Winter Solstice

Winter SolsticeSolstice is a turning point in nature. As we are part of nature, it is also a turning point within ourselves that we must take the time to honor. In it’s most simple understanding, that is all Yoga and Ayurveda are asking us to do; be present enough to become aware of the shifts in both our mind and our body. Solstice is the day when we have both the least amount of daylight as well as the most amount of darkness. It is a day that we should both honor and celebrate.

Darkness carries qualities of both cold and heavy, it asks us to slow down, turn inward and rest. This time of year, when darkness pervades us; we must adhere to its requests. Winter asks us to put our energy towards nourishment, rebuilding and rekindling a relationship with both ourselves and others. From an Ayurvedic perspective, Winter is known as Kapha season. Kapha is comprised of the elements of earth and water and it is the substance of our bodies. Kapha is what gives us the ability to maintain strength and health, it is our ability to love and connect as well as our stability and capacity to cultivate compassion and care for others.

One good way of looking at this is to look at nature. While nature becomes dormant during the winter; it is turning inward. Nature recognizes this time of the year as the time to rebuild, to practice self-care and nourish itself deeply. This is all in an effort to prepare for their spring blossom; to come back bigger, brighter and with more strength. Collectively, this is why we struggle so much with health and immunity this time of year. We are not living in accordance with nature, we are continuing to work hard, sleep little and not properly nourish and rebuild. Solstice and the new year are a friendly reminder that we need to slow down, be present to times of change and aware of their effects.

Winter is the season when nature is ready to nurture us. Due to the digestive capacity being very steady and efficient, people feel hungrier, and can actually digest food and assimilate nutrients better in winter, thus nourishing our bodies more. Winter season gets a bad reputation for a time when immunity is poor because as appetite increases, people start eating more junk food and heavy, hard-to-digest foods, and thus weakening their immunity. But it’s important to understand that we are creating the bad immunity; nature is not the culprit. For this reason, it’s more important that we eat immunity-boosting foods in winter. This should be the regimen for winter — to nourish the mind and body by getting more rest and eating well. Other seasons are better for purifying, but winter is the time to build up and nourish.

Most all medical modalities agree that both health and one’s immune system directly correlate to the food that they eat and their bodies ability to digest and assimilate nutrients. Kapha season is a time when, if we are eating and living appropriately, we are best able to properly nourish our body, creating both strength and vitality. When we are eating cooked, fresh, organic meals; avoiding excess sugar, alcohol and processed foods; our bodies will thrive. Rebuilding during Kapha season will provide the support that our bodies need to fight colds, avoid weakness and maintain its lustrousness throughout the year. When our bodies and metabolism are functioning idealistically, we are able to nourish all layers of our being.

Tapas is the work. It is the work that we must do to keep the light in our eyes as well as the passion in our hearts burning. It is a fierce, unwavering commitment to shedding the layers of our ego that hold us captive to perpetual suffering. It is a present awareness that allows us to understand and respond to situations it a way that is constructive. It is our ability to see the silver linings and show compassion to those who don’t reciprocate. It is putting in the time every day to study, to sit, to do the practice. During Solstice, tapas is creating the space to reflect, so that we can let go of anything we are holding on to, anything that is not serving our higher goal. Tapas is defining your goals and intentions for the coming year so that you can move closer towards a life without suffering, a life where happiness and health continue to grow every day.

While Kapha and its qualities are consuming nature, we must recognize the inner working of Pitta. Pitta is our seat of power, our inner fire. It gives us our drive, passion, and confidence. During the cold months of Winter, when the sun rarely shines, we must kindle our inner fire with tapas. Tapas is the energy required to build heat, create change and transformation. It is seen in yoga as the fiercely focused, constant, commitment necessary to remove that which keeps us from being in union with the universe. As we turn inward and honor Kapha, we use tapas to kindle our Fire, to build heat from within to help prepare for the outward expression or manifestation that we intend to present when the Sun returns. This is the work.

As the darkness consumes us on Solstice, as we take the time to slow down, turn inward and reflect, we must celebrate. As we prepare for our renewal, it is so important to celebrate our victories, remember our good deeds and identify our offerings for the coming year. We must know that every hardship, loss or form of suffering that we faced, we overcame, we grew from and now we can utilize those experiences as we move into this new year.

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