From Darkness into Light
It is December. The mornings are dark and calm. Outside, the air is pristine through the chill of longer nights, and pockets of piñon smoke convene against the cold. Lying in bed, stripped of ideas, the emptiness is all there is. Mindfulness-based practices, like Yoga and meditation, say that the mind is clearest at 4am. In the dark and while the world is still, there are no interruptions--our intuition is unencumbered in it's quiet movements between what is known and what isn't.
Yoga, a practice that carves a relationship of attention between us and ourselves, is wildly successful when done in the morning. Things are still simple. Reverence for oneself and the practice is easy. In the quiet of our practice space or studio, a candle is lit, and we feel our body unfettered by agendas, anxieties, hopes, and interactions. We are closest to our non-judging mind and thereby create a space to invite prana--the Universe's energy that sustains us and that we access through breathing practice, pranayama.
Sadhana--a regular practice--means "a way of accomplishing something to achieve an objective," and when done regularly during the quiet of morning, it becomes almost effortless to connect with our own sweet Self, our individual knowing, our unscripted truth. To go about it in the colder mornings, we add a long-sleeved shirt until we've warmed, and keep a sweater or wrap nearby for savasana. And we cultivate our own internal heat.
Practice, at any time of the day, is excellent--the most ideal time to practice is whenever you can do it. But there are benefits specific to morning practice that can set the tone for a different kind of day. For example, early sadhana enforces healthier sleeping patterns as well as increased sensitivity and awareness of the food we eat. It establishes awareness of breath and mental clarity for the rest of the day. It makes our body feel better, lighter, more sensitive and energetic, and instructs us about the limitations necessary to keep in alignment with health. It helps make our dealings with the world something we can manage, from a place of compassion for ourselves and others.
Winter Solstice marks the approach of the Earth along it's graceful path in our Solar System toward it's furthest most point from the Sun. It is that connecting point of the beautiful dark and the light seed of renewal. Our ancestors everywhere have celebrated it for thousands of years. As creatures of this planet, our physical and mental nature also aligns with polarities, like darkness and light. As the planet sources energy in winter for new growth in spring, human beings source strength from the darkest times to be manifested creatively later on.
Mula Banda. Sushumna Nadi. Tapas. Pranayama. These are nature's markers in our bodies that emulate the energetic trajectories of light and gravity between celestial bodies. Mula Banda is the darkest quiet at the root of ourselves, like the Earth on Winter Solstice, from which we glean the first flicker of light. Our Sushumna, or central axis, is the Sun's rays along our midline. Tapas is the heat we generate internally when we focus our intelligence on our axis. Pranayama is the breath, the space within which awareness happens.
Without first going through the darkest night of the year, we cannot go to the delicate light of Spring. Like the sages tell us, we are sweet beings here on Earth to bring awareness and do our work on the ground beneath our feet.
~ Jennifer Ammann