Yoga teaches us to observe our breathing. The breath holds the most fundamental rhythm of life: inhale, brief pause, exhale, another brief pause, inhale… and so the cycle repeats. Moving beyond our bodies to the natural world, we see the daily, yet ever-changing cycle of light and dark. Through circadian rhythms, we adapt our waking and sleeping cycles. We can observe larger cycles of days through the changing illumination of the moon, marked by its phases. Likewise, through the earth’s orbit of the sun, we observe a change of seasons every 13 weeks. The solstices are indicated by minimum and maximum amounts of daylight, and the equinoxes as the intermediate inflection points between them.
There are instinctive ways of being that correspond to the seasons; we are generally less active and more introspective during the winter; more active and outgoing in the summer. Learning to move with these cycles (rather than fighting them) is a way to flow with nature and feel connection with something larger than hectic modern living.
At the change of the seasons, yogis all around the world practice 108 Sun Salutations. This acknowledges the time of change in the environment around us. Sankalpa – the setting of spiritual intention – acknowledges that there are changes to occur within us and are customarily set at this practice.
In the nature traditions (paganism, Wicca), the solstices and equinoxes (quarter days) are observed, as are cross-quarter days. These four transitional days occur about 6 weeks after the solstices and equinoxes, and denote the effects of the sun’s changing energy on the earth, as evidenced through temperature cycles that correspond to seasonal cycles. This seasonal lag is explained by insolation (solar irradiance of the earth). Agricultural societies utilized these natural signals to plant and harvest, since their lives depended on the plants they grew for food and they learned that working with the natural cycle was extremely beneficial.
Vernal Equinox occurs in the northern hemisphere around March 21. On this day, the amount of daylight (and solar energy) is equal to the amount of darkness. The equalizing of daylight and darkness represents an inflection point of annual solar energy cycle, where it rapidly increases before leveling off at Summer Solstice. Due to seasonal lag effect, there is an inflection point observed in the earth’s average temperatures around May 1st. This day is called Beltane. On this day, the changes in the warming effect of the sun’s energy on the earth are greatest and gradually taper off until it reaches its maximum on August 1st. What we typically see is a sudden outburst of blooms of the plant life that feels the effects of the shift in warming.
This workshop intentionally occurs on Beltane as a way to observe the most pronounced changes of the earth’s seasonal warming cycle. We will use this time to access the grounding and warming practice of Earth Salutations.
The cross-quarter days are all about the earth and its absorption of solar radiation from the cyclical change of sunlight. The earth’s temperature affects its ability to support plant life and sets cycles of blooming and harvest. When we set Sankalpa on the seasonal quarter days, we symbolically begin to see those effects developing near the cross-quarter days. The radiance of intention begins to affect our inner earth. So in my yoga practice, cross-quarter days are times to become more attuned to my inner earth –- that supporting, stable, solid part of my being –- through the grounding Earth Salutations sequence. Like Sun Salutations, this flowing practice moves through a series of positions; but unlike Sun Salutations, Earth Salutations are done close to the ground and without ever standing. Sun Salutations produce a fire-like, energizing effect, while Earth Salutations are more like slow burning embers that radiate outward from the core, like a steady heat.
In this innovative, experiential yoga workshop, a mixture of presentation, discussion and specialized yoga practice are introduced. The yoga component is interwoven throughout and includes breathing (pranayama), warm ups (kriya) and, instruction and practice of Earth Salutations, which are done at a slow, gentle pace. The workshop is recommended for individuals who have some experience in practicing yoga, want to deepen their practice and open awareness to a new level.
About the instructor:
As a Licensed Massage Therapist, Kripalu Yoga Teacher, Certified Professional Coach and former Scientist, I bring all the gifts of who I am to my work. Driven by the desire to elevate others, my career initially spanned the biotech industry, interdisciplinary research and laboratory safety. Over the past decade, it evolved to wellness and now I work in my own company, Centered Presence, Ltd. As a presenter, my workshops are characterized by elements of touch, intimacy, authenticity, embodiment, grounding, presence, spiritual practice and cultivation of inner awareness, which result in personal growth and empowered movement forward.