Happy mid-Winter! It’s all longer days and shorter nights from here, hurrah!
In the great southern land of Oz, the Winter Solstice on June 21 marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. In the northern hemisphere, the June Solstice will be the opposite – the longest day and shortest night marking the point of mid-Summer!
What’s a Solstice anyway?
Astronomically speaking, on the day of the Winter Solstice, the Sun travels across it’s lowest point in the sky and sinks below the horizon early in the evening. This makes for the shortest day of the year and correspondingly, the longest night. This is traditionally acknowledged as the seasonal turning point of Winter towards Spring.
The word Solstice is derived from the Latin words ‘sol’ meaning sun and ‘sistere’ meaning to stand still. This is thought to be because from the Earth, the Sun appears to stop moving in its lowering trajectory toward the horizon and return to travel higher in the sky each day again so that days begin getting longer.
Astrologically, the significance of the Winter Solstice has been celebrated as a time of birth and renewal by diverse cultures for centuries. In the history of many northern hemisphere cultures the Winter Solstice is a significant day to honour the longest night and ceremoniously call back in the light with a turn away from Winter and a move towards Spring.
How is this relevant to me?
Energetically, the middle of Winter can be likened to times where you might be enduring something that feels like a ‘dark night of the soul’, and Spring as return of the light, a renewed sense of purpose or the launch of a new project.
We’ve all experienced times when life has felt dark. Everything becomes too hard, overwhelming or purposeless like when you’ve been buried under commitments of life, family, work or personal challenges that have drained your resources.
Darkness is a natural part of the cycles of life, just like day and night. We often strive for the unrealisitic goal of constant happiness but times of personal darkness can offer us a great opportunity for letting go, rest and reflection. When the light comes again it brings with it the opportunity to air fresh ideas, launch new projects and bring action to life, with a renewed sense of purpose and intention.
How can I work this Solstice energy in a positive way?
In Yoga we embody the energy of setting new intentions in the practice of‘Sankalpa’. A Sankalpa is a commitment to yourself to follow your deepest desires, thereby honouring your most authentic self. The word Sankalpa literally translates as a vow to the highest truth.
The value of exploring and practicing your Sankalpa is that it is an internally focussed commitment to yourself. Tradtional goal setting in the western world often focuses on the pursuit of an external ‘something’ with the hope it will create an internal feeling of satisfaction. Setting external goals in this way often ends in failure and disappointment(New Years Resolutions anyone?!).
A great way to connect with your Sankalpa is through the simple practice of sitting quietly in meditation. This takes a willingness to be open to receiving messages about your highest truth, which in turn requires a process of reconnecting to the internal compass of your intuition. Eventually you’ll have to follow up by taking action and actually responding to your heart’s true call.
Both of these processes can be confusing, challenging and sometimes downright frightening! We so often choose to avoid things we don’t feel ready to hear/feel/see/know because of what kind of changes we might have to make in our lives once we acknowledge them.
I know this avoidance game all too well so my Winter Solstice Sankalpa is ‘be open and trust’, a simple mantra that I can constantly reconnect with that will allow me to move out of fear and resistance and back into my natural state of harmony and flow.
I invite you to take some quiet time this weekend and sit for a few moments and ask to connect with your Sankalpa. I’d love to hear what words, thoughts or feelings this brings up for you this Solstice!
When worlds collide – Yoga comes to the United Nations this Solstice!
In 2014 the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modhi, who is an avid practicioner of Yoga, proposed to the United Nations that an International Day of Yoga be adopted so that the world as a whole may have the opportunity to access and experience the benefits that Yoga brings on a personal, interpersonal and community level with the following words:
“…Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between human and nature; a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness within yourself, the world and the nature…”
Mr Modhi’s words on the positive impact Yoga might have on the world if adopted on a global scale rang true with enough international leaders that the United Nations agreed to observe an International Day of Yoga on 21 June. The very first one will be observed this coming Sunday with a range of free Yoga events around the world.
Once upon a time I spent a lot of time and energy pursuing the dream of a career with the United Nations, only to end up disheartened and exhausted by trying to fit my uniquely and adventurously shaped self into a very conventional hole! I find it hilarious that since stepping away from my old job and forging a new career in pursuit of another dream, I’ve seen my worlds of conservation, humanitarianism and wellness collide!
I’m delighted that by following my Sankalpa and living a life that’s true to me that I’m now able to be a part of the global movement towards a more conscious, caring and kind approach to how we treat ourselves, those around us and the planet as a whole. Welcome to the new United Nations – bringing Yoga to the people!
In Canberra I’ll be celebrating International Day of Yoga this Sunday June 21 by hosting a complimentary class at the lululemon althletica store in the Canberra Centre at 9am. I’d love to have you join me! If you can’t make it, there are a huge range of events happening, so be sure to look out for something in your local area.
Wishing you a happy International Day of Yoga and Sanklapa-setting Winter Solstice this Sunday! Namaste!