Yoga for the Winter Solstice
Restorative yoga sequence - 5 Yoga poses and setting your intention this Winter Solstice. By Kay Marsh
Across many cultures and millennia, Winter Solstice has been considered a sacred occasion. The longest night and the fewest hours of sunlight as the earth begins her tilt back towards the sun.
As we begin to emerge from the darkness, we honour the ever-turning wheel of nature and welcome the return to the light.
The solstice is a time for community. For centuries on this celestial event we have gathered in our tribes, in the lingering midnight around open fires, to call the light back to us and to celebrate the rebirth of the sun and the coming of longer days.
But this magical time also brings with it a powerful energy for regeneration and manifestation.
As the solstice approaches, we bring ourselves into a deeper place of stillness. The darkness draws us inward, giving space for quiet introspection. We can acknowledge our darker side, realign ourselves with our values and leave behind the patterns of thought and behaviour which no longer serve, making space for us to set forth our best intentions for the coming year.
We bring our attention to the years past, the lessons and blessings we have received, and to where we are on our journey and how far these lessons have brought us so far. We can safely assess and heal wounds, allowing us to create space for positive expansion.
Coming away from the tradition of New Year’s resolutions, which can be rooted in self-doubt and loathing, when we set our intentions we must focus not on the problem but on the solution.
How can we channel our motivation, our positivity and that which drives us, into bettering our lives and the lives of others?
When we approach these desires and goals with compassion and pure love, we raise the frequency of the intentions we are setting out. We use this time to cultivate the energy we want to carry with us through the coming year, and to plant the seeds of personal growth that will be nurtured by the warmth of the reborn sun.
Yoga for the solstice
Traditionally, yogis gather on the solstice to honour the returning of the sun with 108 Surya Namaskara or sun salutations. Surya Namaskara is a series of 12 postures, coordinated with breath that flow seamlessly.
The number 108 is considered a sacred number and appears throughout the natural world. The distance between the Earth and the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the sun. The distance between the Earth and the Moon is 108 times the diameter of the moon. There are also 108 beads on a Mala and within the Tantric system, 108 Nadis or energy channels, meet at the heart chakra.
If 108 sun salutations feels out of reach for you this year then fear not, you can still mark the occasion and unwind with some simple Restorative Yoga.
Restorative Yoga is most wonderful for the transition of the seasons; we hold for longer and sink deeper into our poses and our practice.
The leaves have fallen and returned to the earth and as a part of nature, so too must we. It is at this time we rest more, in mind and body we slow down and recharge ourselves for the season of hard work to come.
Restorative poses complement the deep inward focus of the solstice, connecting us to the powerful energy buried deep within the earth.
Follow this simple Restorative Yoga sequence in preparation for the winter solstice, and remember to take time to meditate on how we too can bring more light into the world. This is, after all, a time for peace and hope for a brighter, warmer future for all.
Restorative Yoga sequence
1. Balasana: Child's Pose
Kneeling on your mat, come to sit on your heels. Bring your knees mat-width apart and slowly bend forward until your torso is comfortably rested between your thighs; use a bolster under your torso for extra comfort. Bring your forehead to the mat and extend the arms out in front, letting them rest effortlessly.
Breathing deeply, come to notice any tension you are holding on to and breathe into the area to release.
Find peace in the pose and hold for 3 – 5 minutes.
2. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana: Sleeping Pigeon Pose
Begin on all fours in table top position, raise your right leg and place the shin down at the front of the mat. Right knee is pointing to the back edge of your mat and toes point towards the groin. Bring the left leg out straight behind and gently fold forward over the front leg and bring your forehead to rest on the mat. Arms come straight out in front and rest effortlessly on the mat.
You can use blocks or bolsters under the seating bones to even out the hips.
Find stillness and release fully into the pose and we hold for 3 – 5 minutes.
3. Parsva Balasana: Thread the Needle Pose
Starting on all fours, hips are directly over ankles and the back is flat. Extend the left arm out in front and with a slight twist, bend the right elbow and thread the arm under the left and bring the right shoulder and temple to rest on the mat.
For a deeper shoulder opening, lift the left arm up and back behind you to take hold of your right inner thigh.
Remembering to breathe deeply, find stillness and hold for 3-5 minutes.
4. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana: Supported Bridge Pose
Lying on your back, bring the knees up and the feet just away from the bum so you can still touch them with your fingertips. Place a block under your sacrum at whatever height suits you and bring the arms out to the sides to rest gently on the mat.
If you find you are unable to completely release into the pose with your knees up, bring the feet out towards the edges of your mat and let the knees gently fall in towards each other.
If you wish to deepen the pose, move the block to a higher level.
We find total release and hold for 3 – 5 minutes.
5. Savasana: Corpse Pose
Coming to lay on your back, arms are away from the body and palms shine towards the sky. Bring the ankles mat-width apart and let the feet fall gently to the sides.
Close the eyes and bring your attention to the breath. Scan the body for any tension you are holding on to and breathe deeply into these areas.
You can hold this pose for as long as you like. Use this time to reflect on your practice, thank yourself for investing the time in you and for staying present. Notice the sense of calm and take this time to allow that energy to fill you completely.