Yoga Master Column by Maya Fiennes
This month, our yoga columnist shows you how to harness the winter solstice, plan ahead, and energise yourself by saluting the rising Sun
"Revolve your life around summer and winter solstices, and everything will be taken care of," said Yogi Bhajan. And, as the latter marks a rebirth, it is a great time to make way for the coming year. The days surrounding the solstice are also good for doing 'elevating' work, and I often like to look back over the 12 months past, figure out what needs to be completed, and then do it to create space for growth.
As the days lengthen, try some Sun salutations - a dynamic asana sequence to help you use your body as an instrument of higher awareness. After doing them, I feel grounded, cleansed and stronger.
The Sanskrit name for them is Surya Namaskar, stemming from namas, meaning 'to bow to' or 'to honour', and Surya, referring to the Sun. Namaste, said at the end of most yoga classes, has the same root, and means 'The Divine in me honours the Divind in you'.
Balancing body and mind
Sun salutations should be performed in a single, graceful flow. The sequence is said to remove bodily and mental tensions, improve circulation, stimulate the nervous system, loosen and lubricate joints, raise body heat, aid digestion, and exercise the lungs, thereby oxygenating the blood. The practice offers great flexibility to your spine as it is stretched and bent. The muscles of the abdomen, pelvis and spine are also toned and strengthened, and the inner organs are massaged. Each movement is coordinated with the breath; if practiced slowly, it has a calming effect; done briskly, it energises.
In my classes, Sun salutations are done as a warm up to ground us before we lift and raise the Kundalini energy. When practiced with awareness, the sequence improves your ability to maximise performance and enjoy all yoga asanas - poses - as well as life in general. On days when you think you have no time, try to do at least one tor two rounds of Sun salutations - you'll feel the difference!