Last night I had the joy of partaking in the tradition of practicing 108 Sun Salutations with my local community of yogis. This practice, which happens four times a year, is a celebration of the solstice. Since yesterday was the winter solstice, I wanted to share a bit about the ancient roots of this holiday and what it can mean for your personal growth.
In many ancient cultures, religions, and traditions, the sun is a symbol for the soul. Whether you believe in God, or simply the light that is within you, the sun is a special and sacred symbol. In Latin, the word solstitium (which became the English word solstice) translates to “sun standing still.” On the winter solstice, the Sun reaches its southern-most position (as seen from Earth). It appears to “stand still” at the Tropic of Capricorn before it reverses and goes in the other direction. Some people believe that on each solstice (they happen four times a year, and each solstice symbolizes the transition from one season to the next), not only the sun “stands still,” but also the soul. This allows time for reflection, mindful nourishment, and the setting of intentions.
Every solstice, yogis all over the world will gather to practice 108 Sun Salutations (if you’re wondering what the heck a Sun Salutation is, click HERE). This special practice ends up being a glorious two hours of constant movement and abundant joy that is hard to describe in words. Not only do you feel more closely in-tune with your physical and emotional bodies, but you also feel more connected to nature and to other people. I always leave the studio sweating like a cow, but I have the absolute biggest smile on my face and it usually feels as if my heart could explode with joy. To “salute the sun” is to stop and recognize not only the glory of the actual sun that gives us life and energy on a daily basis without asking anything of us, but also the light within you that has so much magnificent, beautiful power. You carry that light within you, and that alone is worthy of celebration.
Even though winter solstice has been a holiday full of celebration and expectation for thousands of years (for example, in ancient Rome), there are so many people who don’t even know or think about it. It is a glorious time of celebrating transition and relishing in hope for the future, for the next great “season” of your life. Whether you gather with family and friends, with a community of yogis to practice 108 Sun Salutations, or you spend a few moments reflecting on your own, I hope that you spend this winter solstice in gratitude and hopeful expectations. Inhale the numerous opportunities that await you in the coming year, and exhale the past. Sometimes you just gotta let shit go.