We have arrived, Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. A moment before the rest of the holiday season lands on us in full frenzy. A moment to be still and know that even in the dark lies a promise: The light will return.
How do you celebrate this day? For me it’s a moment of hope, the message represented by the seed of light always embedded in the darkness. Most years I gather in community, or sangha, and practice and share together to recognize this special day. It’s a time to take stock and feel contentment in the completion of the cycle that has just passed, to intentionally let go. A time to be still and know that peace can be found in these moments of stillness. And a willingness to invite in, to be open to what lies ahead.
But the days of winter are just beginning, and they can be dark, cold, lonely, and tough. For me it’s important to place rituals into the mundane of winter– literal and figurative altars to help carry me through it. Some of these rituals stay with me year-round, some are more important during the winter months. I share them with you with the intention that they may be of help to you too.
- Taking more time to rest, be home and connect with my family
- Oiling the body, tending to my temple with self-massage
- Ensuring my bird feeders are full to keep my feathered friends nourished til Spring
- Lighting candles on my altar and sitting to reflect on the flame
- Moving my body, getting my heart rate up, walking in nature — even when I have to bundle up!
- Practicing Tejas Mudra to honor the light
- Igniting my inner flame with Breath of Fire
- Incorporating bridge pose into my asana practice to open the front of the body, strengthen the lungs, and boost my energy
- Wearing a solar quartz around my neck as a visual reminder of the Sun
- Watching the sun set with reverence and gratitude
I also reflect upon and practice the Gayatri Mantra, the “mother of all mantras” in the Vedas. It is said to be a mantra to the Sun, equated with light, wisdom and insight. Being one of the most ancient mantras from Rig Veda, it holds a primordial vibration of intelligence. When practiced as sadhana, it has the power to invoke prana, tejas, and ojas in the practitioner.
Here is the Gayatri Mantra with one of my favorite translations from the beloved Nischala Joy Devi:
Om Bhur Bhuvah Swaha
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yonah prachodayat
Embracing Earth, Heaven and Beyond
The sacred source is revealed
Evoking the resplendent flame
The all-pervading light venerates us all.
You can find many recorded renditions of the Gayatri online and listen to them throughout your day. Or find your own voice with it. You can also join us in Feburary to learn more from Indu Arora and make the Gayatri Mantra a regular practice for yourself. Details and registration can be found here.
Lastly, this is a time for honoring completion, and there are many students this year who completed 800 hours of training for Yoga Therapy Certification through our school. I am humbled, honored, and amazed by these individuals, and all the students on the path who show up for themselves and others.
Wishing you all peace on your path,