by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~
Although this journey was not a long one, just a subway ride from 14 street to 50 street, the experience of this journey is one I will not quickly forget! It is 6:30 in the morning, on the Summer Solstice, June 21, 2011 and I am standing on line in the middle of Times Square, New York City waiting for the Summer Solstice Yoga event to start. The fact that it is my birthday today, makes it even more exciting! This well organized, very thought out event has grown since its inception in 2003, the first time Douglass Stewart, one of the event’s founders and his two friends decided to start this “happening” in the middle of the most chaotic place in the world – on the day that is considered the “most still”.
Sol (and) stice derive from a combination of Latin words meaning “sun” + “to stand still.” As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky. This major celestial event, results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year.
Now, with an estimated 5,000 people, who have pre-registered from all over the world, this incredible event has corporate sponsors and is endorsed by the Times Square Alliance. Spanning the entire day, with three major classes being taught throughout, there is a wonderful sense of peace in the middle of this crazy, wonderful city. The entire square is blocked off and there is a great sense of camaraderie and community. Everyone is given a yoga mat and a goodie bag as we all find a place to stretch out our yoga mats for class. The day is sunny and bright and everyone seems to have a big smile on their face. If they are thinking like I am, the smiles are coming from the fact that it is just so wonderful to be out here in the middle of Times Square with those who love to do yoga and the almost surreal affect it is having on everyone.
Times Square hosts another, more famous event for another recognized seasonal change and that is New Year’s Eve. In contrast to the maddening joy and revelation people have on New Year’s Eve in this same spot, the teacher of our class asks us to find the inner stillness that is associated with this day. It seems almost easy to do, given where we are, yet I feel it is coming from all around me, this desire to find peace and centered. As I glance around, there are all shapes and sizes, as well as, all level of yogis practicing, yet in this moment we are all in sync and you can almost feel the collective breathe as we go through our sun salutations.
The hour seemed to fly by. Every minute that I could look around, I would. During a twist in one of our asanas or during a warrior pose, I would glance at the center of Times Square and all its participants seeking the stillness, or Yin within the greatest day of Yang. The Chinese mark the day of the Solstice by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light.
The “Yang” of Movement
June 21st is the greatest point of Yang. At this apex, Yang will start to turn into Yin. Yang energy is more masculine, is related to light, sun, brightness, heaven, time, south, east and left. Yang signs are the odd numbered ones. Those belonging to yang energy have a tendency to be more assertive and self-expressive. The aggressive energy of Times Square, New York City is a great example of Yang Energy.
The “Yin” of Stillness
Understand that there is a relevance to the longest day of the year, as the sun peaks at its highest point. Before its transition, it appears to come to an absolute stand still. This is looking at the Yin or transition. Yin energy is more feminine, is related to dark, moon, earth, north, west and right. Yin signs are the even numbered ones. Those belonging to yin energy have a tendency to be more passive and introverted.
The Summer Solstice is the joining of Yin and Yang and therefore the meeting of heaven and earth. As my mind comes back to my mat, I am lying on the ground in corpse pose and I can feel the shaking of the earth as the subway rumbles underneath me. I can’t help but smile, reminding myself of where I am! As the class is ending, I am reminded of some wonderful music that played during the class. It is all music chosen to honor the sun. I would also like to share with you, some of the tunes that made the day even brighter! In conclusion, I would like to leave you with the ability to find your flow of energy in the stillness of these amazing yoga asanas.
Stimulating The Flow Of Energy
Stimulating the flow of energy in our bodies is an easy and beneficial approach to circulate blood, energy and fluids through our system. Movement of any kind is the first step! Stimulating your flow of inner energy will boost your own inner feelings of well-being. This is great for any practitioner who deals with patients and clients. Try this:
1. Find a comfortable seated position, feet placed firmly into the ground, spine straight, hands clasped and relaxed in your lap, eyes closed.
2. Begin with slow rhythmic breathing inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the nose. Your goal is to make the exhale breath twice as long as the inhaling breath. As you concentrate on this breathing, feel your hands and feet start to warm up and your fingers tingle as your energy flow is stimulated.
3. To strengthen this exercise, visualize this energy flow as a red glow passing down your arms and legs with each exhale. As the red energy glow passes through your hands, allow it to radiate up through the center of your body. Red is a warm, generating color. Always follow the breath through your body, visualize it’s path. Lead it to where you want it to go. 5 -10 minutes of this will allow your body to be adequately energized!
Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and Variation
1. Stand erect, feet together, eyes closed. Listen to your body as it breathes. Allow all the tension to relax in the muscles. Let go.
2. Step feet apart, shoulder width. Slowly raise the arms up on both sides with an inhale to shoulder level. Exhale as you feel the blood rush through the arms, palms up.
3. Inhale and raise arms up all the way to the top, bring palms together, as you exhale. Hold this posture for 5 to 10 seconds Breathing through the posture.
4. On your next exhale, lower your arms to a folded position over your head, grasping your elbows with opposite hands. Relax and breath in this posture, holding for 5-10 seconds.
5. Slowly inhale, open up and slowly lower the arms back to your sides.
6. Repeat this exercise four more times. You will create a powerful healing inner energy supply and balanced physical tone.
I have gathered together some of the most beloved music associated with the sun. I hope you add them to the playlist of your life! I call this playlist, Sun Salutation Music!