This is a gentle yoga flow with meditation and journaling to celebrate the winter solstice.
Happy Winter Solstice! I hope this ritual will help you turn inward to explore your true feelings, and find a grounded, settled place within whatever dark things are happening. Like when we're in a cave and our eyes get used to the complete darkness, we're more able to discern those little points of light.
As you listen to these journaling prompts, jot down whatever comes up, whatever flickers for you:
1. How does my darkness, my shadow, need to express itself?
2. What's been waiting for this quiet time, this darker time, beneath the surface?
3. How could I nurture that?
4. What obstacles arise, and what are they teaching?
5. What wisdom is my intuition sharing with me?
See the full transcript below, and if you like this, please join our online Winter Solstice 2023 gathering by registering here.
Hi, welcome to Winter Solstice Flow. If you want, to have a candle available. You could also have something else that you can focus on. The thing with the flame is, as you watch it, I find it almost easier to focus on because it's not still. It's got that little ripple. That little dancing makes it easier to maintain that focus point. May or may not be the case for you.
At this time of year, that is the darkest. In the darkness, this is the macrocosm of the northern hemisphere and also the microcosm within us, in that darkness there's always a little spark.
[00:00:44] This ritual I hope, will help you to be willing to feel and be in that darkness and find a grounded, settled place within whatever dark things are happening. Like when we're in a cave and our eyes get used to the complete darkness, we're more able to discern those little points of light.
This is a quote from Chela Davison:
"If you have a tendency to escape your pain through activity, Achievement, success or getting somewhere when you finally slow down enough to feel all the shit and move through the shock and overwhelm of it, there's pleasure in sorrow. There's kindness in disappointment. There's peace in allowing grief to do what grief does. There's a tremendous amount of relief to be found in making room for the pain... in the gentle acceptance of what is."
If you can, put the flame right in front of you about nose level.
[00:02:12] We're gonna interlace our fingers, all of them, and then take your index fingers, point them up, and your thumbs can cross. Your index fingers point up and all the other fingers are interlaced. Almost like you're creating like a flame shape, right? This is Kali Mudra. The symbolism of it is cutting through illusion. You can start with this right at your heart center, sitting in any way that's comfortable.
And we'll start with an om breathe in.
I'll invite you, maintaining this hand position, visualize going into darkness.
[00:03:07] You could gaze at your flame, at your candle.
Simply watch it. In the shadows, there might be some longings, some feelings we'd rather not sit with.
[00:03:40] For this practice, rather than looking back on your year, be right here. Present.
You can gaze at the tips of your index fingers. And then shift your gaze to the flame, and then shift back, each time refocusing.
[00:04:06] You might wanna adjust where the candle is or where you're sitting, and then feel free to close your eyes if that's helpful for you.
And ask yourself this question,
"What lights a spark in me?"
[00:04:55] Allowing this fire, this spark of transformation to kindle, to grow, to ignite.
Let's come up to standing. When you're ready, take your time.
[00:05:32] Interlace your fingers, index fingers pointing up and either you can keep your hands in front of your chest, or you might keep your elbows bent, but lift your hands a little Up towards the ceiling, or you can hug your ears with your arms and extend your arms all the way up.
That's really individual. Depending on your body. Wherever you are, feel your feet. You can imagine that you're standing in the muck, that you're really grounded in it. Stuck in the mud. From that place you're rising up and igniting that spark. Invite you to inhale and as you exhale, bend any amount to one side.
Now stay bent and inhale there. Exhale, feel both your feet. Inhale up and on your next exhale, bend to the other side.
Take a breath.
[00:06:43] Your next inhale will bring you up and you can either keep your hands the way they are or change them. We'll root through our feet and we'll lean back a little bit. So lifting your chest, your ears, feeling long through the front of your body without collapsing the back of your body. Maybe your fingers point slightly back.
[00:07:05] Ground your feet. Take a breath, and when you're done, inhale back up to center. At the front of your mat. You might keep your arms as they are. Again, they can be here. They can be here, they can be here. Find that candle or that one thing to stare at. Shift your weight into one foot and lean your fingers a little forward as you take your other foot, a little back any amount until you end up in a warrior one of your choosing. And again, it's fine to change the arms. We'll look up and if your fingers are all the way up towards the ceiling, keep your neck long. Inhale, and as you exhale, move the tips of your fingers down so you're watching them come right back to your heart center.
So we're inhaling up, feeling your feet. Exhaling down to heart. Again. So the main thing is to keep your gaze there. All right now keeping your hands in front of Heart Center will take a little turn in the direction of your front leg, just any amount. And breathe.
[00:08:26] Come back to center. Either keep your hands here or you can reach them up. Lean towards that front leg. Float your back, foot forward, make your way back to the standing position. If you'd like to recross your hands, it's fine, if that feels good, start to lean your upper body forward. Shift your weight into your other foot and float the second leg back until you end up in some variation of a Virabhadrasana one, warrior one, position.
So your hips are a little forward. And maybe your back heel is down front and bent. Then focus on your gaze and move your gaze in the way that feels right for you. Three breaths.
[00:09:24] Hands in front of heart center, a little bit of a turn. Maybe just a quarter turn as you breathe into your back Ribs. . So you're turning the opposite direction and then unwind and you decide how you're getting forward with focus, with control.
Please release your hands, sweep them out and down. Hands on thighs, bend your knees.
Do a little standing cat and cow.
[00:10:07] All right, and then lower your hands so you end up on all fours. When you get to all fours, lengthen your spine. Feel the little lift in the pit of your belly. Look down between your fingertips. Keep your gaze there on your mat between your fingertips. Take one leg back and maybe your opposite arm forward reaching into your bird dog.
That's your inhale. Exhale, elbow and knee towards each other any amount. Inhale, extend, stay on the same side, five breaths or three, building that inner heat.
[00:10:54] Reaching, bring your hand down, bend your top knee, your knee that's up in the air. Take your foot towards the ceiling. We're gonna try kicking our own butt with little exhales, so pump your navel. If you can keep your knee up and it doesn't matter if your heel strikes or not. Try it.
Reach that leg. Turn your toes under. Slide your foot across the midline. Look over your shoulder at your foot. Take a breath.
Alright. Either cross your knees, sit back or uncross your knees. Go back. Child's pose. Always listen to your body.
[00:11:46] Take care of your wrists in any way before you come forward, again. And then we're making our way to the other side. So come on to all fours. Take the other leg back opposite arm forward. Reach through your diagonals. Breathe in, breathe out, curl in on yourself.
Move with breath.
When you're done, reach and then bring your hand down, bend your knee foot towards the ceiling.
Ready? Little sniffs as you kick your own butt.
[00:12:38] Reach it back. Inhale, cross it across the midline. Look over your shoulder at your foot. Take a breath into your side body, and when you feel ready, you'll either unwind your legs or maintain the cross knee position and either way, taking your hips back and your head forward.
Easing forward. We're gonna come on to belly. So uncross if your legs are crossed. Lower to belly, you can do extra pushups if you'd like. When you get to belly, try a full prostration like reaching your feet and your hands far away from each other.
And if it works for you, come back to that same hand position, clasping your fingers, index fingers pointing away from your feet, and your arms hugging your ears.
[00:13:49] And if you'd like, you could bend your elbows.
Root down through your elbows to raise your upper body up a little bit and then release your hands. Slide your hands back, and press back child's pose.
From child's pose. Ease your way up and sit to one side of your feet. A little mermaid twist. You can stagger your knees and twist away from your knees and look around you. So rather than just gazing at one thing, take in your environment more globally.
[00:14:47] Then slowly transition to the other side. Any way you wanna get there is fine. Once you're sitting on the other side of your feet, you can stagger your knees and start to turn away from your knees. Check in with breath. Knowing this side might be different.
Then staying on that hip, unwind your legs and coming to the fire log pose, so your shins are kind of stacked in front of each other, and this is a great place to grab your cushion and elevate your hips so you feel comfortable here.
You could do either cat and cow here holding your shins, or you could start to churn as if you're stirring a big pot with your spine. Link it with breath, whatever you're doing, and just choose the direction and go that direction if you're churning.
[00:15:55] Because then we'll actually lean back on our hands, pick up our legs and recross. So the other shin is in front. Okay. So if you were churning, you'll turn the other way. If you were flexing and extending your spine, cat and cow, you can keep doing that or you can experiment with churning.
Any twinges, back off.
All right, and then separate your knees so your feet can come together. Feet together, knees apart. You can hold your shins. You might wanna rub your calves, your Achilles tendons. your arches, ground yourself.
This is a simple thing you could do if you're feeling ungrounded and you need something quick to help you remember that you are a child of the earth.
[00:17:07] From here, we're gonna come onto our back, so with your feet together, knee apart, you'll walk your hands back. If that doesn't feel good, bring your knees up, feet to the ground. So we're coming onto our backs. We might stick with knees apart, feet together for a moment. Notice how this feels.
There might be some vulnerability here.
Then gathering in your knees, rock side to side. You may wanna put a little cushion underneath your butt. You can also put your hands under your butt. We'll take our feet up and we're going to do scissors, so your feet will come apart. And then crisscross. And you can imagine you're cutting through the veil of illusion or whatever you wanna be cutting through. Using that metaphor and also awakening and having awareness of those inner legs that provide so much stability for us. We often ignore. . So you might also be engaging your lower abdominals, recruiting those muscles.
[00:18:15] And if you wanted to, you could take your feet a little further away from your head and just try and see how that feels.
All right. Hug your knees, let your knees drop open. Draw some little circles. Both directions. Feet down, hands up, making that Kali Mudra again. Index fingertips towards the ceiling and start drawing a small circle on the ceiling with your fingertips. And notice your back ribs and your shoulders. So you might feel the connection between your ribs and shoulders and the ground.
[00:19:03] And go the other direction. Just getting used to this, noticing how breath can help only make it as big as feels good for your back ribs.
Meet it with breath. All right now. Fingers up, knees up, hug your knees together. You could always put a block or a cushion between your knees to keep them close together. Start drawing your knees and your fingers in the same direction. So they're both going either clockwise or counterclockwise. So they're drawing circles and they're going the same direction.
[00:19:38] And then at some point, keep your knees going. Switch your hands so your hands are going the opposite direction from your knees. And they might be meeting in the middle. Going opposite directions, and this is a real brain twister. And then switch. Once you feel like I've got this, then switch.
Then switch again, and switch a final time. Make sure you're breathing.
[00:20:15] And hug your knees. Let them drop open. Use your arms to draw circles where your knees meet in the middle. Go the other way.
And then find a way to rest here that feels right. Maybe feet together knees apart, maybe knees together, feet apart.
Pause, let yourself really feel that you're sinking in, allowing the shadows to envelop you. Feel cocooned and safe within whatever darkness might be surrounding, just like in a cave, but you know you're safe... Your eyes starting to adjust to the darkness.
[00:21:45] So you can stay right where you are if you prefer to allow these questions to wash over you, or if you are a journaler, a writer, or you'd like to sit for meditation and use the candle and the gazing, you can do that.
Again, you can continue to rest where you are. You can ease to your side. You might pick up something to write on or with if you'd like, and you might have that focus point of your candle.
Allow your gaze to rest on the flame.
[00:22:33] So as well as the shadows and the obstacles, also, longings might arise.
Longings mean we're human.
You're welcome to jot down or pay attention to whatever comes up, whatever flickers for you.
Allowing yourself to sit in this darkness with this little point of light.
[00:23:30] Maybe that you're ready to start to see the spark of potential within that. Be patient. Don't rush.
- How does my darkness, my shadow, need to express itself?
- What's been waiting for this quiet time, this darker time beneath the surface?
- How could I nurture that?
- What obstacles arise, and what are they teaching me?
- What wisdom is my intuition sharing with me?
And if you have not been gazing at your candle flame, invite you to return to it.
Watch how it dances, receive its spark.
Allow yourself to softly focus. You can certainly continue with the gazing, with the prompts. This kind of meditation is called Trataka.
[00:27:22] You can keep your candle lid if you'd like to. As long as you remember to blow it out later, you might put it in the window as a gesture. You're sharing it with your community, with the world, sharing that light.
Feel free to rest your hands or place a hand at your heart. Your choice. End with asking for peace. Breathe in.. OM. Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. OM.
Thank you. Happy Winter Solstice.
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Winter solstice, the longest night of the year, holds tremendous energy for self-reflection and transformation. It's the perfect time to tap into your inner spark of intuition. Feel cozy and supported as you practice with a welcoming group.
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Kate Lynch (she/her): Parent of an amazing atypical kid, inclusive yoga and meditation teacher, and author. Her little neurodiverse family lives in a magical land called Brooklyn, AKA Lenape Territory.
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