What is Summer Solstice and How Does It Affect My Yoga Practice?

By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP

What Is the Summer Solstice and How Does It Affect My Yoga Practice?

what is the summer solstice and how does it affect my yoga practice

what is the summer solstice and how does it affect my yoga practice

The summer solstice marks the peak of the earth's movement around the sun, where the sunlight shines on the world for the most extended amount of time. This cosmic doorway into the summer season represents a moment of high energy where we are bathed in the bright light of the sun. By synchronizing your yoga practice with the summer solstice, you can harness this energy within you and find balance as you move into the summer season.

Every yoga pose and yoga practice has a unique energy to it. At a basic level, each practice can be either heating or cooling. By understanding these energetics of yoga poses and practices, we can use this information to find balance in the body and move through the summer solstice with ease. See below to learn more about the summer solstice, how the summer solstice affects your yoga practice, and the best yoga poses, breathing practices, and meditation techniques for the summer solstice!

What Is the Summer Solstice?

On a basic astronomical level, the summer solstice occurs when the earth tilts towards the sun at the highest degree. Although the summer solstice is often celebrated in June, this is actually just the summer solstice for the northern hemisphere, and the southern hemisphere celebrates the summer solstice in December. During the summer solstice, the farthest poles of the earth receive a constant 24 hours of daylight, making it the brightest day of the year.

Cultures around the world celebrate the summer solstice as the moment of the beginning of summer, and they use this time to praise the sun and the power of the cosmos that we depend upon. Midsummer's Day is the most famous of these joyous festivals for the summer solstice. The summer solstice in the northern hemisphere on June 21st is also now the International Day of Yoga, created by the UN in 2014 to promote global health and peace through the power of yoga practice.  

The Connection Between the Summer Solstice and Yoga

On a spiritual level, the summer solstice is a vibrant time of year when we begin to reconnect to the light of the world that also reminds us of our inner light. The core of yoga practice is to reconnect to this inner light and let it shine brightly forward, and the summer solstice is the perfect time of year to reconnect to this philosophical truth.

The summer solstice also marks the end of the period called Uttarayana in Hinduism, which is a divine period connecting us to the cosmic movement of the sun. Additionally, in Hinduism, the Hindu deity Surya is the God of the Sun, and the summer solstice is an excellent time to revere the power of the sun and the energy that it provides all of us to survive on earth.

Since 2014, the summer solstice is also now the same day as International Yoga Day, established by the United Nations. People around the world celebrate this time with outdoor yoga practices, chanting, meditation, and efforts to promote inner and outer peace. The connection between the summer solstice and International Yoga Day was an intentional connection due to the importance of the sun in yoga practice and the representation of the exterior light reminding us of the inner light of the soul.

How the Summer Solstice Affects My Yoga Practice

The summer solstice is the day with the largest amount of sunlight, and it is also the peak of pitta season, the fiery dosha. During this time of higher heat and energy, it is crucial to balance this with more cooling, calming, and grounding practices.

When we stay connected to the energy of the summer solstice in our yoga practice, we can find balance within and prevent any issues from arising later on. See below for the key aspects and energies to keep in mind when designing your yoga practice for the summer solstice:

·      Honor the light of the sun

·      Cool down the body and mind

·      Ground into the earth

·      Rest and relax during the peak heat

·      Stimulate and twist out the navel

·      Bring joy and playfulness into practice

·      Engage in softness and release

·      Practice slowly and with intention

Remember, the summer season is the time of the pitta dosha in Ayurveda. When there is too much pitta in the body, this excess heat and oiliness can lead to inflammation and acidity. Try to balance these energetics in your yoga practice by cooling down your body, calming your mind, and staying rooted to the earth as much as possible.

5 Yoga Poses for the Summer Solstice

1.     Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Ground into your feet and connect to the power of the earth in this stabilizing mountain pose. When we stand on the peak of a tall mountain, we are also reaching closer to the sun, accessing more of this potent energy. Similarly, when we stand in a mountain pose, we can grow upwards from the rooting into the earth to reach towards the sun's energy and harness this power within us.

2.     Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana)

The high energy of the summer solstice must be balanced with more grounding and calming poses. Forward fold poses are well known as the best way to relax the nervous system and reconnect to the earth. The rag doll variation of this posture is an even more therapeutic option that can help calm down your mind and restore your body at the same time.

3.     Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior 2 pose is a more energizing pose, but when practiced with a calming awareness, it can be highly stabilizing for your body and mind. Try to focus on rooting into your feet in this pose. Remember, only practice at 80% of your average capacity in this posture to gain the benefits of this pose without building too much heat or imbalance in your body.

4.     Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Cobra pose is an enlivening backbend posture that opens the chest and stimulates your internal organs to support the digestive system. The flowing movement of the snake through the grass reminds us of the flowing nature of the sun's energy and reconnects us to this inner movement. Opt for a baby cobra variation and focus on grounding your pelvis towards the earth for a more relaxing practice.

5.     Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar)

The summer solstice is a common day for people to practice a yoga mala, which is 108 sun salutations in a row. But according to Ayurveda, this practice can actually create too much heat in the body, which is contraindicated during the peak of heat for pitta season. Instead, try practicing your sun salutations slowly with mantra chanting to praise the power of the sun as it shines down on you and reminds you of your inner light as well.

Meditation, Breathwork, and Yoga for the Summer Solstice

The summer solstice is a powerful portal into the cosmic world where the vibrant energy is high, giving us a unique window to move deeper within and discover our own inner light. Through the subtle practices of breathwork or pranayama and meditation, we can move deeper within and access this subtle light of the soul.

1.     Mindful Walking Meditation (Kinhin)

The summer solstice is one of the best times to get outdoors and experience the beauty of nature and what better way to do that than through mindful walking meditation! Try walking barefoot to really connect to the earth and ground your mind. Remember that mindful walking meditation is about slow, conscious movement, connecting to the sensations in your body, and observing the beauty of nature all around you.

2.     Cooling Breath (Sheetali Pranayama or Sheetkari Pranayama)

Since the summer is peak pitta season, it is essential to balance this excess heat with a cooling breathing practice. Sheetaliand sheetkari pranayama are both wonderful cooling breaths that calm your nervous system and balance the energies of the sun and moon within your body. This breathing technique is especially powerful around mid-day when the sun is at its peak to help cool you off.

Explore the Power of Yoga in Our Online Yoga Teacher Training

The summer solstice is a time of high energy as the sun shines brightly down on us. By celebrating the light of the sun, we can honor this life-giving energy while staying rooted within our own inner light. Remember that although it is tempting to engage in more energizing and heating practices, it is crucial to focus on cooling and calming to prevent your pitta dosha from going out of balance.

By understanding the energetics of yoga practice, we can begin to craft personalized yoga sequences for all kinds of different situations, including the summer solstice. In our online yoga teacher training courses, we will guide you through the process of how to create yoga sequences and learn the foundations of yoga to support others on this profound journey. Reach out to us today for more information on how you can join our 200-hour ytt and 300-hour online yoga teacher training courses!

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