How to Plan a Winter Solstice Personal Yoga Retreat

Winter Solstice

 

“Winter Solstice”

No more hurry

hurry,

time now for firelight

and dreaming,

for church bells

mingling

with the cold, quiet sunlight.

And somewhere

deep

inside of you

a kernel of courage

unfurling –

each day, more light.

– Irene Latham


“If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.” 

A friend once shared this tidbit of wisdom with me, and it still rings true whenever my plans fall apart. I had every intention of focusing on my practice for the month of December but my immune system has been on the ropes from three consecutive colds.

Thankfully I’ve had a chance to regroup, just in time for the Winter Solstice. In some ways it’s better to start a Personal Yoga retreat now because I’ll have fewer distractions over the holidays.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to merge working life seamlessly with your practice. But according to the great Sage Patanjali, the first of 13 Obstacles on the Yogic Path is sickness. There isn’t much we can do until we’re feeling better. So incubation is key, which falls in line with the power and presence of the Winter Solstice.

Winter Solstice Retreat

I like to begin a Personal Yoga retreat with a few simple preparations. These are especially beneficial if you haven’t been feeling well or have low energy from holiday season burnout. I recommend starting with Saucha, the second Niyama (observance) of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga.

The Niyamas are foundational practices that relate to our internal world. Saucha means purity or cleanliness of our internal and external worlds. When we engage in Saucha on an external level (such as our bodies), we are also affecting the internal (mind and spirit) parts of our beings.

If my house isn’t clean I have a hard time focusing on anything. So I like to practice Saucha with a thorough and intentional cleaning of my home environment. A few of my Saucha materials include:

  • White Vinegar Spray: Great for counter-tops, bathrooms and floors (dilute 50/50 with water).
  • Baking Soda: Mix with vinegar spray to create a paste for sinks or tubs.
  • Essential Oils: Lavender and Tea Tree are powerful antiseptics. Add a few drops to a sponge or mix with grain alcohol for a DIY air freshener. (For more information, read Freshen Indoor Air Naturally )

I love the way burning candles and diffusing essential oils can lift the feeling of a space. [Fun fact: I recently learned that burning dried sage can reduce airborne bacteria.] Another nice touch is a vase of fresh flowers in clean water.

I like to conclude a meditative house cleaning with a hot shower and a fresh set of clean clothes. These simple steps clear my mind so that I can drop more easily into my practice and refill my “cup.”

I hope these tips spark your imagination with creating your own Winter Solstice Retreat.

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Personal Retreat Reflections

Personal Retreat ReflectionsI’m on a personal retreat right now and have been diving into my practice. I’ve wanted to take an inner-teacher sabbatical during the holidays for years. I feel blessed to have an abundance of uninterrupted practice time. It puts me back into alignment with my own rhythms. And my inclination is to find ways to share this bounty with others. So here goes…

Winter is a time for hibernation.

The life-giving source of energy that comes from the sun is in short supply. Winter is also the season when apana, the downward current of energy is most prevalent. Apana is the force of energy that governs elimination in the body (excretion, urination, menstruation). Psychologically, it’s best described as a state of introversion. In nature it’s the force that draws sap down into the tree’s roots.

The holiday season presents an interesting counterbalance, which typically requires a great deal of output – emotionally, socially, financially, and physically. These cultural pressures don’t necessarily align with the laws of nature. Being extroverted can be very challenging when we’re disconnected from our natural rhythms. And with so much emphasis on externalization it’s easy to fall into the mental trap of thinking that we are not enough.

We might try to power through the season like a marathon runner but that’s a great way to make ourselves sick. Eating foods that we don’t typically eat, drinking excess amounts of alcohol and running around in the cold can take a significant toll on our physical health. Over stimulation and stress can make us feel like we’re wearing an invisible suit of armor.

While it is possible to cultivate energy through the holidays, it’s very important that we have enough gas in our tanks. So how to do this? Here are some simple suggestions of ways to practice “refilling your cup.”

  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of room temperature, filtered water.  Add a little fresh lemon or lime juice if you have them on hand.
  • Eat the most beautiful food.
  • Be mindful of CATS (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, sugar).
  • Turn off your television.
  • Avoid violent movies and fear-induced media hype.
  • Go outside and spend time in nature.
  • Don’t read the news when you’re eating.
  • Go to bed when you’re tired or take a nap.
  • Slow down.
  • Meditate. Light a candle or sit by a fireplace (the ultimate television).
  • Exercise. Move in ways that your body enjoys.
  • Breathe. A lot.
  • Relax in the sunshine.
  • Play, laugh, love.
  • Drink tea.
  • Sing your songs.

What are some other ways to nourish your spirit during this time of year? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.