For many of us, winter is a time of darkness and cold, which can infiltrate our emotions and mood. If we habitually look to external factors to bring us happiness, we could be left feeling disappointed and unfulfilled. While feeling optimistic about life may seem challenging sometimes, it is important to remember that it is your perspective and perception that shapes your experiences and that you are still in control of your actions, and you have the power to change how you feel.
Now more than ever, personal practices to find peace are invaluable. Now is an important time to get out your yoga mat and connect to the light within. Cultivating the energy of the sun will uplift and energize you, enabling you to tap into your inner light so that you have a more positive outlook about your life and the world around you.
A solar yoga practice uses certain postures and breathing patterns to generate feelings of energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration. Try the following exercises, which originate from the ParaYoga tradition. Use this yoga to give you hope, strength, and enable you to shine your light more brightly.
1. Cobra pose
Lie on the abdomen, hands on the floor wider than the shoulders. Inhale press into the floor as the shoulders draw back, lifting the head, neck, and chest into cobra, and exhale release down. Inhale lift up to cobra, press the pelvis into the floor, the tops of the feet downward. Now pause the breath (for one or two counts) at the top of the inhale, without strain, and exhale release slowly down. Repeat one more time, inhale lifting, pause the breath, expanding through the chest, and exhale as you lower back down.
2. Bow pose
Bend the knees, take hold of the ankles, moving the shins back, the chest lifting forward into bow pose. Breathe here, gazing ahead. Exhale release; make a pillow with the hands turning the head to one side, breathing deeply. Notice the sense of space. Turn the head to the other side. Feel the vibrant energy in the back body.
3. Boat pose
Slide the hands behind the knees and lift the toes with the legs bent, bringing the shins parallel to the floor. For an advanced variation, straighten the legs, coming to the full pose, Navasana, with the arms forward. Stay here for 5 to10 breaths and bring your awareness to the abdomen.
4. Chest-opening stretch
Inhale deeply, arms reaching high, and pause the breath at the top, hooking the thumbs above the head. For as long as the mind remains calm, retain the breath; bring the awareness to the heart center. When you are ready, release the breath, lowering the arms, and take a few deep breaths here, tuning in to the sensation.
Next, try this breathing practice, which energizes the Pingala nadi, which is associated with the sun, the energizing force of nature. Close the eyes and imagine your whole being filled with radiant light from the sun's rays as you sit tall. A feeling of inner vibrancy through every part of you. Breathe deeply. Place your left hand on your left thigh and lift your right hand with the second and third fingers tucked in toward the palm. Breathe out through the mouth and in through the right side as you close the left nostril with the ring finger; now breathe out through the left nostril as you close the right nostril with the thumb. Repeat, breathing in through the right, closing the left, and breathing out through the left, closing the right.
Keep going with this pattern, and if you want to you can establish a one-to-two ratio, so you breathe in for four and out for eight, breathing in through the right and out through the left each time. Continue for a minute or so. Finish off exhaling through the left and lower the hand down.
Sit tall with the hands resting on the knees. Bathe in this feeling; sense warm, golden sunlight. Feel the qualities of the sun's energy soothing and uplifting you. Retain this feeling of lightness, radiant and shining as you move back into your day feeling calm and vibrant.
Tara Lee has been practicing yoga for over 20 years and teaching for 14 years. Tara teaches at The Life Centre in London. Her DVD, Solar Yoga, is now available on Amazon.