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Across Cultures, Winter Solstice Marks Celebrations Of Light

Candles, Tea Lights, Yoga by candlelight; Jennifer Sinor taught a candlelit yin yoga class in honor of the solstice. She said it's important to make peace with darkness, especially as we turn to the light.
Faith MacQuarrie, a yoga teacher and student at Transcend Yoga Studio, attended Sinor's candlelit yin yoga class. She said, "it was really cool how we had a lot of turning inward moments and dealing with your own reflection of yourself in stillness."

“The sun is birthed from the darkness every day. And every season," said Andy Rasmussen, a certified Kundalini Yoga and Meditation teacher. "Historically, the celebrations around the solstice are about celebrating the return of the light.”

In western culture, the shortest day of the year is marked, but not necessarily celebrated. With the growing popularity of yoga in the west, more and more people are looking to the solstice as an early version of New Year’s Day — a time to set goals and intentions for the coming year, according to Jennifer Sinor. This is why Sinor, who has practiced yoga for 20 years and taught for 15, offered a candlelit yin yoga class at Transcend Yoga Studio to help students set their intentions before the solstice.

“Often when you think of a new year's resolution, it's something you want to change about yourself. But in the yoga world, when you set an intention, or Sankalpa, is what it's called, you're affirming something that already exists," Sinor said. "So, for example, I am whole, or I am perfect, or I am healed. And it's a really different way of thinking about what it means to move into the New Year.”

Chantel Gerfen, the owner of Transcend Yoga Studio in Logan, said the solstice has always been celebrated in the yoga world. Her studio always has at least one class that focuses on the solstice, but she also tries to offer something special to deepen the practice — like a gong sound bath and Kundalini practice led by Rasmussen. 

Rasmussen said while the popularity of these practices in the west is relatively new, many cultures have gravitated toward celebrating this time of year for thousands of years.

“There's always a celebration around it and Winter Solstice particularly, kind of starting on the day of Solstice and for the next 10 days is, traditionally, a time of real celebration like lightness of spirit, the corresponding to the returning light," Rasmussen said. "And that corresponds obviously with the with the Christian tradition that's moved to the solstice season now of Christmas, Hanukkah, — Hanukkah, which is the Festival of Lights, right? It's all the same thing.”