If you’re feeling burned out and fatigued during this time of year, it may be time for an energetic shift in your body. The darkest days of the year offer us opportunities to dive more deeply into our more subtle ways of being. We’re called to spend more time indoors, by ourselves, letting the dust of the year settle in our minds and bodies.
Our bodies are intuitively connected to the energies of nature, whether we’re aware of it or not. It’s probably not a stretch to guess that in this dead of winter, you’re feeling a bit tired, more introverted, and a bit pensive and thoughtful. During this time of extreme darkness and cold, we feel a natural instinct to hide inside, fill our bellies with warmth, and slow things down a bit. That’s the energy of the season and the winter solstice in your body.
Sometimes called Yule, the winter solstice is a time for deep introspection, reflection, and stillness. This makes December 21 an important energetic and spiritual date for cross-cultural communities and mystics. Today we’ll be harnessing this powerful energy with a winter solstice yoga sequence, which can also serve you throughout the winter months.
Harvesting winter solstice energy
Something we can focus on during this season is rejuvenation and reflection. This yin yoga practice by yoga teacher Sierra Vandervort honors the soft, feminine, more yin energy that’s present during this season. This sequence offers us permission to rest and integrate this wild year we’ve experienced together.
During the solstice, give yourself the space to seek out a bit of quiet reconnection. When we give ourselves time to sit with our emotions, we become rooted in the present. This then allows us to enter into a new year and new goals with renewed energy and enthusiasm!
For this practice, try slipping into some comfy clothes, keeping your lighting soft and soothing, gathering a few blankets, and playing your favorite relaxing music in the background. While you’ll see long hold times recommended for these postures, you can feel free to hold each shape for less time if that serves you.
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Start in a comfortable, cross-legged, seated position. Close your eyes and begin to observe your breath. As your breath becomes more relaxed, begin to lengthen and emphasize your exhales. If you can, try to make your exhales last twice as long as your inhales). For example, inhaling for a count of 4, exhaling for a count of 8. As you breathe, visualize releasing any tension across the surface of the skin and within your joints. Continue for 10 rounds of breath.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
From your seat, keep your knees bent as you tuck your legs beneath you and come to sit on your heels, or use yoga props such as a bolster or blankets. Separate your knees as wide as feels comfortable, then release your belly to the floor or a yoga prop. Extend your arms out in front of you. Breathe fully and feel your side body extend and your shoulders soften with your breath. Hold for 3 minutes.
From Child’s Pose, draw your chest forward and come to lay on your belly, stretching your legs out behind you. Place your elbows squarely underneath your shoulders, with your forearms paralleled out in front of you. Release the tension around your glutes, and, if comfortable, tuck your chin to release into the back of your neck. Find your breath, and relax your body around the pose for 3 minutes.
From Sphinx pose, place your palms underneath the shoulders and lower down onto your belly. Take a few breaths to rest. As you’re ready, extend your left arm out beside you, perpendicular to your chest. Using the right palm on the mat, gently press your right side off of the mat as you roll on to your left side. For the deepest stretch, place your right foot on the floor behind your left thigh, knee towards the sky. For a more passive option, keep the right knee on the mat, leg bent with knee hiked up towards the top of your mat. Close your eyes, notice the reactions in your body and adjust for any pain or strains. Breathe here for 3 minutes. When you’re ready, slowly roll back down onto the belly. Take a few moments to neutralize the body before you switch to the other side.
Marjaryasana-Bitilasana (Cat-Cow Poses)
From your belly, gently press yourself up and back on to hands and knees. Take a few, slow rounds of cat and cow. Press your palms into the mat and exhale to round your torso, particularly your back body, up toward the ceiling. Inhale to dip your belly toward the floor, curving your spine and gently drawing your chest forward. Repeat for a few rounds, moving slowly and intentionally with your breath.
From Tabletop, bring your right knee in towards your right wrist, and your ankle towards your left wrist. Note: It’s not necessary to parallel your front shin to the front edge of your mat. Extend your back leg out behind you and settle down into your hips. Feel free to rest on your elbows or forehead or to use yoga props to support your head or torso. You can also pad up under your right hip with blankets, a bolster, or yoga blocks. Soften any gripping you might feel in your hips for five breaths, then find stillness. Rest here for 4 minutes. Take a few breaths to slowly release and return to Tabletop. Repeat on the left side.
Marichyasana I (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi)
Find a seated position. Draw your right knee in towards your chest with the sole of your right foot on the floor. Draw your left leg underneath your right, resting your left foot on the outer edge of your right hip. If this feels too confining, you can also elongate our left leg. Sit up tall by lifting your waist away from your hips. Open your chest towards your right, bringing your right hand behind you for support. Wrap your left arm around your right knee and gently turn and open your torso further to the right. Hold for 3 minutes. Slowly unwind to center. Pause. Repeat on the other side.
Release down onto your back, drawing your knees in towards your chest. Lift the soles of your feet up towards the ceiling, flexing your feet. Using both hands, grasp either the ankles, big toes, or outer edges of your feet. Feel your knees and hips drop down towards the floor as you release the tension around the groin and inner hips. Breathe here for 3 minutes.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Release your arms by your sides and take your ankles to the corner edges of your mat. Let all your limbs be heavy and release any hold you had on your breath. Stay still and rest for 4-10 minutes. Then when you’re ready, slowly awaken and ease back into your day.