This Thursday, Dec. 21, is the winter solstice, which of course, marks the beginning of the winter season. This magical changing of seasons has been celebrated for years, with traditions and rituals that honor the rising winter sun. If you'd like to celebrate the occasion yourself this year, incorporating some
yoga poses for the winter solstice into your day could be the perfect way to honor and respect all that nature does for us.
All around the world, people celebrate the winter solstice in different ways. In England, for example,
you can see the beautiful solstice sunrise from the ancient Stonehenge rocks, and people often play instruments and participate in yoga flows as they wait for the sun to come up.
TBH, I don't think there would be anything more marvelous than partaking in this sacred ceremony, but since a last-minute flight to England just isn't exactly in the cards for me or my wallet right now, I decided to craft my own yoga sequence for the solstice instead.
As a yoga instructor, I strongly believe that the power of mindful movement and expansive breath can truly do no wrong, and that it's the perfect way to honor the changes taking place in the natural world, especially with the arrival of a solstice.
Instead of resisting the extra darkness that this day brings, open your heart, welcome the change, and turn inward with intention to allow your body to adapt to this sacred time of year.
When the winter solstice arrives, try this yoga flow to slow down, let go of what no longer serves you, and create the space to breathe.
Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaiasana/Bitilasana)
Start off by warming up your spine and feeling the fluidity through your upper and lower back as you flow through a cat-cow sequence.
Link each curve of your body with an individual breath, keeping the pace as slow or as fast as feels good for you.
Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)
After you've completed about five rounds of cat-cow, find some internal and external strength in plank pose.
Engage your shoulders and spread your fingers wide on the mat so that your wrists are firmly supported. Stay centered and stable, and hold the plank for about 10 even, slow breaths.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana )
Transition from a plank into your first downward facing dog, pedaling out your feet and allowing your calves and hamstrings to gently open up.
Draw your belly button toward your spine, and bring your heels as close to the mat as feels comfortable. Strongly engage your entire body, but be sure to maintain balance as you find softness in this asana, as well.
Sun Salutations (Surya Namasakar)
Make your way to the front of your mat, and begin to bring some subtle heat into your body while flowing through a few sun salutations.
In the spirit of the winter solstice, take your time with each movement, filling your sequence with intention and mindfulness.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
When you've completed about three rounds of sun salutations, bring your body into a grounded, yet energetic warrior II pose.
Extend your arms firmly and powerfully, and sink deeply into your front knee, shooting your energy toward the front of the room.
Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)
Introduce a juicy side stretch into your practice by reversing your warrior and gazing up at your outstretched arm.
Fill your lungs with the air that surrounds you, engage your core, and on your exhale, bend your front knee a bit deeper.
Humble Warrior (Baddha Virabhadrasana)
Turn inward, and honor the magic of the winter solstice by folding forward toward the Earth in devotion.
Humble warrior will open your shoulders and release your hips, while also requiring strength and stability throughout your body.
Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
While you're still in humble warrior, gaze slightly beyond your front foot and prepare for half moon, a pose infused with balance and focus.
Engage your lifted leg and pretend that you're pushing against an imaginary wall. Fix your gaze on a stable object to maintain your strength and stability.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
First, make sure to repeat the poses from warrior II to half moon pose on the opposite side of your body.
Once you've completed both sides, make your way to the front of your mat, and sink into a chair pose. Channel your inner power, and maintain gentle and full breaths as you sit deeper into your imaginary chair. Lift your chest higher and higher, opening your heart as you do so.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Turn inward once more, wrapping your legs in a bind and mimicking this motion by interlacing your arms together.
Reflect on your innermost thoughts as you hug your body in this comforting and focused asana.
Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
As you unravel your limbs from eagle pose, shoot one of your legs backward into a strong and balanced warrior III.
Gaze forward as you bring your hands to the center of your chest, connecting your thumbs to your heart space.
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Gently drop your back leg and sink your knee into a low lunge. Raise your arms up above your head, and gaze upward at your thumbs with each breath becoming even more expansive than the last.
Consider adding a comfortable backbend into this pose to create even more space in your upper body.
Half Split (Ardha Hanumanasana)
Create a counter stretch for all of the space you've just created by surrendering into a half split, and stretching your hamstring out as much as you can without hurting yourself. Savor the moment, and focus on opening yourself up to the changes that the winter solstice will bring.
Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)
Still in your half split, create an angle with your front knee and make sure that your hips are squared with your back leg directly behind you.
Melt into this deep, hip-opening pigeon pose, and let go of everything that doesn't serve you as you transition into the brand new solstice.
Before you prepare for camel pose, be sure to repeat the asanas from eagle pose to pigeon pose on the opposite side of your body.
Once the sequence has been balanced on both sides of your body, begin to make your way into the heart-opening backbend that is ustrasana. If your lower back isn't ready for the full expression of the pose, tuck your toes so that your heels will be closer to you and more accessible.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
After you've practiced camel pose anywhere from one to three times, make your way onto your back with your knees bent and your feet on the outer edges of your mat. Allow your knees to come together and touch.
After you've rested here for a few breaths, lift your hips up into a bridge pose, bringing your arms and shoulders underneath you for gentle support and stability. Stay with your even breaths as you imagine yourself squeezing an imaginary block between your knees.
Knees To Chest Pose (Apanasana)
Release any tension that you may have been holding in your lower back by hugging your knees into your chest. This is a great counter stretch for the back-bending your body has just done.
Remember, all poses come with a way to balance themselves, to help you find equilibrium during the winter solstice.
Reclined Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Extend your body outward and drop your knees to one side of your body, with outstretched arms, to release and rejuvenate your lower back.
Stay revolved toward one side for a few breaths, and then repeat the asana on the opposite side of your body.
Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)
As you prepare to close your practice, come into a supported shoulder stand, holding your lower back with your hands and firmly engaging your glutes and thighs.
Consider complementing your shoulder stand with a relaxing and rejuvenating
plow pose before you come to lay on your back.
Finally, slip into a soothing savasana, and enjoy this energizing, yet grounding conclusion to your winter solstice flow.
Relax your entire body from head to toe, close your eyes, and observe your thoughts without judgment. Thank yourself for dedicating this time to your practice, and express gratitude for the magical rising of the winter sun.