Winter Solstice Arrives in Cleveland, OH at December 21, 2015 at 11:49PM Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and from this day, until the summer solstice in June, the daylight hours increase each day. In ancient times, people held huge celebrations to welcome …
Summer arrives in Cleveland, Oh this Sunday, June 21st at 12:39 pm! Plus, it’s Father’s Day a great day to celebrate. Summer Solstice is one of my favorite times of the year. The weather is finally warm, my garden is green and budding with fruit and veggies, and it’s a …
Winter Solstice Arrives in Cleveland on Monday, December 21nd at 11:49AM EST in Cleveland, OH
Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and from this day, until the summer solstice in June, the daylight hours increase each day. In ancient times, people held huge celebrations to welcome the light, it also marks the first day of Winter.
The Winter Solstice is a wonderful time to celebrate the season with your family! Consider making ice lanterns and line your driveway or front walk, make a yule log or visit your child’s classroom and share a story about the solstice (teachers love this!). There are countless ways to celebrate the return of the sun. Here are a few of my favorites. I hope you enjoy! Be sure to let me know your solstice traditions in the comments below! Let’s welcome the LIGHT together!
- Fun Facts from National Geographic
- The Raven Brings the light a wonderful story (video) by Sydney Solis
- A Visit to Mother Winter by Starhawk
- Yule Faires
- The Candleberry Elf – great for little kids
- Beautiful original video/story Winter Solstice
- Visual beauty of winter a slideshow
- Paper Lanterns
- Make a wreath from evergreens (a symbol of the Solstice) collected by family members. On or after New Year’s Day, your wreath can be returned to Nature.
- Make your family’s favorite food and/or a cake and put a sunshine on it. Birthday candles can be put on the dessert. Each family member can light a candle and make a wish for the holiday season or the upcoming calendar year. Once all candles are lit, the family as a whole can blow them out to send wishes on their way. Then call out “Happy Solstice” or “Good Yule” in unison.
- Ring a bell together to celebrate your connection with the cycles of Nature and to celebrate your connection with life on planet Earth and all of Nature.
- Light a candle (also a symbol of the Solstice) and talk about what the Solstice means. Ask family members to focus on a candle, and then extinguish. Sit in darkness for a few moments and reflect on the importance of light and of Sun to life on the planet.
- Feed the birds! Take your family outdoors during the Winter at this Solstice time. Focus on being part of the fabric of life of Nature. Then express appreciation for the beauty of Nature. Each family member then takes a handful of seeds and focuses on the seeds as symbols of life and as messengers of goodwill toward other parts of Nature and then places the seeds in a feeder or grass. Enjoy the light!!!!
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Week 3 of Starting a Home Practice
NADIS AND ASANAS
When I first learned about nadis I was fascinated! I was already interested in the chakras, so this information helped me make an even deeper connection to understanding energy in our bodies. Nadis are the subtle channels, or paths, that prana (energy) flows through the body. Many yoga anatomy books vary in stating exactly how many nadis there are in the body (anywhere from several thousand to 72,000 and beyond), but there are six that are very important they are ida, pingala, sushumna, brahmani, chitrani and vijnani. Three of these are most important, according to Swami Rama, Dr. Ballentine and Dr. Hymes in the book Science of Breath “…pingala (surya) flows through the right nostril, ida (chandra) flows through the left nostril; and sushumna, which is when both nostrils flow freely without any obstruction…All three major nadis originate at the base of the spine and travel upward. The sushumna nadi is centrally located and travels along the spinal canal. At the level of the larynx it divides into an anterior and posterior portion, both of which terminate in the brahmarandra (cavity of the Brahma)…the ida and pingala nadis also travel upward along the spinal column, but they crisscross each other and the sushumna before terminating in the left and right nostrils, respectively. The junctions where the ida and pingala and sushumna meet along the spinal column are called chakras (wheels).”
In class, you may have heard me say we need to work through “trapped” energy by doing certain poses. I am referring to prana. This trapped prana, or energy, can get all jammed up in different parts of our body and that’s when we begin to feel bad. Many of us know exactly where those areas are by the symptoms. For example, we might get frequent headaches (6th chakra), we might have shortness of breath (4th chakra), or we may suffer from digestive problems (3rd chakra). The result of freeing the prana to move through the nadis is that magical feeling you have after class that is difficult to describe to others who have never practiced yoga. Moving our bodies, moves the energy, in turn, making us feel better-sometimes much better. Learning more about the chakras can be extremely helpful in learning how to relieve discomfort in your body and even in your life.
So, what does asana mean and how does it relate to the nadis? Asana means “pose”. Yoga actually began as a meditative practice until about a thousand years ago. The ancient yogis realized that they had this powerful energy built up inside of them and they felt a strong need to move. They developed a series of poses that had a deep effect on body and mind. This set of poses makes up Hatha Yoga.
Many people new to yoga are often intimidated by all the different kinds of yoga out there today, but all these styles are rooted in Hatha yoga which has been called the “Grandfather” of all yoga. You may also be familiar with The Eight Limbs of Yoga. The Eight Limbs are actually part of Ashtanga yoga or Raja yoga meaning “the royal path”.
One style of yoga is not necessarily better than another, it’s really up to you to find what style is best for you and fits your needs. All yoga is good yoga when practiced with awareness, commitment and dedication. Yoga can lead you to a life you never imagined! My best advice to a new student is to try several different styles of yoga to see which one you like most. Some people enjoy a vigorous practice in a hot room with music, while others enjoy a gentler class with no music, and many people enjoy a combination of the two. As a practitioner of yoga, I like all styles of yoga but it’s the connection I have to the teacher’s personal style that keeps me coming back to their class. There are so many wonderful styles of yoga to choose from and even more amazing teachers dedicated to giving you a great class!
This week, I encourage you to step out into your community and try a new class or rent a DVD. See what you like! remember, take a beginner class if you’re new to yoga or the particular style. If you are going to a studio, call ahead or check their website if you aren’t sure what level to take. But, most of all, enjoy your experience! And, of course, don’t forget to come back to my class and bring a friend!
Yoga is a light which, once lit, will never dim.
The better your practice, the brighter the flame.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
Last week we focused on simply setting our intention to practice. Hopefully, you’ve had an opportunity to slow down, examine your daily routine and focus some of your attention inwards. Did anything surprise you? Did you like it, or was it uncomfortable? Remember, yoga is the union of mind, body and spirit. Practicing awareness is a key element to reaching samadhi or self-realization, which is the ultimate goal of yoga. I love the way Sandra Anderson and Rolf Sovik describe yoga in Yoga Mastering the Basics “At the heart of yoga is the message that every human being is, by nature, balanced and whole, and that this balanced inner self cannot be permanently destroyed or damaged. It is our inherent nature. Yoga is a method for increasing awareness of this inner self. Read that sentence again… So, whatever brought you to your mat today, remember, you’re perfect-whole and complete. You just need some time to reconnect.
Lay down your mat and let’s begin to lay the foundation of the funamental basis for all yoga – the breath.
Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine, M.D. and Alan Hymes, M.D. wrote one of the most fascinating texts I have ever read on understanding the breath in Science of Breath. If what I discuss here perks your interest, get this book! They explain how “prana” (Sanskrit word for energy or life force) flows in the body and effects the way we act and feel. They explain that it’s through this study of breath that yogis are often described as being able to “read minds” just by watching the way in which a person breathes. Swami Rama, Dr. Ballentine and Dr. Hymes explain that, “According to ancient yogic texts called the Upanishads, the various levels of existence form a continuum-the physical, the pranic, the mental, and the higher levels of consciousness…If the mind wants to affect the body, it alters the flow of energy or prana. If the body affects the mind, this too is accomplished through an effect on the flow of energy, which in turn has an impact on the mind.”
The breath is the only physiological process that can be voluntary or involuntary. You can control your breath, as we do in different exercises, like Nadi Shodhana and Ujjayi, or you can not think about it at all and the body breathes on it’s own. When we don’t take time to tend to the breath our emotions can dictate the breath – and we all know, that just leads to trouble!
This week, start noticing your natural breath. Is there an ebb and flow to your breathing, or is it heavy or erratic? Are you a chest breather (caused by the fight or flight instinct)? Or does your abdomen rise and fall with each breath? You want that diaphragmatic breathing when the belly rises on the inhale and falls on the exhale. Breathe naturally for a few minutes, and then place your hand on your abdomen – it should rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale. As a long-time chest breather, I have to admit, this still feels backwards to me, but it’s becoming easier. Watch how a baby breathes, that is EXACTLY the breath pattern we’re trying to regain. Try this laying down with your hands on your abdomen, or place a small book on your belly. If you are breathing diaphragmatically, the book will rise and fall with each breath. This seems like a simple exercise, but REALLY pay attention and see what happens. Notice how you feel after a few rounds of breathing this way.
If you are just joining us, visit last week’s post below
“Beginning a Home Practice” – Setting Your Intention
Next week: Nadis and Asanas
SETTING YOUR INTENTION
Welcome to your practice!
What I hear most from my students is how stressed out they are. The fact that they’ve walked in the door to class means that they’ve made a commitment to themselves (and to their health) to SLOW DOWN and take care of themselves. I don’t take their dedication lightly. I know how much effort it takes to muster up the energy after a long day of work, hustle across town, change, and get to class on time. Some of you are managing to sneak out the door after a LONG day of taming temper tantrums and making meals for your kids. This is your time. I hope my class not only relaxes you, but also energizes you and recharges your batteries. But, what happens during the six days between classes? This is when a home practice becomes not only another workout, but your respite.
The first thing to do is figure out the best time of day for you to practice. We have a lot more energy in the morning, but we’ll be less flexible. In the evening, we’ll have less energy, but more flexibility. Do you feel more likely to set the alarm 10 minutes earlier in the morning, or can you see yourself passing up an episode of Downton Abbey in the evening once or twice a week? Setting the intention to start your practice is ALL it takes to begin a practice.
If setting aside a specific time of day is overwhelming, start by finding ways to incorporate yogic practices into your everyday routine. Try focusing on your breath while you’re walking to your car after work, waiting for the elevator, or even chopping vegetables. Setting your intention is like making a little promise to yourself that you intend to keep. If you can voice this intention out loud, or write it down, you give yourself more power to make it happen. There is something about putting your intention out there, out of your head and into the infinite Universe, that gives more energy to your desires. You can probably think of at least one time you heard yourself telling someone with confidence that you were going to do something, like take a cooking class or spend a day at the spa (not fully believing you could find the time) and, suddenly, there you are doing it! It feels great, right? Setting your intention to practice is taking the first step.
For many of us, making the intention has already happened, you’re reading this message and can’t wait to get started. For many others, it’s the hardest part of the practice. If the later applies to you, my message is, don’t feel discouraged. If your practice doesn’t take any structured form right now, it’s okay. It’s about finding any moment you can to simply become self-aware. Just start noticing your movements throughout the day and how you feel as you flow through your normal routine. Notice the simple things, how you hold your coffee cup, how you sit in your chair, how your voice sounds as you’re talking to people. This self-awareness is key to your physical practice and this awareness is how you will notice beautiful changes in your life.
So, for this week, start noticing the details of what makes you, YOU! Become the observer of your life in a whole new way. If this is uncomfortable for you, try journaling what you’re experiencing. This can simply be little notes written in incomplete sentences. For example, “notice I’m constantly criticizing myself” or “seem to talk myself up a lot” these can be quite uncomfortable things to realize about ourselves, but are wonderful moments of awareness.
Welcome to your practice!
Feel free to send along a message or read others messages by clicking on comments. Start a conversation and find support and ideas from others beginning their own practice!
Photo: Kim Long Photography Who am “I”? “What is my purpose?” “What am I doing with my life?” These are questions that every human being has asked her/himself at some point during their life. Some of us have enjoyed receiving clear answers in our search through yoga, meditation or other means. Some people may feel they haven’t discovered any …