I really enjoyed using the Summer Solstice Yoga practice, from my Yoga Through the Year book, as my early morning yoga practice this morning. I found it very soothing and it really quietened my mind. It is the go-to cooling practice for hot summer days when you don’t want to do anything too energetic. Perfect for the heatwave we are having here in the UK.
Summer Solstice Yoga Practice
Summer Solstice Yoga Practice Overview
1. Mantra Ma and Arm Movements. Inhale: take arms out to the side. Exhale: bring hands back to the belly, chanting Ma. Stay for one breath with hands resting on belly. Repeat × 6.
2. Ma-Om Kneeling Sequence. Chanting Ma come into Child’s Pose from tall kneeling. Chanting Om sit back into Child’s Pose from all fours. Repeat × 4–6.
3. Seated Forward Bend. Inhale: raise both arms. Exhale: fold forward. Inhale: return to starting position. Repeat × 6, staying for a few breaths the final time.
4. Tortoise Pose. Affirmation: I find peace within. Stay here for a few breaths, drawing your awareness inward. Skip this pose for a gentler sequence.
5. Bridge Pose with arm movements. Inhale: Open heart. Exhale: Blue-sky mind. Repeat × 6, staying for a few breaths the final time.
6a. Bridge Pose. Clasp hands under body and stay for a few breaths.
6b. Bridge Pose with leg raise. Stay for a few breaths. Repeat on other side.
7. Full-Body Stretch into Curl-Up. Inhale: lengthen tall along floor. Exhale: curl up. Repeat × 6.
8. Modified Supine Twist. Exhale: lower both knees toward floor on left, turn head right. Inhale: come back to centre. Repeat × 6, alternating sides, and then stay for a few breaths in each pose on each side.
9. Knees-to-Chest Pose. Rest for a few breaths.
10. Waterfall Breathing.
Waterfall breathing, or the divided out-breath, can be used to calm a restless, agitated mind, inducing a state of deep calm and peacefulness. It soothes anxiety and dispels panic. It helps promote a good night’s sleep. Around the summer solstice waterfall breathing provides a watery counterbalance to the fiery, frenetic energy of the season. It can be found in the Summer Solstice chapter of the Yoga Through the Year book. Allow about 10 minutes.
Find yourself a comfortable sitting position. Bring your awareness to your breathing. No need to control the breath, just allow the breath to establish its own natural rhythm. Now become aware of and focus more on your exhale. Over several breaths begin to gently lengthen the exhale. Never strain with the breathing.
If it feels comfortable, begin to divide each exhale into two equal parts, with a pause in between each part. It looks like this:
Exhale, pause, exhale, and pause.
Imagine that with each part of the divided out-breath you are stepping down a step and then briefly pausing before stepping down another step.
If this feels comfortable, you can then go on to divide the out-breath into three equal parts, with pauses in between each part.
Now, going back to your normal breathing, imagine that you are in a beautiful, peaceful place watching a gently cascading waterfall. Picture the water flowing down steps of rock into a calm pool below. Keeping this image of the cascading waterfall in your mind, return again to the divided out-breath. Imagine that each part your out-breath is like water flowing down a waterfall and onto a ledge, where you pause briefly, and then exhale again, each part flowing down onto another ledge, before finally reaching a peaceful pool, where you pause briefly and then inhale. Repeat over several breaths.
When you feel ready, let go of the divided out-breath and the image of the waterfall. Notice how you are feeling and observe how the waterfall breathing has affected you. Resolve to take this calm, peaceful, open, and spacious awareness with you into your everyday life and the next thing that you do today.
If you prefer, this breathing practice can be used without using the waterfall imagery and will still be deeply relaxing.
Around the Summer Solstice, when the earth is at her most fertile, many traditions celebrate and honour motherhood and the mother aspects of the Goddess. At times of crisis self-care is so important, and now is a great time to practice the skill of parenting yourself. Learning how to “mother” ourselves well is an essential part of our spiritual practice. Of course, we must also remember that nurturing, nourishing, and caring skills are not exclusive to one gender. If we are to be good enough parents, to our children and our grown-up children, then it's essential that we learn to model good self-care to them.
In this post I'll show you how you can use the mantra Ma to nurture and nourish yourself. I will also show you a simple way to incorporate it into your yoga practice. Ma is the basic mother syllable of Indo-European languages. In the Far East Ma represents the “spark of life” and was often defined as intelligence. Chanting the mantra Ma is a wonderful way to induce a sense of peaceful contentment.
Many of you are quarantined at home at present, balancing working from home with home schooling your kids. Respect! You have got a lot on your plate! The beauty of the mantra Ma is that it takes only a few moments to do, it's exhilarating, freeing, a great stress-buster...and...your kids will have great fun joining in!
Mantra Ma Practice
The sequences below are from the Summer Solstice chapter of the Yoga Through the Year book.
1. Mantra Ma and Arm Movements. Find a comfortable seated position. Rest your hands on your belly. Inhale and take your arms out to the side. Exhale and bring your hands back to the belly, chanting the mantra Ma. Stay for one breath, with the hands resting on the belly. Repeat 6 times. If you are short of time end your practice here.
2. Ma-Om Kneeling Sequence. Chanting Ma come into Child’s Pose from tall kneeling. Chanting Om sit back into Child’s Pose from all fours. Repeat × 4–6 times.
You'll find more nurturing, nourishing summer yoga practices in the Summer Solstice chapter of the Yoga Through the Year book.
If you are looking for yoga practices to boost your mood, energise, and calm your system, then try these two yoga practices from my archives that I designed for the month of May (although it's fine to use them anytime of year!). They are short and simple, so perfect for a home yoga practice. Enjoy!
May Yoga Practice 1
May Yoga Practice 2
This Sun Yoga Blessing is taken from my forthcoming Yoga by the Stars book. Due to be published early December 2020.
I dedicate this yoga practice to the Earth, the Sky, the Sun, and the Moon. Today may my feet be firmly planted on the warm earth, may my mind and heart remain open and spacious like the clear blue sky, may the warmth and healing light of the sun invigorate and inspire my practice, may the moon guide me to the wisdom of my own ebb and flow.
Today I especially ask for guidance from the sun. I send thanks to this bright star at the centre of my world, for giving me life and sustaining life on our planet Earth. Please inspire me with your warmth and healing light, so that in turn I may radiate that light back out into the world in a positive and loving way. Breathing in, my own inner sun is recharged and revitalised, breathing out, rays of warm healing light radiate around my body.
Today, I let go of all sense of grasping in my yoga practice. I am grateful for the many blessings I receive. Please give me the patience, wisdom, and trust to stay within the circle.
And so it is by your grace.
Sun Yoga Blessing by Jilly Shipway, from the Yoga by the Stars book.
Jilly Shipway, sharing seasonal yoga ideas and inspiration with you through the year...
Coronavirus: Finding Peace in Troubled Times
The next few weeks look set to be a challenging time as the world tries to find a way through and out of this coronavirus crisis.
Many of you will be self-isolating at home, so over the next few weeks I will regularly post simple, accessible yoga and mindfulness techniques to help you find your calm place in the midst of the storm. I will also post short, simple yoga practices for you to do at home.
Please consult the expert advice in your own country on keeping yourself safe and well during the pandemic.
Please feel free to share ideas and resources that you find in my blog, but please do acknowledge me and my website as their source. Thanks!
Disclaimer: if you have any concerns about your health or suitability to do yoga, please consult a medical professional before attempting any of the yoga routines in this blog.