When you sing, your soul is singing. ~ Rabbinic proverb
Have you ever sung while doing your yoga practice? Sung *in* asana?
Well, I will tell you something: it’s one of the most exultant feelings in the world. Often I do this when big emotive pop ballads rotate through on my practice playlist, to the delight and amusement of my neighbors. But on the Summer Solstice, there is some special singing to do. You might have forgotten, or you might remember, that Surya Namaskar has twelve traditional mantric invocations associated with it: epithets of the Hindu sun god Surya. Each one proclaims different powers and attributes of the Sun, as a personified deity but also as a celestial fire.
If you are looking for a ritual for the Summer Solstice, threading these mantras into your vinyasa sequence charges it with magic, delight, and reverence.
I do Sun Salutations as an ordinary, standard part of my daily practice every morning, facing east at the dawn. Singing these mantras as I go through the poses revs them with a holy, connected energy that is perfect for the special occasion of Solstice! Any singing in practice adds and activates another dimension of expressivity. It makes the gestural asana practice mantric, and the mantric practice of chanting gestural, and creates something new between them: a beautiful mode of expression that is characteristic of the Sun’s vibrant glorious coronal generosity.
For this essay meditation, I braided in some thrilling glorifications of the Sun: photographic, musical, and also some cultural celebrations of the Summer Solstice that you might want to add to your (time) travel itinerary. Revering our solar star is one of the oldest forms of worship on our planet. So these are here to inspire you. Do something wonderful in this Solsticetide!
You can live quite a magical life if you simply do something purposeful and out of the ordinary that marks the day, that feels like the essence of the season in your heart. It can be creating something artful, going on a dedicated field trip, meditating, or even watching a special movie. In social media, when we share our experience of holidays through our posts, we create a shared magical imaginative space where many people are celebrating at once.
Honoring the high days of the seasons of Earth tunes you in, makes you able to hear the world, and makes the world better able to hear you. Sensitivity and purposefulness are what matter most. Magic entails and is created by ongoing conversation with the world around you, as well as the deep cosmos within you.
So here are are twelve traditional solar mantras that accompany the Surya Namaskar: one for each round, to be chanted while in Samastitihi before the cycle begins; or to be sung throughout, one for each station within the Salutation itself, whenever the vinyasa pauses in an asana, and fills itself out there, breathing in form. Ready, steady… here we go! AUM… I salute you with love:
AUM MITRAAYA NAMAHA
Friend of all
AUM RAVAYE NAMAHA
AUM SURYAAYA NAMAHA
AUM BHAANAVE NAMAHA
Bright one who illumines
Solstice Time/Travel Itinerary 1: One of the greatest Solsticetide celebrations on the globe is St Petersburg during White Nights. The city is at such a high latitude that the sun barely sets, and the sky swells and glows with light throughout the night. This is a place/time on my Life List to go. During the month of June, the city celebrates Belye nochi with art events and musical festivals, and people stroll the streets all night while the wide Neva River reflects back the glow of a lambent, never-darkened sky.
AUM KHAGAAYA NAMAHA
Traveller of the sky, who pervades all
AUM PUSHNE NAMAHA
Giver of nourishment and fulfillment
Solstice Time/Travel Itinerary 2: For years I have wanted to go to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, held every year to open the swimming season on the week-end closest to the Solstice by pitching offerings of fruit into the sea. This year I finally get to go!
In fact, if you are reading this on Solstice, that is where I am *right now*, in mer-drag and mer-swag with my sister Meredith. Although I’m not sure how seaworthy many of these urban merfolk are, the parade is a pageant of artrageous fantastical fabulosity, a bonanza of creativity—which is the true spirit of Solstice, as the primary energy source of the Sun finds expression and array in the vast, complex spiral of life across the face of its third planet. We are all part of this creation.
AUM HIRANGARBHAYA NAMAHA
Who is brilliant gold in color
AUM MARICHAYE NAMAHA
Healer of disease
Solstice Time/Travel Itinerary 3: Another destination on the world Solstice celebration itinerary is Jāņi, Latvia’s midsummer day. Latvia is basically a pagan country, still in love with the old gods of nature, whom the Soviet Union did not recognize as religion, only folklore, and thus did not stamp them out. Jāņi is most important festival of the Latvian year. Noone sleeps this night: children run wild while men and women go deep into the woods to hunt the elusive ‘fern flower’ (viz., canoodle, because ferns don’t have flowers!). Bonfires burning, beer flows; men crown themselves with oak leaves and women with flowers, and there is much singing because every one in Latvia sings.
AUM ADITAYAYA NAMAHA
Son of the Divine Cosmic Mother
AUM SAVITRE NAMAHA
Primary producer, responsible for all of life
AUM ARKAAYA NAMAHA
Who is worthy of praise and glory
AUM BHAASKARYA NAMAHA!
Bestower of wisdom and cosmic illumination
There, that’s twelve. Now: simmer, reverberate:
“Close your eyes. Let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity.” ~ Jack Kerouac
However or wherever you spend this high Solstice, rejoice in the fullness of your life at its source. “Namaha” is from the same root as “namaskar” and also “namaste:” it means I salute, I bow. I curtsy, I genuflect, I let our hometown hero star caress my face and pour light into my hands.
Loving the Sun is healthy: it affirms your health, it affirms the warm, golden value of your embodied life, your connection to the Universe.
On the Solstice, lift your chin to the sky and let your lover the Sun kiss you back!
Merry Summer Solstice!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Corey Lynn Tucker Photography (via author, used with permission)