Summer solstice & sun salutes

Day after summer solstice. I meant to post on this yesterday, sorry. My sleep cycle has been responding to this longest-days-of-the-year deal, especially because here in Montana it is quite noticeable. Last night, it wasn’t fully dark until almost 11 pm, and I swear it is getting light prior to 5 am. This morning I got up thinking it was a full hour later than it was, since my body was just ready to get up. It’s kind of cool letting yourself respond to a more natural rhythm, vs. being driven by the clock.

I noticed a lot of Facebook posts about yoga events all over to celebrate the solstice, particularly the 108 sun salutations practice. I recognize the significance of the number 108 – but no thanks to that many sun salutations. You can still honor the sun with a lot less rounds, in my humble opinion…Anyhow, I wanted to highlight this sequence to celebrate the middle of summer (well, the beginning of summer weather-wise, if you live in MT). I’ll be honest: sometimes I am not thrilled at the prospect of another sun salutation. But the utter perfection and harmony of this sequence, all the ways it can be changed up, and the meaning behind it make it #1 in my yoga teaching and practice. It’s my foundation.

Surya is the Sanskrit for sun, and Namaskar to greet, or more precisely, to adore. Surya Namaskar = sun salutation. The ancient yogis revered the sun as the source of all life, and honored it in many ways. The sun salutation was one. They were traditionally performed facing the direction of the sun, as it first came up.

Sun salutations are done pretty much first thing in a vinyasa practice, to foster breath awareness and build internal heat, warming up the body for more advanced postures that follow. As you practice them, you leave behind whatever you brought to the mat and give yourself the attitude adjustment needed to be present to your practice. For me, the beauty of this well-rounded sequence is highlighted by the hand mudra we use to start and end each one: anjali mudra, with hands together at the heart. This gesture is so pure, so simple, and each sun salutation start/finish provides the opportunity to honor the sun, yourself, your family, your health, whatever calls out to you. The more you do (not necessarily all at once), the more you honor. Consider the cumulative effects.

As I said, it’s my yoga foundation for many reasons. Here’s a how-to I did for the Athleta Chi last year, if you’d like to try them at home. And while we’re honoring the sun for the summer solstice, I’ve also got a new home practice for summer coming up soon that taps into the moon’s cooling energy. Stay tuned.