Celebrating Summer Solstice

I’ve been in the land of the midnight sun in Iceland where there is over 21 hours of daylight this time of year. I went to bed each night with an eye mask and never once experienced darkness during my 5 days in this beautiful country.

As we reach the longest day of the year this Thursday, June 21, we will get a full 15 hours 11 minutes of daylight in Iowa City.  It seems no matter where you are in the Northern Hemisphere, there is a collective summer sigh as we bask in the sunshine, fresh air, and that feeling of freedom and expansion that accompanies the generous sun on these long days. There is something undeniably special about the endless possibilities of summer.

There are ancient celebrations and tributes to the Summer Solstice all around the world.  You might consider celebrating the Solstice the yogic way, with particular practices to honor the Sun.  Join Joyce or Jennifer for a guided Summer Solstice yoga practice on Thursday or try a few of these traditional practices:

Surya Namaskar:

Although we practice sun salutes in almost every yoga class, it is considered especially auspicious to practice Surya Namaskar on the solstice to connect with the solar energies in the environment and within ourselves.  The traditional practice is to get up at dawn, face east, and do 108 repetitions of Surya Namaskar sequence. If that seems a bit ambitious, at least do 1 reverent sun salute to honor the sun.

Pranayama:
On the solstice it is ideal to practice Surya Bhedana (Single Nostril Breath) to harmonize the body’s solar and lunar energies.  Block your left nostril and inhale through your right. Then close the right and exhale through the left. Continue in this manner, inhale right, exhale left, for 1 to 3 minutes.

Meditation:

Try sitting outside to meditate. There are specific mantras often used on the Solstice including OM SO HUM (I am That) or OM SHANTI (I am peace).  To meditate with a mantra, close your eyes, settle into your body and breath for a few moments, and then begin to silently repeat the mantra.  Mantra meditation is especially helpful at quieting the mind as it provides a focus. Your mind will wander, and when it does, bring yourself back to the silent repetition of the mantra.

Chanting: 

Summer Solstice is a perfect time to chant the Gayatri Mantra, one of the oldest and most sacred mantras from the Vedas. It’s a prayer to the Sun, asking that the radiance of the sun illuminate our minds and guide us on the path toward awakening.

Gayatri Mantra

Om Bhur Bhuvah Svaha

Tat savitur varenyam

Bhargo devasya dheemahi

Dhiyo yo na prachodayat

Oh Divine Presence, Creator of the Universe, 
May your supreme light
illuminate our intellect and guide us on the path toward enlightenment.

Perhaps play this video which is 30 minute repetition of the Gayatri Mantra. Chant along or meditate to the sound of this powerful chant.

Whatever you choose to do, celebrate the joyful and expansive energy of these glorious days of summer!