The Winter solstice is the first day of winter, and it occurs when the Northern Hemisphere is furthest from the sun. It is the shortest, darkest day of the year, and the longest night of the year. This year, the Winter Solstice falls on December 21st, and it marks a shift in daylight. While this day is the shortest and darkest, after this date, the days begin to get longer and brighter.
We went through a daylight shift back in September with the Autumn Equinox; that was a shift from longer days to shorter ones. Now, at the Winter Solstice, we begin to emerge from the darkness back into the light.
The Winter Solstice
The word solstice means “sun standing still,” and during the solstice, the sun does just that. The seasonal movement of the sun’s path comes to a stop before reversing direction. A solstice happens twice a year – in June and December. The June solstice, also known as the Summer Solstice, is the longest day of the year. The December, or Winter Solstice, is the shortest day of the year.
Many cultures recognize the Winter Solstice as a time to celebrate the gradual return of the light. Long ago, it was believed that if the sun were to keep sinking lower and lower, soon all would be dark and life would come to an end. On the Winter Solstice, the sun begins to climb higher into the sky, which has been seen as a symbol of rebirth.
This is a powerful time of transformation. A time to acknowledge our dark side, heal our wounds, release old thought patterns and align with our light and our heartfelt intentions.
Speaking of intentions…
This is the perfect time to revisit any intentions set during the Autumn Equinox and to set new ones for the coming year. Rather than setting intentions or resolutions on January 1st, start envisioning and manifesting now, so that you enter the new year motivated!
I invite you to go deeper than the traditional “new years resolutions,” and I’ve included some contemplation questions to help guide you:
Looking back on your journey this year:
What has been important to you?
What brought you deep satisfaction?
What brought you disappointment or frustration?
What have you learned?
Looking forward to the return of the light:
What is important to you?
What do you value?
What do you want to bring out into the light?
What do you want to achieve?
What are the projects that you want to come to fruition?
What new habits would you like to cultivate?
In order to clear space for your new intentions and goals:
What do you need to let go of?
What do you want to leave behind in the old year?
What do you need to sweep out to make way for the new?
To support your vision:
What do you need in order to incorporate these intentions into your life?
Do you need a system? Do you need more time? Do you need more money?
What kind of support do you need?
Are there people in your life currently who are working toward a similar goal?
Are there people in your life who will work against you, consciously or otherwise, in achieving this goal?
I invite you to skim these questions before the following yin practice and to hold them in your mind during your practice. When you are finished practicing, sit down with the questions, meditate on them, and write down some answers.
Go In With Yin
For this Winter Solstice, I’m bringing you a soothing yin practice. Postures are held for longer periods in a yin practice – typically three to five minutes, but sometimes up to 20 minutes. This style of yoga targets the deep connective tissues (rather than the superficial tissues), and the fascia that covers the body.
The yin practice is an introspective one. It forces you to get intimate with your self; with feelings, sensations, and emotions, something that can be easy to avoid in a more fast-paced practice. This makes it perfect for the Winter Solstice.
The long, dark days of winter can create physical stagnation and fatigue. A yin yoga practice is a perfect way to honor the pause of the Winter Solstice; to turn towards your inner light.
Easy Seat: 2-3 minutes
- Start in a comfortable, easy seat.
- Invite the eyelids to close, or simply lower the gaze, as you start to bring your attention inward.
- Observe your natural inhales and exhales.
- When thoughts arise, allow them to pass on by.
Dragonfly (Seated Wide-Legged Forward Fold): 5 minutes
- From a seated position, open your legs wide.
- Begin to fold forward.
- Rest your weight into your hands.
- Feel free to bring a bolster or pillow in front of you and lie your torso on it
Caterpillar (Seated Forward Fold):
- Extend your legs long in front of you.
- Lead with the chest as you walk your hands forward until you reach your first sign of tension or edge.
- Round your spine forward and relax your legs.
- Breathe into the back of your body, with a special focus on the low back and legs.
- You may choose to prop yourself up with a block and a bolster, or pillow.
Dragon Lunge (Lizard Pose):
4 – 6 minutes per side
- From a tabletop position, step your right foot forward, to the outside of your right hand.
- Allow your hips to settle down toward the earth and your chest to extend forward.
- At about the halfway point, if it feels appropriate to deepen, you may lower your forearms onto blocks, or onto the floor if you feel ready.
- To come out of the posture, shift your hips back in space, making your way back to table.
- Don’t forget to do the other side.
Tadpole (Child’s Pose): 4 – 6 minutes
- From a tabletop position, walk the knees wide, and send your hips back toward your heels.
- Find a comfortable arm position and relax your neck and shoulders.
- To come out, press into your hands and begin to stack your torso over your hips.
Supported Bridge: 4 – 6 minutes
- Lie on back with a block or bolster nearby.
- Bring your feet flat on your mat, knees up.
- Press into feet to lift hips, sliding the block or bolster under your hips (your sacrum).
- Allow your weight to release into the prop
- To exit, press into your feet, lift your hips, remove the block, and set your hips down.
- Windshield wiper knees to either side a few times, them hug them into the chest.
Supine Twist: 4 – 6 minutes per side
- Drop both knees over to your left.
- Extend the arms out into a T shape, or into cactus arms.
- Keep the right shoulder on the earth.
- Turn your gaze over your right shoulder.
- Repeat to the other side.
Viparita Karani: 6 minutes
- Bring the block or bolster back underneath your sacrum, as you did for supported bridge.
- Extend the feet up towards the sky.
- Allow the arms to rest comfortably by your side.
Happy Baby: 2 minutes
- On your back, gently draw your knees into your chest.
- Draw the soles of your feet up towards the sky, holding on to the outside edges of the feet.
- Allow the knees to fall wide.
- Stay as long as you need before moving to Savasana.
Savasana: 10 – 15 minutes
- Lay back and release any sensations from your practice.
- Come into stillness and surrender the weight of your body to the earth, staying as long as you need.
- When you feel ready to awaken, deepen your breath and bring gentle movement into the body.