Two important Days This Week - Summer Solstice, International Day of Yoga

The Summer solstice is a special day. It’s the longest day of the year, and a great excuse to spend time in nature! Making this day even more special, tonight will be a full moon! Check it out!

Tomorrow is the International Day of Yoga, so make a point to spend at least 5 minutes on your mat, being grateful for your practice. Yoga is for all, so why not share it with someone you care about?

In 2015, On the Summer Solstice, which was also the International Day of Yoga, I did my Ashtanga practice outside in the backyard, under the big silver elm tree. Nothing but the sounds of nature accompanied me. Birds singing their songs, cardinals and robins, mostly. And the grey squirrels rustling around in the black walnut tree in the corner of the yard, occasionally dropping one to the ground with a gentle thud.

My practice felt more peaceful than it ever had been with the sun warming me as I moved through the Sun Salutations. I felt a new sense of calm and oneness with nature. There was a new sense of ease in my body, not the awkwardness I had feared from practicing “in the open”. The time seemed to pass quickly as I moved through the Surya Namaskaras.

It was a different kind of savasana. Rather than lying eyes closed, focused on my breathing, I opened my eyes and watched the squirrel above me navigating the branches, noticed the leaves moving in the gentle breeze, and the sun’s soft rays filtering through them, making them different shades of green. I smiled at how long it had been since I laid under a tree and looked up at the natural wonder above me. I felt the urge to get my smart phone and take pictures to preserve the memory of it, but in that same instant, I knew if I moved, the moment would be lost. So, I lay there, soaking it in, preserving it in my mind. I felt my body truly supported by Mother Earth as never before, cradled in her soft embrace. I felt at peace.

In the evening, I created a fire ceremony. My husband had gone to visit his oldest son, and my children and other family live elsewhere, so I was alone, but I brought the dogs out with me. Earlier, I had taken a piece of tissue paper and written out my prayers. I lit my small fire, and spoke the invocation shared by my yoga teacher Mary Beth Nehl, written by Dr. Alberto Villoldo of The Four Winds Society:

“To the winds of the South – Great Serpent, help us to shed the past the way you shed your skin. Teach us to walk in beauty and touch everyone with beauty.
To the winds of the West – Great Jaguar, walk among us. Show us how to live fearlessly. Teach us the way of no enemies in this world or the next.
To the winds of the North – Hummingbird, Grandmothers and Grandfathers, Ancient Ones. We honor you who have come before us, and you who will come after us, our children’s children. 
To the winds of the East – Great Eagle, Condor, come to us from the place of the rising Sun. Keep us under your wing. Teach us to fly wing to wing with the Great Spirit.    
Mother Earth – We’ve gathered for the honoring of all your children. The Stone People, the Plant People. The four-legged, the two-legged, the creepy crawlers. The finned, the furred, and the winged ones. All our relations.
Father Sun, Grandmother Moon, to the Star Nations – Great Spirit, you who are known by a thousand names. And you who are the un-namable One. Thank you for bringing us together”.

I then placed my written prayers in the fire, and I closed the sacred space in the same way that I had opened it – acknowledging the four directions, Mother Earth and Father Sky. I thanked my ancestors, releasing their energies to return to the four corners of the Earth.