For those in the northern hemisphere, the shortest day of the year is nearly upon us. Commonly known as the Winter Solstice, this day and the symbolism around it have been celebrated for thousands of years in many different cultures.
For Pagans, the longest night of the year was celebrated as the rebirth of the Sun; in the Persian culture, ‘Yalda Night’ is an ancient tradition which continues to this day to be celebrated by Iranians worldwide. In the yoga community, the day is often marked with 108 Sun Salutations to honor the new season. Even in the celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah, many of the traditions, such as the lighting of candles, are intimately associated with bringing light to the darkest weeks of the year.
Whether or not you have any religious or cultural attachment to the Winter Solstice, you may still find your energy levels affected by nature’s happenings at this time of year. At its most extreme, sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder tend to see the onset of their symptoms around this time. More moderately, though, this feels like a time for energy conservation: perhaps you are craving carbohydrates or you feel like you want to stay home and hibernate.
Rather than turning away from the energy of this season and trying to simply get through the darkness, could you try to embrace it and to use it as a time of self-reflection? Much like the longest night of the year is a turning point towards the coming of spring, consider this a time of rebirth and transition. A time to let go of the past and look forward to the future. Just as in nature, where the days will very slowly start to get longer until the summer Solstice, a small change in your habits or perspective can reap real benefits when practiced daily.
With the holiday season well underway, there are few opportunities for quiet reflection and meditation. Before the next couple of weeks of family events and hosting and parties, could you use the Solstice to take a little time for yourself? Here are some ideas for how to celebrate this transition.
108 Sun Salutations
Surya Namaskar is a flowing sequence of yoga poses that is often used as a warm up in dynamic yoga styles such as vinyasa. 108 is a sacred number in yoga, and so on the turning of the seasons (both Solstices and both Equinoxes), many yogis perform 108 Sun Salutations to mark the seasonal transition. This is a strong challenge that will leave you feeling on top of the world and ready to face whatever winter brings. Get a group of friends together for support and encouragement and to share a glass of something warming when you’re done. If you need some help with the sequence, try this video.
Solstice by Candlelight
Light candles all over the house and spend the evening bathed in candlelight. Indulge in the quiet and calm energy of the darkness and allow it to let your mind slow down. You could even try a candlelight meditation: sit with a candle at a safe distance, and spend 20 minutes simply focusing on the flame. Notice the flicker, the color and shape, and bring attention back to this every time your mind starts to wander.
If you’re lucky to have a clear sky on the Solstice, search for good stargazing spots near you and head out to stare at the sky for a little while. Watching the phenomena of light from millions of years ago has an uncanny way of shifting our mindset and helping us to find perspective in our own lives.
Do some journaling
This is the time for introspection. Take an hour to yourself and write down anything that comes to mind. Allow yourself to simply write without planning. Notice how your body feels as you put pen to paper. Do you want to explore further any of the themes that came up in your writing? Or would it feel better to burn the piece of paper and let go of things that had been building up inside? Use this time of transition to reflect on what you need most out of this exercise.
We hope you enjoy welcoming the slow energy of winter, closing out 2019, and find personal inspiration as we head towards the start of a brand new decade.