The official start of summer, according to the stars, is Monday, June 21. This marks the longest day of the year, since we’ve been enjoying the warmth of the sun since the end of April, meteorologically, the summer solstice can be thought of as the middle of summer.
Summer Solstice is a great time to revisit intentions and set new ones for July, August, and the beginning of September before Autumn make another appearance. In ancient Greece the summer solstice was actually celebrated as the first day of the year!
In ancient China, the summer solstice was a time to celebrate yin qualities. At the height of summer when the heat is greatest, it’s important to find ways to slow down to maintain balance. In Ayurveda, summer is categorized as a pitta season, represented by fire and water. If you add heat to heat, you naturally get more heat, which is why it’s so important to stay cool in the summer months if you follow Ayurvedic principles. Excess heat can present itself as rashes, burns (sunburn, anyone?), anger, and irritability. Cooling exercises, such as breathing practices and forward folds (or any yoga pose that down-regulates the nervous system) are great options in the heat of the summer. In our Nordic seas, midsummer meant mediation for the Vikings – they used the summer solstice as a time to come together to settle disputes and set new rules. This is a perfect combination of celebrating both a new beginning and recommitting to past intentions, or making updates to those intentions as needed.
All over the world, in many cultures across the continents, the summer solstice was celebrated with celebrations and festivals with different meanings. No matter what one person believed, most of the human beings in ancient times agreed that the summer solstice marked an important day of the year.
The summer solstice marks the perfect time to check in on those New Year’s Resolutions, reflect on the first half of the year, and set new intentions or recommit to existing ones for the next 6 months.
In yoga culture, the number 108 is considered a sacred number. Astronomically, the sun and the moon each measure 108 times their respective diameters to the earth. There are also 108 beads in a mala, a necklace similar to a rosary from Catholicism. The malas can be used to chant mantras as part of a meditation practice. Many Yogis perform 108 sun salutations as a ritual practice to help inspire discipline, devotion, commitment, and focus.
In our upcoming Summer Solstice Workshop, we’ll complete a mandala flow of variations on the basic Sun Salutation. Mandala translates to “circular,” which means we’ll face north, south, east, and west for a quater set of our flow before facing the next direction.
The mandala represents the infinite nature of the universe. Just as we celebrate the middle of the year or the beginning of the summer, we must move also knowing that the universe is infinite and our life continues on despite the symbolic starts and stops of the seasons.
Come join me on Monday, June 21st to celebrate midsummer. You’ll move and reflect on the intentions you’ve set for your year and create new ones for the coming months. We’ll celebrate the yin quality of the season, at the same time that we cool down from the heat.
While there will be a set of basic sun salutations as you know them, there will also be different variations to keep things interesting and to allow your body to move through many ranges of motion.
The class will be beginner-friendly but equally challenging mentally to all the advanced practitioners out there, so come reflect, take some time out of your busy life for you, and let’s create our own summer solstice celebration.