The darkest, longest nights of the year occur just prior to the Winter Solstice, when, upon its arrival December 21st, the light begins to return. Since the Summer Solstice back in June, days have shortened, and nights have lengthened. Although the winter season still lies ahead, this portion of the year and ever shortening daylight is likened to the earth’s exhale. The Solstice itself represents the gap between the bottom of the earth's exhale and the beginning of the inhale. After the Winter Solstice, each subsequent day in the Northern Hemisphere lengthens until the Summer Solstice on June 20th, 2017.
On the days just prior to the Winter solstice, there is a gap, a space, where the sun no longer appears to be getting lower in the southern sky as it moves from East to West. It seems that the sun remains at its southernmost, lowest point, and that there's no movement from day to day at all. This where we get the word solstice (sun, still). After the Solstice, In the Northern Hemisphere each day is a bit lighter, and for the next six months, the sun appears higher and higher in the sky,. Being sensitive to nature’s rhythms, by mid-January I notice the subtle shifts of more light each day, as we head closer to spring and the Vernal Equinox March 20th.
I was neither attuned to the rhythms of nature, nor the Solstices and Equinoxes before I began practicing yoga. I experienced November and December as the most difficult months of the year, as my mood reflected the darkness of the season. Aligning with nature's seasonal, daily and monthly rhythms has helped to ceate more balance and ease in all areas of my life. This essential part of yoga lives within the wisdom of Ayurveda. Translated as knowledge of life, the healing science of yoga is essential for anyone who lives in a body. When we observe and acknowledge that at this time of year there is a limited amount of daylight, we can take simple steps to help access the inner light, the tejas, the flame that’s always present within us.
Six Steps to Find Balance During the Darkest Time of the Year:
- Light candles as soon as it becomes dark in the evening
- Upon arising in the darkness in the morning, light a candle, and begin few minutes of meditation, breath practices, or gentle yoga postures.
- Eat during the hours of daylight, as the strength of digestion is correlated with the times the sun is highest in the sky. Eat your largest meal in the middle of the day.
- Take a walk in the daylight hours, headed south, towards the sun whenever possible, in order to attune with the rhythms of nature.
- Head to bed earlier. Turn off electronics an hour before you plan to go to sleep, to promote deep rest and relaxation.
- Before bed, give yourself a foot massage using organic oil (sesame oil is a good choice in the winter months as it is warming), to help draw energy down from your mind and into your body. This relaxing ritual will help you to sleep more soundly. Put on socks so the oil stays on your feet and off your sheets.
The darkness during December is a time of moving inwards, of contemplation, and planning for the upcoming year. How do you want to feel in 2017? (Use this time to create an intention for the New Year). I wish you a happy Winter Solstice! Please share your practices for this time of year in the comments, below.