If you’re in the Midwest and you’ve noticed that you haven’t been in the water yet, don’t worry, summer starts NOW. Let me remind you, a few months ago we were locked inside for a polar vortex, and as recently as May we saw snow flurries in Wisconsin. These are truly the days we’ve been anticipating, so even if they aren't as balmy or sunny as we’d prefer, they are what we have and they are affording us adventure.
I had the pleasure of meeting Leda Olmsted last summer at Great Lakes Shred Camp and admired her connection with nature - it was visible in the way she spoke, moved, and approached basically everything. She was full of gentle encouragement in pushing through comfort zones to find what we needed to take or learn in the moment. I’m so thrilled that she's so generously sharing with us some of that same wisdom and tools to help ring in and truly celebrate the summer solstice.
The summer solstice is the time to dance in the light of abundance. Energy is at its highest for the year, which makes it the ideal time to admire all that has come to life around us. Summer is the yang to winter’s yin, so you may feel a strong outward pull to be social, make connections, and move through life with a sense of freedom and optimism.
The energy of summer is comparable to the energy of a full moon, bright, abundant, alive with possibility. Not only is our physical energy vibrating higher, our emotional energy is as well. Everything is heightened during this time of the solar calendar, so we must be cautious not to over extend and burn the candle at both ends.
The element associated with the heat of summer is of course fire. There’s no better way to start the season than celebrating with a bonfire to release and reassess your intentions from this point on. Similar to fire rituals that can be done during a full moon, a summer solstice bonfire can help you reflect on all that has brought you to this point of abundance, and what needs to be left behind in order to move forward to new possibilities with a sense of lightness and freedom.
Take some time to connect with nature and start a bonfire. Bring along your journal and pen of course. Once your fire is well lit, take a moment to sit and gaze into the flame. Be still in silence and listen to all of the life around you, the birds, the breeze, the crackle of the fire. Sit here and reflect with a sense of gratitude. Trust that all the seeds of possibility that you planted during the spring are now coming to life. If you feel as though some of your past hopes and intentions are not coming forth, then trust that there is a time and place for them, and they will come when they are ready. Focus on a sensation of feeling full in your chest. Breathe into the center of the heart and really feel this fullness within.
Now take a few moments to journal the following questions.
In what ways is my life full of abundance?
What do I have to be grateful for in this moment?
What is on my summer bucket list?
How can I shift my goals to realign with my passions/inner fire?
Where can I invite more time to play?
What limiting thoughts/patterns/ beliefs (maybe from this past winter/spring) are holding me back? Write these unwanted emotions/thoughts down on pieces of individual paper. Place them into the fire, watch them burn, and feel a sense of freedom come over you.
Finally write down new uplifting mantras/beliefs/thoughts to replace the old. Use these to refer to throughout the summer to a boost in confidence.
Summer (like the full moon) is directly related to the energy of the very top of the inhalation where possibility is prevalent and you feel eager to approach challenges. Take 5 minutes to breath while counting the length of each inhale and exhale. Try to breath in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 6, out for the count of 4, and then begin again. Placing focus on the pause at the top of the inhale. The space of the breath should feel full and alive.
Rounds of Sun Salutations:
Of course the best way to build fire is by getting lost in the rhythm of sun salutations. But to put a twist on these for the summer solstice, place emphasis on the expansion and length that you create on each of your inhale breaths. Also at the top of each upward salute, focus on a gentle backbend to open and expand the frontal body.
Deep low lunges are ideal for priming the frontal body for expansion. Similar to above, let your focus be on the flexibility of the spine. Play with deep backbends in your lunge, as well as lateral lengthening. Leaning towards the same side as your bent front knee creates space in the side of the body for more breath to fill the lungs. Example: if the right foot is forward in a low lunge release your right fingers to the floor/block outside your right hip and feel a long stretch through the front and sides of the left side of the body. Again here, focus on your inhale, but be more specific and breathe in more deeply to the left side of your body.
Wheel is the ultimate summer yoga pose. It creates energy and opens the body up to possibility by playing with the flexibility of the entire frontal side of the body and opening our body energetically to all that is heading our way. Tip, if the shoulders are tight, try this pose with your hands on blocks, opposite of that, if your quads feel tight, attempt with your feet on the blocks. To modify to bridge pose as super beneficial option.
Summer is all about freedom, youthfulness and possibility and there is no better way to celebrate you than a happy baby pose that is unique to what your body calls for. So lay down in the sun, pull your knees to your chest, and wiggle away. Smile, roll, bend and straighten the legs. Get a little jiggy with it, maybe even shake out your arms and legs like a June bug stuck on its back. Have fun, embrace your unique light and move from a place of freedom and possibility.
Other ideas & observations from Katherine:
Nature is in full bloom. Slow down. Nourish your senses. Do the things that only this season affords you: pick fruit, swim, walk barefoot, be social.
Enjoy late nights as the sun sets late and or early mornings as the sun rises early. Nature is truly calling us to interrupt our routines and be with it. If you’re waking up earlier and staying up a bit later, know that your body might naturally be ok with a bit less sleep during this time. Don’t feel bad about flexing with that, let the sunset and rise dictate those rhythms.