This article is written by Lena Yakubowski, yoga teacher and communications assistant at the Herbal Academy of New England.
This time of year is busy for many of us. The stores are busting at the seams as people try to get their items needed for holiday cheer, and the roads seem more congested than ever. Constant flickering of computer screens, smart phones, and televisions stream an endless collage of information instantly into our minds.
This Saturday marks the 2013 Winter Solstice, the day in which there is the least amount of light all year. Naturally, when darkness approaches, we should be resting and settling. Winter is a time to reflect and cultivate the changes we wish to seek in our lives. One of the best ways to do this is to stop for moments of meditation.
Meditation comes in many forms, sitting, or moving. Wax on, wax off.
As we finish up last minute to-dos and attend busy social gatherings, we can still remind ourselves to approach everything mindfully. It starts with connection to breath. We can lengthen the duration of our breath and focus on steadying and softening. This connection allows us to open our eyes and truly see what is happening around us.
Through the connection to our breath and physical being, this awareness goes further with enhanced senses of sound, smell, sight, touch, and taste. When we connect to our senses and get out of our head, we enter a world of mindful living.
During the holidays, wrapping gifts for loved-ones can be a moving meditation as you feel the paper between your fingers with deliberation in every fold and application of tape. It could be making and sipping tea. It can even be standing in line and noticing what is happening around you, and simply deepening your breath.
Creating our own rituals to return to a feeling of ease can help us settle and be present. In the winter especially, I have taken up the practice of Ayurvedic Abhyanga. Abhyanga is the term for self-massage. This practice is done in the winter either prior to, or after, a hot bath or shower. This practice is typically carried out in the morning, however, I have found that this practice is a gentle treat in the evening as well.
Using a body oil such as almond, sesame or any blend you wish (we love these massage oils), simply start with your legs moving up to your arms using long strokes up and down and circular counter clockwise motions around the belly for digestion. I also like to massage my heart center in a counter clockwise motion. Try it yourself and notice what you experience from this subtle connection to your heart.
As I start my day, I like to notice the growing light in my kitchen or in my car on the way to work in silence or to soft music. As I end my day and prepare for an evening yoga practice, or cooking meditation, it is often that I take a peek up towards the stars, moon and clouds in the sky of evening wonder.
This Saturday during the Solstice, celebrate and experience your own personal ritual and welcome the gradual extension of light in our day. Simply carve out some time, 5 minutes or an hour, whatever pleases and serves you. Find a quiet space, and settle in to yourself.