moon salutation sequence for winter solstice

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Moon Salutation Sequence for Winter Solstice

The winter solstice, usually occurring around December 21, marks the longest night of the year. Around the world, many cultures celebrate the winter solstice with festivals, rituals, and unique traditions. You can create your own tradition with a Moon Salutation Sequence.
 
If you’d like to learn more about living yoga on and off the mat, you might want to check out these additional posts:
 

📓 If you’d like to teach a full yoga class around the winter solstice and moon salutations, you can find those resources inside the Yoga Sequencing Society.

Prefer videos? You can see the Moon Salutation Sequence in action!

what is the winter solstice

The word “solstice” comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). The longest night of the year symbolizes the death and rebirth of the sun.

This time of year ushers in a slower, quieter time with colder weather, and a chance to rest and restore your energy for spring.
 
Candles, light, lanterns, fires, and purification play a significant role in the winter solstice traditions and many of our Christmas celebrations can be traced back to solstice practices.
 
Practicing a moon salutation sequence is the perfect way to celebrate the slower, quieter time of the winter solstice.

what is a moon salutation

A moon salutation, also called Chandra Namaskar in Sanskrit, refers to a sequence of yoga postures that helps practitioners activate the parasympathetic nervous system and prepares them for rest.

You might be more familiar with sun salutations which focus on building heat and strength, and have more upper body postures like updog and chaturanga.

Moon salutations are the complement to sun salutations. They have cooling and relaxing qualities, use low-impact asanas, and focus on lower body stretching.

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BENEFITS OF moon salutations

Like all of yoga, practicing moon salutations regularly has many physical and mental benefits:

  • Stretches the lower body
  • Increases range of motion in the hips
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Improves sleep
  • Calms the nervous system
  • Soothes your mind
  • Balances yin and yang energy
winter solstice quote

how to practice the moon salutation sequence

Also similar to sun salutations, there are many variations you can practice for moon salutations.

Since this flow is designed to bring you into rest and digest mode, practice moon salutations at the end of a heated class, during the full moon, or at night when you need to wind down for sleep.

To complete one cycle of a moon salutation sequence, you work through nine postures on one side, then reverse the sequence on the other side until you return to the first posture.

You can watch the video to see how to complete a moon salutation.

When practicing moon salutations you can start on either the right or left side. For demonstration purposes, I have started on the right side. As you move through the sequence, remember to breathe deeply and connect into the slow, gentle movements.

1. mountain

Mountain 2020

Start with your feet hips-width distance apart and your weight even distributed through the soles of your feet. You can bring your hands together at your chest and take several deep breaths.

2. SIDE STRETCH

mountain side stretch

Inhale and extend your arms overhead. Exhale and lean to the RIGHT, stretching through your side body. Keep your feet grounded and legs engaged. Come back to center.

3. Goddess

Goddess

Step your RIGHT foot out wide to the side, turning your toes out slightly. Exhale and bend your knees. You can extend your arms overhead, bring them into goal posts, or extend them out straight.

4. five-pointed star

5 point star

Straighten your legs, extending your arms out to your side. Keep weight evenly grounded through the soles of your feet. Lift energetically through your legs, standing strong.

5. triangle

moon salutation triangle

Turn your RIGHT toes to the short side of your mat and windmill your arms around and down. Use a block under your right hand if you need.

6. pyramid

pyramid

Twist and fold at your waist, bringing your left hand down to your RIGHT. You can keep the front knee slightly bent, adjust your back foot, or use a block under your hands.

7. kneeling lunge

moon salutation lunge

Bend your RIGHT knee and drop your left knee to the mat, coming into a runner’s lunge. You can keep your hands on the ground, or lift up and bring them to your knees.

8. side lunge

moon salutation side lunge
half butterfly - Edited

Keeping your RIGHT knee bent, turn your toes and torso toward the long side of your mat. Then extend your left leg to the side.

Alternative: From kneeling lunge, sit on the mat and come into a half butterfly facing the front side of your mat.

9. garland

moon salutation garland
Butterfly

Shift your weight, bending your left leg and coming into a low, wide squat. Hold and breathe deeply for several counts.

Alternative: Practice butterfly instead of garland.

repeat moon salutation sequence

When you’re ready, repeat the sequence in reverse:
 
10. Side-lunge with your LEFT knee bent, facing the front. (Alternative half-butterfly)
 
11. Kneeling lunge with your LEFT knee bent, turning toward the short side of your mat.
 
12. Pyramid with LEFT leg in front.
 
13. Triangle, keeping LEFT hand down and rotating your right arm to the sky.
 
14. Lift into Five-Pointed Star
 
15. Bend your knees for Goddess.
 
16. Bring your feet together, side stretching to the LEFT side.
 
17. Finish in Mountain.

more ways to celebrate winter solstice

If you’re looking for more ways to honor and celebrate the winter solstice, or are curious as to how other cultures recognize this important astronomical event, you can try one (or several) of the following traditions:

#1 Enjoy a winter feast

Many cultures celebrate with with a huge feast, like the ancient Romans during Saturnalia, or the Feast of Juul.

The Saturnalia festival celebrated the end of the planting season and honored the Roman God Saturn who ruled over agriculture. This ancient feast is most closely associated to the modern celebration of Christmas.

The Feast of Juul was a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at the time of the December solstice. The present-day custom of lighting a Yule log at Christmas is believed to have originated in the bonfires associated with the feast of Juul.

For your own winter feast tradition, incorporate foods that are sacred to this time of year such as spices and oranges. Apples are also seen as year-round symbols of the sun.
 

#2 Decorate and indoor or outdoor tree

In ancient times, solstice trees were decorated with candles, known as yule tree lights, and adorned with ornaments that symbolized the sun, moon, and stars.
 
The Christmas tree is just one of the many traditions borrowed from early pagan or earth-based solstice rituals. For example, live evergreen trees called Yule Trees or winter solstice trees were brought into the home and decorated because they are considered eternal symbols of life.
 

#3 Make a traditional Wassail drink

Wassail is a warm cider-like drink perfect for sipping. In a saucepan, combine 2 quarts apple cider, 1 1/2 cups orange juice, 3/4 cup pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, 2 cinnamon sticks, a dash of ground cinnamon, and a dash of ground cloves.
 
Bring all ingredients to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Discard the cinnamon sticks, pour into mugs, and serve.
 

#4 Have a releasing ritual

Set your intentions for the new year while also releasing regret, disappointments, and failures of the current year. Fill in slips of paper with what you want to release and burn the paper. A more traditional practice of releasing is to burn a yule log.
 

#5 DIY winter solstice ornaments.

These ornaments are both fun to make and provide an offering to feathered and furred outdoor friends. The easy bird feeders are made with dried orange slices, pine cones, peanut butter, and birdseed.
 

#6 Take a hot bath with citrus fruits

In Japan, during Toji, they honor the winter solstice by filling a hot bath with yuzu citrus fruits. This is believed to refresh one’s body and spirit, ward off illness, and soothe dry winter skin.
winter solstice tradition

winter solstice self-care

Whether you choose to practice the moon salutation sequence for the winter solstice or one of the other traditions mentioned, spend some time this season taking care of yourself.

Honor the rhythms of nature in your own life. The plants and trees are dormant so their roots can store energy for the growing stage of spring. Be like the plants and give yourself permission to let this be a season of less work and more rest.

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