As we look toward the light in anticipation of the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere on June 21—and International Yoga Day—the summer solstice is a time to invite fire into our lives and an opportunity to burn away all that we have outgrown and all that no longer serves us.
This proverbial ‘burning away’ is a purification; a disintegration of impurities within the body and mind. What becomes revealed is the true self at its most radiant core—an empowering illumination of the solar plexus chakra, the fiery energetic center of the body where one’s true essence, purpose wit and even ego are forged.
The yoga sutras describe this energetic cleansing as Saucha. Through simple and continued refinement, the body, thoughts and emotions become clearer manifestations of the self within. Saucha reveals our true joyful nature, and for many of us, this yearning for knowing the self only continues to blossom.
Think of the practice of Saucha as a fine-tuning or polishing of the soul. As the Sun hovers patiently above the horizon, the Soulstice encourages us to look within, remembering what we are and where we came from. Much like the brightest star in our solar system, we too create life with our own light.
It is no wonder then why the International Day of Yoga is also honored at the summer solstice. To ritualize the repetition of purification, we can turn to our yoga practices to attract abundance as we celebrate nature’s bounty, and cultivate patience as we settle into the slowness of those long, summer days ahead.
The following soulstice-powered yoga sequences are rooted in dynamic movement and designed by intuition, to awaken your core and keep your fire lit.
Downward Dog Pushups
When the core is activated in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) by incorporating bent knees, the body can more readily establish equilibrium in the distribution of weight in hands and feet, making the shape more sustainable. From Downward Dog, inhale to the balls of the feet to bend thighs in toward heart, keeping the head heavy and neck relaxed, exhaling to press the thighs back and down. Repeat a few times, keeping the sit bones high and wide. Then, incorporate Plank Pose by using the strength of the core and engaged legs to press out and forward on an inhale; exhaling back to Dog Pose with bent knees. Continue to repeat as slow or as swift as you like.
Yoga is a dance of the soul. Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with feet placed hips width apart and palms turned out. Inhale both arms to lift overhead, grabbing hold of the right wrist with left hand and exhale, stepping the ball of your right foot behind you, gently bending both legs to invoke more sensation within stability. Inhale to step the right foot back as arms reach overhead, exhaling over to the other side. Move with the rhythm of breath; linking breath to movement and repeating this side-to-side shoulder stretch and glute strengthener up to 4x each side.
Add more fuel to the fire by inviting movement and fluidity into Chair Pose (Utkatasana), making an otherwise static asana a little more interesting. From Chair Pose, inhale to sweep the hands down and back as the heels lift, finding balance and strength in the balls of the feet, coming into Diver’s Pose with the heart and gaze lifted skyward. Exhale to lift the palms overhead and ground the heels back down. Repeat up to 4x, syncing movement with breath.
Dynamic Warrior III
In preparation for flight one must first accept that failure is possible. And be okay with that. Shift weight into the right foot and inhale both arms overhead, lifting the left knee bent at about 90 degrees and flexing through the heel. Exhale, and slowly, steadily, trust-fall toward the earth below, hinging forward at the waist and sweeping the palms behind you, drawing the navel in to engage the abdominal wall. Inhale to step the lifted left foot long behind you, sweeping the arms overhead and entering a Crescent Lunge with the back heel lifted. Take a deep breath in, then exhale to draw the hands back behind you as the left knee lifts all the way in toward the chest, rooting to rise in the standing foot. Once you’ve completed the cycle, take a deep breath in and then do it again, giving yourself another opportunity to try before switching sides.
Being a yogi is being at ease with what is, not necessarily the performance of some superhuman feat of strength or flexibility. So whenever challenges arise, it is a chance to meet ourselves head on—exactly where we’re at from one moment to the next—and face the ego. From Chair Pose, exhale to twist to the right and open the palms, drawing the left hip crease back to ensure the pelvis is still neutral and facing forward. Shift weight into left foot and inhale to straighten through the leg while still continuing to twist the torso to the right, drawing the navel in for stability. On an exhale, hinge forward and reach forward with the left fingertips, sending the right palm skyward, coming into Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana). Take a deep breath in, then exhale to slow and steadily sweep the lifted leg down and around in front of you, bending through the knee once again to lift yourself back up to stand. As the fingertips float from the ground, think of energetically rising with ease, whether you stumble or not, returning to where you began in one fluid motion. Smile as you take your seat back into Chair Pose, and then smile bigger as you repeat on the other side.
Move energy around in the hips and glutes while stabilizing the core in this variation on a side lunge (Skandasana). From Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana), inhale to windmill the arms over head and wide, turning both feet parallel (with heels in, toes facing out) and sinking into a Goddess stance. Inhale to cross hands over heart, and then exhale to open the arms out like wings as you sink low into the back foot, bending the back knee and straightening through the front leg. Inhale to come back through center, crossing hands over heart (opposite hand on top this time), exhale to open arms wide and sink low to the other side. Use the musculature of your wingspan to gather energy in and then release it outwardly to liberate your body, elevate your mind and give your spirit the courage to soar. Ca-caw!
To complete the circuit, continue using the breath to shift you from side-to-side, ultimately sinking back into the front knee and then framing that foot with both hands, returning to Parsvottanasana.
Photo & Video by Beth Kessler Photography
Yogi model Andrea Rice outfitted in adidas x Wanderlust
Andrea Rice is a writer and yoga teacher in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Yoga Journal, NY Yoga + Life, SONIMA, mindbodygreen and other online publications. Connect with Andrea on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and her website.1