We just had our Summer Solstice Yoga Day Retreat this weekend. My third full day retreat and another lovely day with so many beautiful people.
I themed the day around the Summer Solstice and the transition to this doorway into the second half of the year. As a time to celebrate light, heat, warmth and all the powers of the sun that nourish life on earth, it makes for an ideal opportunity to come together as a group to align with the powerful energies that Mother Nature and the Earth provide. In addition, by combining our yoga practice with the cycles of nature and the seasons this helps to keep us connected to the energy of the Universe.
The Summer Solstice is also a great turning point in the Earth’s yearly cycle and an excellent time to stop, be still and look back at our own unique journey since the Winter Solstice. From now until the next Winter Solstice everything on the Earth will be withdrawing within. We can use this time to focus on what we wish to nurture and develop in ourselves during the coming months.
It is a great opportunity to take stock of your life and make any changes you feel you need to make in order to achieve your goals and as such these seasonal turning points lend themselves beautifully to a yoga day where we make time for ourselves and start to connect with our “inner” space.
We started our day with an active “yang” practice, generating heat and working towards a few more challenging “peak” postures which were made accessible to all with the use of various props. I included postures that would energetically support the transition to Summer and in addition that would open the Chakras from the Crown down to the Root just so everyone could experience a different energetic flow.
Our first session led us through to a break for lunch where, as it was a lovely sunny day, most of the group headed outside into the meadow for a picnic lunch to enjoy the sunshine. After lunch we resumed our group practice with a short Kirtan session. I am still building my experience with Kirtan and I wanted to move things along a little from our last retreat day so I brought my Harmonium with me this time and recruited my teenage daughter to take to the Bongos 🙂 I have to admit it ended up being a lot more nervewracking than I had anticipated but I am so glad we did it, both in terms of “me” stepping out of my comfort zone a little and also allowing all those who attended to experience an introduction to devotional chanting. We sang the Shiva Shambho mantra this time and we joined our hearts and voices together both in trying something new and in connecting through sound. It was a wonderful experience and I had some lovely feedback from those who attended.
Our chanting led into a Yin Yoga practice where we took our time to set up postures, to find our edges within the various “shapes” we were making and by resolving to hold the yoga poses for longer and to remain still we allowed our bodies to open up, awaiting an invitation to go deeper. Yin yoga works alongside the principles of the Meridians as in Chinese medicine and so was well suited to our Summer practice exploring the Heart and Small Intestine meridians.
By holding the postures for longer periods of time than would usually be held in a general Hatha practice your body is given time to open up and get deeper into the connective tissues and ligaments and allows for deeper release. Relaxing and challenging all at the same time.
After another short break we moved towards the final part of our day which started with a Drum Journey Meditation where I took everyone on a “journey” using my buffalo drum. Had some amazing feedback about this at the end of the day which I was really pleased about. The idea of drumming as a form of meditation is that the monotonous beating of the drum or rhythmic drumming allows the listener to achieve an altered state of consciousness or to travel on a journey. The drum is considered to be the “bridge” between the physical and spiritual worlds. It helps us get away from our mental chatter and expand our awareness and consciousness and can also provide a way for us to problem solve ourselves by turning inwards and looking for answers.
In an ordinary state of consciousness our brainwaves are in a beta state – when we listen to monotonous drumming, scientific studies have shown that brainwaves slow down initially to alpha state, the beginning of meditation, and then to a theta state, a deep meditative, almost trance like state. Drumming can be so relaxing that some people find themselves falling asleep and I think a few may well have done on the day!
As the Drum Meditation came to an end people got comfy and I led into the sound bath using my Tibetan singing bowls and my Paiste planetary gong in order to take everyone to a still deeper level of relaxation. The basic idea behind a “sound” bath is similar to rhythmic drumming in that the frequencies and sounds emanating from the bowls and the gong become so complex, resembling a variety of instruments played at once, that the brain struggles to categorise them and so our brainwaves begin to “entrain” to the slower frequencies which in turn slows down our thoughts and encourages us into a deeper meditative Theta State, a state in which healing is possible.
Our sound bath brought us to the end of our day together and following on from this it took a good ten minutes to rouse everyone from their deep relaxation but once everyone had returned from their relaxation we closed our practice with a group “Om”.
Just time for a group photo and then everyone slowly made their way home.
It was another lovely day and I received some lovely feedback. I really enjoyed leading it and am already preparing for our next one in October! ૐ