Author: Birte Bösehans, 24.01.2016
The darkness embraces us
The winter in the north of Europe is dark, cold, often wet and windy. When the days are getting shorter the sun in Berlin rises after 8 am and settles before 4 pm. This fact leaves us with about 7 hours of non-artificial light, which we are often spending in office buildings. The lack of sunlight primarily causes the body to not produce enough Vitamin D, which is the source of numerous diseases for example heart attacks, in addition there is a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder caused by the lack of sunlight and many people experience a change of sleep patterns during the winter months.
A good way to battle against these diseases is exercising and establishing routines that take you out of bed. Yoga practice can really help to achieve this but there is a contradiction in this recommendation because Yoga comes from one of the sunniest countries on earth: India.
Yoga and the sun
Yoga practice has been intertwined with the sun as a symbol for the divine in many ways. The Hindus see the sun, which they call Surya, as both the physical and spiritual heart of our world and the creator of life itself. One of the ways of honouring the sun is through the dynamic asana sequence Surya Namaskara better known as Sun Salutation. This basic series of Yoga postures practiced in nearly every style of Yoga. It is said that in those who salute the sun every day, life expectancy, consciousness, strength, courage and vital power shall grow.
It is highly recommended to practice this series outside of your home or the Yoga studio turning east and facing the rising sun. The best time to do this following Indian philosophy is the hour just before sunrise, which is called “Brahma muhurta” meaning “time of god”. The mind is supposed to be most calm and clear at this time. Ayurveda recommends that one awake at this time every day. That’s why Yogis in India practice the Sun Salutation preferably between 4 to 6 am.
But how can you transform this yoga tradition into a daily practice when the essential sun is missing by the time you have to get up?
We embrace the sun inside
Even during long winters, you can face the sun inside you and stick to a regular yoga practice to help you through these dark days. Start by establishing a routine to which you stick to during summer and wintertime. Find the right point to rise every day so you have enough time without any hurry. Allow yourself to take it slowly when it’s still dark outside but stick to your daily routine. Discover the adequate spot in your apartment to place your mat facing the east preferably close to a window. Let some fresh air enter the room even if it’s cold – it will wake you up. If it is still dark outside light a candle or two in front of your mat and concentrate on the warm light they are spreading across the room.
Sit in a comfortable seating position to start your practice, close your eyes and visualize the sun between your eyebrows. Continue your practice of Sun Salutation looking at the candle, breathing the fresh air and visualize that you have the sun inside your heart. Part of the Sun Salutation is really being able to see the sun inside you. Focus on that and you will be able to survive the short dark winter days.