We are in the middle of a heat wave here in Appalachia (and in much of the rest of the country). Summer was my favorite season as a kid, but these days my melting point has significantly decreased. I feel sapped by early afternoon and cannot handle spicy foods right now. Yet with the first day of summer just around the corner on June 21st, I am itching to celebrate! You may already know that solstices and equinoxes are widely honored turns of season the world-over, and that summer solstice is an opportunity to connect with the sun's vibrant, active, creative energy. So here I've collated some possibilities for my personal festivities and hope you find a little inspiration, too.
Warm up your Yoga practice
Surya namaskaram (sun salutations) are an easy go-to if you have a regular āsana practice. There's no need to go wild and do 108 of them; do just enough rounds to bring a feeling of warmth or vitality into your body, without getting out of breath. Bonus points if you can wake up early enough to practice with the sunrise!
The Gayatri Mantra is a beautifully invocatory chant that essentially calls for illumination through divine grace. It is associated with the sun, which shines light on our physical world, and thus it is usually chanted in the morning. Countless recordings are available on Spotify and YouTube if you want to learn this special chant.
Surya bhedana ("piercing the sun") is an alternate-nostril prāṇāyāma practice that creates a heating effect. It involves inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left. I encourage you to learn from your teacher or mentor before attempting on your own.
Play with fire
One of the longest-standing traditions of summer solstice is a night-long bonfire, complete with singing and dancing until dawn. (If you're like me and can't stay awake past 10 pm, continue to the next points.)
Light a candle - or several - at sunset and allow the flame to burn until bedtime. Use your journal or sketchbook for reflection, and when you finish make a wish before blowing out the candle.
Heat up your oven and bake a sweet treat - this recipe for cardamom tea cookies should do the trick!
Call a friend and try a new activity together - maybe there's a natural spring nearby you've been wanting to dip in, or a ropes course that would challenge your fear of heights. Maybe you've always secretly wanted to go horseback riding or to try your hand at archery. Do something that takes you out of your element...and into the elements!
Volunteer for a hiking trail maintenance crew, help a neighbor with yard work, or simply pick up the litter you encounter near home or work.
Bring the outdoors in with a bundle of wildflowers or a fresh bouquet from your local florist.
Eat local, in-season foods
Whether purchased, foraged, or plucked from your garden, gather a variety of the fruits, veggies, and herbs growing in your area right now (and put down the imported avocados for a week). As you transform the produce into a meal, give thanks to the sun, earth, water, animals, and other people that helped transform so many seeds into this delicious harvest on your plate.
Mindfully prepare a simple salad drizzled with fancy raspberry vinaigrette dressing.
Slowly enjoy a seasonal fruit: closely observe the colors, fragrance, and texture in your hands. Take a bite and taste the burst of flavors dancing across your tongue. Close your eyes to savor the sweetness that lingers after.
Everything in moderation
The sun illuminates us...and it can also burn. It warms us...and it can also overheat. Interestingly, summer is the season when digestion is most vulnerable to imbalance, and Ayurvedic principles caution that "when the sun outside is strong, the sun inside is weak." Engage in a balanced celebration of our precious star by properly hydrating; consuming light, cooling foods (think almonds, cucumber, fennel, melons, and parsley); and avoiding heavily spiced, fermented, salty, or oily/fried foods.
Honestly, it looks like I'm going to be eating my way through this year's summer solstice...! What about you? How are you hoping to celebrate the first days of summer?