun and lay your lovely head on your pillow and wait for sleep to take you.
The sun salutation can be practised to a chant either spoken out loud or heard internally. Sometimes the sun salutation is called Surya Namaskar which literally means Song to The Sun. There are 12 moves to the classic sun salutation and a chant for each move. I have given you the English translation as it will be easier for you to recite.
Blessing to the friend of all
Blessing to the shining one
Blessing to the one who induces activity
Blessing to the one who illumines
Blessing to the one who moves through the sky
Blessing to the giver of strength and nourishment
Blessing to the golden, cosmic self
Blessing to the ever reaching rays
Blessing to the son of the cosmic mother
Blessing to the power of the one that stimulates
Blessing to the one who is fit to be praised
Blessing to the one who leads to enlightnement
The sun is traditionally seen as a male element, its current dominant during the day. We receive its energy through our right breath, the 'pingala'. We have reached the longest day of the year. the sun, our main source of energy, is at its maximum elevation. We should celebrate our physical and spiritual growth, we should celebrate all life and also accept that the sun will now once more make its descent in the sky toward winter. In the words of Kahil Gibrain; may your ‘soul abound[s] in its fruits’.