In the northern hemisphere we are in the period that brings us the shortest days of the year, with increasingly more darkness as we approach the winter solstice. And yet culturally this is often the busiest time of year, with holiday chaos and end-of-year pressure. It is one of the many ways we are living out of alignment with our natural rhythms.
The confluence of the increasing darkness, a weekend — Sabbath time — and an eclipse gives us extra reason to embrace the darkness. In nature, winter is a time of darkness for a reason: it’s the time to rest.
You don’t need to hide away for days. Just an hour can help you reset and restore.
Here are five suggestions for how to go dark and find deep rest that will also expose your inner light:
(1) Take a Sound Bath
I like to do a sound healing laying on the floor, with an eye pillow over my eyes. Cover yourself with a blanket, because your body temperature will drop.
You can find many free sound healing recordings on YouTube or on the Insight Timer meditation app.
If you need a place to start, check out Healing Vibrations (YouTube link), one if my favorite sources.
(2) Yin Yoga
Yin yoga is a slower type of physical yoga practice that falls in the restorative end of the yoga spectrum. It involves
- putting your body in a shape that is at 75% of its max capacity
- meeting your edge in stillness
- holding the pose for 3–5 minutes
When you hold a pose for time with support, the body learns that it’s safe to stretch into that shape. This enables the body to recondition old patterns that keep it resistant and stuck.
The practice allows the body to slowly and sustainably relax, and facilitates balance in the internal organs.
Winter is Yin season, and yin is an ideal practice for darkness. Most yin poses are done on the ground, and are inward facing, making yin an ideal practice for the dark.
(3) Breathwork Practice
Breathing is something we do automatically, so we often forget about it and take it for granted.
Many of us unconsciously hold our breath, especially when writing emails or otherwise engaged with technology. This phenomenon even has a name — email apnea.
An intentional Breathwork practice can help clear stagnant energy. It’s also a bonus core workout, as it engages your diaphragm.
There are many types of Breathwork you can do. Some are highly activating and others are more calming.
A simple and effective practice is box breathing:
- inhale to a count of 4
- hold the breath full for 4
- exhale to a count of 4
- hold empty for 4
(4) Non-Sleep Deep Rest (aka Yoga Nidra)
Yoga Nidra, also known as yogic sleep, conscious sleep, or Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) is nothing like most yoga practices you know. There’s actually no movement in the practice. The only pose you need to know is savasana — corpse pose (also known as “the nap at the end of class” in other yoga classes).
It takes you into a theta brain state, which is the frequency most often linked to the moments between sleep and wakefulness.
Yoga Nidra/NSDR has been proven effective in reducing both the cognitive and physiological symptoms of anxiety. In fact, a recent study showed that it’s more effective than seated meditation for this purpose. Because it accesses your subconscious mind, it is also a good practice to help reprogram negative thoughts and sabotaging habits.
My personal preference is always to take a live yoga nidra class. When that’s not an option, you can find recordings on YouTube.
One of my favorite go-to sources is Ally Boothroyd, one of my Yoga Nidra teachers. She uploads new recordings to YouTube each week.
(5) Sit in a dark room.
No technology. No lights. No reading. You don’t even need to meditate. Just sit, or lay on the couch or on the floor.
Listen to the sounds around you. Attune to the sensations in your body.
Do absolutely nothing.
Rest in being.