This year the summer solstice fell on Monday the 21st of June, the same day as International Yoga Day!
It’s not a coincidence that the two events fell on the same day. When the UN proposed and established International Yoga Day the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, suggested the date of the 21st of June, as it’s usually the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and shares a special significance in many parts of the world.
Solstices happen twice a year – in June and December. The June solstice happens somewhere between June 20th and the 22nd, most often falling on the 21st. The December solstice takes place somewhere between December the 20th and 22nd, again most often falling on the 21st. Solstice comes from the Latin words sol, meaning Sun, and sistere, meaning to come to a stop or standstill. On the solstice, the Sun, as seen from the Earth, appears to stand still.
Since prehistory, the summer solstice has been marked by festivals and rituals. More recently the summer solstice has been seen as a time of celebrating the sun’s warmth and light and it’s with this in mind that it has become customary in yoga classes to perform sun salutation type sequences at this time of the year.
Gestures of honouring and paying reverence to the natural world are part of a yoga practice that encourages us to appreciate and feel more connected to the rhythms of life. In a world of uncertainty, a feeling of connection to the changing seasons can bring great comfort. Quoting India’s Prime Minister “Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature.”
You may have heard of the ritual of performing 108 Sun Salutations around the summer solstice. I’ve organized and taken part in 108 Sun Salutations a number of times for charity and enjoyed the challenge, but it’s not for everyone. It’s important to me that everybody can practice yoga and with that in mind, to celebrate the last summer solstice, I held an online (because of lockdown) accessible yogathon, and this year I had the great pleasure of repeating the event outside. I call the yogathon accessible, meaning that although we practiced dynamic salutation type sequences together, participants didn’t have to have a particular athletic ability to take part. I demonstrated various example sequences, including chair sun salutes. Those taking part could follow along with me, modify or use a sequence of their own.
Though we may have been making different shapes, for an hour and a half we were out in the park, moving and breathing together, honouring and paying reverence to the warmth and light of the sun, celebrating the summer solstice, and raising money for our local Bexley Women’s Aid.
Thanks so much to the 16 yogis who braved the unknown elements of outside and uncertain weather and came together on Saturday the 19th of June to practice an hour and a half of sun salutes to raise money for this really important cause. And many thanks to all who sponsored us and supported our efforts. Together we raised £745! Well done yogis!
Raising funds for Bexley Women’s Aid couldn’t be more timely. I think we all know that domestic abuse has risen over the lockdowns, including the murder in Bexley of Suzanne Winnister by her husband. Lesser known is that domestic abuse also rises over football tournaments. In particular, reported domestic abuse rises in Engalnd when the England Men’s Team plays in international tournaments. With the UEFA European
A special thanks to the Parks and Open Spaces Team at Bexley Council who made it possible to use the park and pulled out all the stops to have the grass cut in time.
And to the Bexley Branch of the Women’s Equality Party for supporting and promoting this event.