Breath flows in, filling, filling,
In this moment, drink eternity.
Breath flows out, emptying, emptying,
Offering itself to infinity.
Cherish these moments,
Mind dissolves into heart,
Heart dissolves into space,
Body becomes a vibrating field,
Pulsating between fullness and emptiness.”
-The Radiance Sutras
Today marks the darkest day of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. As the sun slips into the most southern point, there is a momentary pause, a suspension between the solar inhalation and exhalation. Winter Solstice brings the end of this years solar cycle, and an opportunity for a sacred pause in our own lives to embrace stillness and inward reflection. There is a clear turning point in all cycles, a momentary opportunity to embrace this ephemeral state between fullness and emptiness. Solstice is this time – the time to honor all that you have planted and cultivated in this past year, integrating your lessons, and looking to where space can be created for what you’ll be calling in for the year ahead. This ritual shared below gives an outline for contemplation through reflective journaling, a balancing breath and solar energizing movement.
Surya in Sanskrit means sun, and Namaskar is a salutation, greeting or offering. The yoga sequence, Surya Namaskar, is a the most ubiquitous set of postures shared in yoga class as it’s a powerful way to sync breath, movement and mind in a steady, flowing sequence. It heats the body, bringing the warming solar energy through the breath and movement of the body through the postures. Your body becomes a prayer to the source that feeds all life on earth.
As a daily practice, starting each morning with 5 rounds of focused Surya Namaskar is a simple way not only to move energy in the body and ignite fire in the belly to increase digestion, but a way to connect with the element of fire and offer gratitude to the solar energy in our lives. This video of Shiva Rea practicing sun salutations at sunrise has long been a favorite of mine and helps set the tone for your personal morning practice. A more in-depth how-to guide for a winter surya namaskar practice can be found here.
Sama Vritti Pranayama
To observe the pulsation between inhalation and exhalation, the momentary pause between movement and stillness, you must be able to observe the gentle rhythms of the breath and the spaces between. Pranayama provides a framework for learning the subtle pulsations of prana in the body and the deep stillness between. Sama Vritti Pranayama is the practice of intentional, slow and steadied breathing. You carefully observe the steady rise of the inhale, and even steady fall of the exhale. To me, this practice mimics the fluid movement of each season, and the gentle pause in their transitions. This simple practice is also soothing for the nervous system, which can so easily become fatigued this time of year. Learn the practice here.
Before beginning a new year and rushing into all the exciting new adventures we want to bring into our lives and goals to accomplish, we must create space and take stock of where we’ve been. These five questions are ones I like to ask myself at the end of year before moving into intention setting with the new moon and new year.
- What were my biggest personal achievements/celebrations of the year?
- What were some of the challenging lessons I faced?
- What have I learned and how have I integrated these lessons into my life?
- What habits are no longer serving me?
- What am I ready to let go of?
Write your answers to the last question onto a separate piece of paper and when you’re ready, burn this paper either in a fire pit or a safe place to burn and release these old habits that you’re ready to release this year. From now until December 29th’s new moon, this is a beautiful opportunity to write and release before looking ahead to setting new year’s intention.
*Photography by Todd Scott Co.