Posts Tagged ‘Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat’

Long Dark Nights of Winter

December 6, 2016

Winter Solstice comes early to Little Renaissance.  Every year, we celebrate a Hatha Yoga Winter Solstice Retreat on the first weekend of December at Little Renaissance.   We celebrate early before the busy-ness of the holiday season takes hold.

Winter Solstice is a time of quiet firelight, a time to nurture dreams.  The dark clear nights reveal the bright stars.  Late at night, I can sit quietly in the hot tub and see shooting stars trailing across the  sky.  I celebrate the shortest day and the longest night of the year with a wonderful group of yogis.  We anticipate the rebirth of the sun and contemplate our own spiritual rebirth.  We see this time of year as a turning point and a time of year to renew energy.

I look out the window and see the garden boxes through sheets of rain.  The garden boxes look spent from having produced so generously all summer long.  Gratefully, the soil lies resting, patiently waiting for the warmer and brighter days of spring.   The resting soil of the cold winter days and nights reminds me that the future holds promise, always.  Come spring, seeds will germinate and take root.  Likewise, I believe the future will manifest our visions and dreams.

For now, while we wait for the rebirth of the sun, we stand still.  Winter Solstice is a time of repose, a time to light the wood stove, stoke up the heat, soak in the hot tub, sit quietly surrounded by lit candles, delve into a good novel, and dream.

Below are photos from our past weekend’s Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat.  This group of yogis has been coming to Ocean Shores biannually for 10 years running!

The dunes leading to the Pacific Ocean beach

The dunes leading to the Pacific Ocean beach

Carol and Skye walking past driftwood

Ready for winter winds: Carol and Skye walking past driftwood

Pretty driftwood log

Pretty driftwood log

Vast Ocean Beach

Vast Ocean Beach  (Skye and Dan)

Remnants of an old boardwalk

Remnants of an old dock

Group Shot I

Group Shot I

Group Shot II

Group Shot II

A Forest Takes Root in the House

A Forest Takes Root in the House

Collage I put together from Skye's photos

Collage I put together from Skye’s photos

Second collage I put together using Skye's photos

Second collage I put together using Skye’s photos


Winter Solstice at the Coast

December 7, 2015

This past weekend at Little Renaissance was stormy and rainy!  We held our annual Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat. We always hold our Winter Solstice Yoga Retreat a few weeks before the actual Winter Solstice because the following weeks get so busy as we approach the holidays.  We had the woodstove burning all weekend and the fire kept us warm, very warm, during our yoga sessions.  We braved the heavy rains yesterday and our hearty group walked and walked, all the way to the jetty and back. We got back to the house, stoked up the woodstove again,  and I collected everyone’s drenched clothing, putting some of it on a drying rack near the woodstove and other articles of clothing into the dryer.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Happy Winter Solstice!

I can say it was a transformational weekend.  We had wonderfully long yoga sessions.  We did headstands and it was a joy to see everyone growing more confident on the headstand bench.  Skye brought hers along so we had two headstand benches to use.  We worked with the Back Mitras, which are thin foam pads to help relieve neck and shoulders.  I also brought out the backless yoga chairs and we did yoga using these special chairs.  I am sure most people would imagine chair yoga to be easy, but chairs are a versatile prop which allow us to do poses that are modified as well as poses that are more advanced.  We did Reverse Triangles, hamstring stretches, hip stretches, core work like reverse plank and high bridges, twists, and a deep full wheel pose (a full backbend) using the chairs.

Below are more photos from our fantastic weekend at the coast.  The rain, wind, cold, and coastal storms did not bother this hearty group.   We enjoyed every second of our weekend together!

Namaste and Happy Winter Solstice.  One of my happiest moments this weekend was when Carol said, “I like to think of Winter Solstice as the beginning of summer!”  Well, it is like passing through the eye of a needle and squeezing through to the other end where days grow longer again!

Rugelach, before getting cut into diagonal pieces.  We eat well here at Little Renaissance and your sweet tooth will be happy, too.

Rugelach, before getting cut into diagonal pieces. We eat well here at Little Renaissance and your sweet tooth will be happy, too.

Our fantastic group of yogis who braved the winter storm today!!!

Our fantastic group of yogis who braved the winter storm today!!!

Kari read the bold part of the poem below.  How well this fit into our weekend:

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace…..

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths … the laughter of god. ”

– John O’Donohue

Here we have the wind calling Kari and Mary to dance (very short video)..Turn up volume: LISTEN to that storm!!!!


Fun playing with the muted light and water reflections

Fun playing with the muted light and water reflections

Trees, Wind, Balance (we really did have strong gusts of wind!)

Trees, Wind, Balance (we really did have strong gusts of wind!)



Being playful in the wind

Being playful in the wind

Winter Solstice Yoga

December 8, 2014
Winter Solstice Yoga!

Winter Solstice Yoga!

Every year, I celebrate Winter Solstice a little early by leading a yoga retreat the first full weekend of December!  I spent this past weekend with a group of lovely yogis.   We did some very long rejuvenating yoga sessions and beautiful walks on the beach.  The full moon graced one of our evening yoga sessions as it peeped through the sky lights and illuminated the room.  The wood stove kept us warm as we stretched, moved, breathed and celebrated life with every movement!

We found a driftwood house on the beach.

We found a driftwood house at Protection Point.

One retreat participant read a passage by Thich Nhat Hanh about breath.  The passage made me think about how breath connects us to light (even during these short winter days), to a sense of peace, to the moment, and to a universal life force flowing within each of us:

When we take a breath, we are light, calm, at ease.  We breathe in such a way that all generations of ancestors and descendants are breathing with us.  Only then are we breathing according to the highest teachings.  We just need a little mindfulness, a little concentration, and then we can look deeply and see.  At first we can use the method of visualization to see all our ancestors making a step with us.  Gradually we don’t need to visualize anymore.  With each step we take, we see it is the step of all people in the past and future.

gull on driftwood with incoming tide

Today’s Winter Beach Scene: gull on driftwood with incoming tide

After I taught this morning’s yoga session here at Little Renaissance in Ocean Shores, Laurie led the group into a Loving Kindness Meditation.  Below I include a transcript of the Loving Kindness Meditation.  My teacher, Vikashananda, told us that if you have a difficult person in your life and you practice this Loving Kindness Meditation with that very person in mind for a given period of time (he suggested doing this daily for one month!), your relationship  will improve greatly!  I love this meditation and hope you will get a chance to practice it:

Taking your usual posture for meditation… feeling your body where it makes contact with the support beneath you, and settling in…

And when you are ready, bringing to mind someone who is easy to feel loving kindness towards… someone from the past or present, perhaps a child, or a pet… an easy, simple relationship may be best…

Allowing yourself to hold them in your awareness perhaps seeing them in your mind’s eye or perhaps feeling a sense of them in your heart… can you feel a sense of loving kindness towards them?

As you hold them in your awareness, beginning to send wishes of loving kindness to them …. Silently repeating these phrases

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you live with ease

This process is repeated by calling to mind:

  • someone to whom you feel neutral towards
  • a person whom you dislike or someone who is very difficult to be around
  • your family
  • all sentient beings in your world

At the very end, call to mind yourself and say to yourself:

May I be safe

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I live with ease

May we be safe, may we be

May we be safe, may we be happy, may we be healthy, may we live with ease

Lastly, I want to mention that on Friday evening, I cooked a Senegalese dinner!  I made Mafe and Poulet Yassa (recipe links below) along with roasted yams and a great big salad.  The dinner was absolutely delicious and a big hit!  I wonder why I don’t cook Senegalese dishes more often?  I had some Senegalese music playing and, just for the fun of it, I also wore an outfit I had made when I was in the Peace Corps. I still remember buying the beautiful fabric and going to the market to ask the tailor to make my outfit.  Crazier yet, the outfit still looks brand new and fits me as if I just bought it…I had it made in 1985.  Vintage Batik!

Mafe (peanut sauce and vegetables served over rice)

Poulet Yassa (Chicken and onions in a lemon sauce)

Happy Winter Solstice!

Winter Solstice Yoga!

Winter Solstice Yoga!

%d bloggers like this: