For my whole life I have been in awe of the moon, the sun, the seasons, and nature in general and how it affects what is going on in us and around us. Besides knowing that the winter solstice, which takes place on December 22nd this year, is the first day of winter and shortest day/longest night of the year, I never knew much else about it. I noticed that a few yoga studios in my area are putting on special classes in honor of the solstice, so with my ever-curious nature I decided to do some digging and see what the significance of this day really is and what I can do to ring it in.
I’ll spare you the technical jargon, but to summarize, this is the day that the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator and shines directly on the tropic of Capricorn. To us, the sun will appear at its lowest point in the sky, marking the beginning of the winter season. Across the world, most cultures see this day as a symbol of rebirth since from this day forward we will be observing more sunlight and less darkness. Long ago, people considered this day an important one because they believed if the sun were to keep sinking lower and lower soon all would be dark and life would end. On this date the sun would climb back into the sky and therefore was a time of great celebration. Life will go on!
In yoga, I have heard that people do everything from a restorative Yin practice to 108 Sun Salutations in celebration of the solstice. Others may not practice at all. Regardless of what you decide to do, I think it is a nice “holiday” to take for yourself in this extremely busy time of year to reflect on what yoga has brought you so far and where you will take your practice in 2012. Acknowledge where you were at this time last year and set some goals to reach by a year from now. One of mine is to be enrolled in a yoga teacher training by that time, and reflecting on that goal is my motivation to do yoga every day, learn as much as I can and constantly push myself to grow both on and off the mat.
As far as what kind of practice I am going to do on December 22nd, I would like to do something to challenge myself and push my limits to set the stage for my next 365 days. The symbolism is so clear. If you set your intention on the winter solstice, every day after that, with the extending daylight, seek to move closer and closer to your goal. Maybe you will surpass your expectations and reach heights that you didn’t even think were possible.