My friend Gena was telling me about a nasty little tiff she had with her lover the other day. Their tempers had flared, and as Gena turned to storm off, she happened to glance out the window, just in time to see a beautiful butterfly emerge from its cocoon. She called to her mate, “Quick! Come see!” and they watched a small miracle unfold. The winged one took flight before their very eyes.
The butterfly is an apt metaphor for us this summer, as we align with the beauty of nature and allow it to set us free. The season kicks off with today's Summer Solstice.
Summer Solstice 2012
In the northern hemisphere, June 20 officially rings in the beginning of summer. Derived from two Latin words, sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), the word solstice actually means “sun standing still.” A solstice occurs twice each year, when the movement of the sun's path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before it reverses direction. In June and December, the solstice happens on a date between the 20th and the 23rd.
The summer solstice is the longest day of the year. It contains more hours between sunrise and sunset than any other day, presenting us with ample opportunities for warm-weather activities and simple summer fun. After the solstice, the days grow shorter as we move toward the autumnal equinox in September, during which light and dark fall into exquisite balance once more.
The solstice is an auspicious time to honor the sun and allow the welcoming arms of nature to embrace you. Your solstice celebration can be as simple as doing a little dance in bare feet on lush grass, or on a sandy beach. Or gather your tribe around a crackling bonfire, as I plan to do, for a fire ceremony. Or wash yourself clean, release the past, and prepare to accept the new season by taking a ritual dip in a lake, river, or the ocean. Even letting your toes splash around in puddles of June rain will help your inner sun shine.
During the summer solstice, it's easy to live from a place of interconnectedness with nature. Here are some practices to help us do just that.
It is considered auspicious to practice Surya Namaskar at the time of summer solstice, to connect with and build upon the enlivening solar energies that are pulsating within us now. Get up at dawn, face east, and do 108 repetitions of Surya Namaskar sequence. If that seems a bit ambitious, or you’re feeling rushed (or just tuckered out), simply do one reverent bow to honor the sun.
Practice Surya Bhedana pranayama (Single Nostril Breath) to harmonize the body’s solar and lunar energies on the day of the solstice. The day before (June 19, the new moon), practice Chandra Bhedana pranayama.
A new moon in Gemini (in Western astrology, and in Vedic astrology) occurs on June 19; and the next day, the solstice coincides with the sun’s ingress into Cancer. Traditional astrological wisdom relates Gemini to the shoulders, and Cancer to the breasts and chest. To align with this energy, focus on the shoulders and chest . Do heart-opener poses, including backbends such as Camel Pose and Bow Pose.
After you finish your practice, invoke grace by drawing your hands together in Anjali Mudra. Feel the inner glow of your own heart. Then radiate that warmth outward with gentle words and gestures of love.
This summer, I invite you to revel in the beauty of nature in your practice, and in your life. Let the solar energies of the summer solstice nourish and support you. Like the beautiful butterfly, take flight in the direction of your dreams.
Diane Booth Gilliam, MA, E-RYT, creator of Yogastrology: Yoga Meets Astrology, guides people to align their yoga practice with the natural rhythms of the sun and moon every month, and the Yogastrology Teacher Training.