Jenny Beeken – Principle of the Inner Yoga Trust
Advent Snow has brought many of us to a sudden slow down. This time, from the 31st October-Samhain or Halloween (hallowed eve) – the ancient Celtic new year, until the 21st December, the winter solstice, when the sun is at its lowest point and the nights are at their longest, is a time when the earth is in its quiet phase, resting ready for a new beginning, a new season. So it is an excellent time to deepen and lengthen our yoga practice.
Our current western civilisation goes to the opposite extreme of that in its rush up to “Christmas”, hence we get very hectic, overdone and maybe eventually “unwell”. So maybe the snow is timely, giving us time to reflect, maybe practice more, meditate more, and generally have a quieter time.
As I write the trees look so beautiful, laden with crisp crystal white snow, a symbol for the steadiness and endurance of winter, the air is very quiet, the hush the snow creates is such a relief from the busy-ness.
In ancient Celtic times the people would have been honouring the earth at this time, having respect for the withdrawing time needed to gather energy for the next phase the coming new year.
The ancient megaliths such as Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in England, Callanish on the Isle of Lewis, the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and New Grange just outside Dublin in Eire are all aligned to the rising of the sun on the winter or summer solstice. Why was this time and this alignment so important in those ancient times?
Recent research show that many monoliths and megaliths are very accurate (more accurate than our measurements) sun and moon calendars.
“The ultimate goal for a calendar designer is to produce a soli-lunar calendar-where the two cycles of the sun and moon can be completely integrated. The culture which produced the earliest constructions at Stonehenge, around 3000 BC, solved this task better than anyone else has since, leaving a legacy of calendric excellence and soli-lunar wisdom for later generations to decode.”
Robin Heath-Sun, Moon and Stonehenge
There was a dramatic photo of the sun hitting the marble stones and penetrating right through to the central chamber at New Grange in the Irish Times last December, so look out for that or better still go to one of these places or somewhere you can feel the earth around 21st/22nd December the time of the solstice. You can go into the stones at Stonehenge if you arrive before sunrise either 21st or 22nd (check with English Heritage or Stonehenge) as it varies according to actual time of solstice when sun moves into Capricorn each year.
This year the full moon falls at 8.15am on 21st December and there is a total lunar eclipse at 8.18am, this is very near to the time of sun rise in Great Britain and Ireland so will be a significant time for meditation, practice and visiting special places of the earth, and asking questions about our life on earth both personally and globally.
Hopefully you will have a chance to notice that the moon at this time is very high in the sky-shedding it’s wonderful, silvery clear light in the long hours of darkness enhancing our evening meditations and connecting us to the sky above as well as the earth below.
The ancient megaliths also accurately measured the extreme positions of the moon. At Callanish these measurements spread over stones miles away from the central cross of stones.
In your yoga practice see how it feels to focus on such postures which relax the head down so quieten the activity of the mind, such as Uttanasana, standing forward bend, and connect from the base to the crown, Paschimottanasana, taking the West of the body forward towards the East, nurture and quieten the whole self in Salamba Sarvangasana, shoulder stand. Vrkasana, tree pose, giving steadiness of mind and body.
Stand outside in the countryside or with a tree in Tadasana, meaning “as it is” but called mountain pose, to feel your connection to the Earth and heavens. See if this makes a difference to you in what can be a manic and straining time but really needs to be the opposite.
Advent is the first few days of December, it means “the coming, arrival, first appearance” and is the time when the Sun reaches its earliest setting time around 4pm in the UK and stays setting at the same time each day until 24th December, Christmas eve, when the afternoons start to lengthen again.
Epiphany is the 6th January, meaning “sudden appearance, revelation or insight”, is when the morning Sun starts rising earlier, just after 8am in the UK (exact times varies according to latitude-see weather section in a newspaper), it has risen at the same time since the Winter Solstice.
This means the there is a “standing still” of the Sun between the 21st and 24th December, wouldn’t this then be an excellent time for a retreat?
Maybe we could set up a retreat time next year 2011, prepare ourselves for the momentous 2012 – if you would be interested on coming on a retreat – maybe near New Grange in Ireland or somewhere similar -any suggestions? Do get in touch.