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December 2022 - Yoga and the Shortest Day

Dear Yoga Friends,

A few months ago I had a strange dream which has crossed my mind frequently ever since. I'm driving along in a car and eventually notice that the scenery outside is moving in the wrong direction, implying that I am in fact going backwards. The road ahead is receding into the distance. I look in the rear-view mirror and the things I see are moving towards me. I try to steer to keep the car on the road, but at the speed I'm traveling and working from the mirror view, it's difficult to keep the car oriented. I eventually lose control and go into a 360 degree spin, careening off the road and coming to a stop. I'm shaken but ok.

In a recent moment of contemplation, it occurred to me that this dream touches on at least three important themes: (1) control; (2) fear; and (3) the passage of time. Driving happily along, I'm under the illusion that I'm in control. Then it dawns on me that in fact I'm not in control, and the orderly world around me is not what I had thought it was. Kind of describes many things that happen to us on a given day, doesn't it? I feel like this dynamic in our lives is intensifying in recent years.

At the time of this writing, most of the country is gripped by an unexpected bomb cyclone weather pattern, a once-in-a-generation storm with effects ranging from 50 degree temperature drops to 50+ mph winds to whiteout blizzard conditions. No one predicted this just a couple weeks ago. We didn't expect the pandemic, nor the prolonged effects of it that remain with us today after nearly three years.

Yoga practice can provide a kind of introspective laboratory environment to explore our relationship to the unexpected, to what comes up. You can do a 360 degree spin without getting hurt. What's behind us is the known. In front is the unknown. Wouldn't it be great to reverse time so that we know what's coming? As it turns out, that doesn't work so well. Our eyes are in front of our head, so we can't see as well behind us. We're designed to move forward in time and need to make the most of the situation, embracing the unknown. Yoga practice slows things down to the pace of our breath, helps us learn to make the most of the moment, to live in the moment, and to better cope with whatever may come down the pike.

More so than the summer solstice, the winter solstice naturally draws us inward. Holiday lights cheer us and bring calm, even when we're in a storm. With less daylight to get things done, maybe we don't get as much done. Although we seek holiday connections with family and friends, reflection and envisioning ourselves in the new year are equally important. If you happen to practice yoga, the practice can resonate with the increased opportunity for focus and introspection that the solstice brings.

Your thoughts or questions on these musings or anything else are always welcome!

Happy Holidays, Namaste,



* Chad's weekly classes: 12:15-1:15pm Tuesdays (mixed level, online) & noon-1:30pm Thursdays (intermediate, in-person) at IYISF (sign up under Classes & Series menu)

Chad Balch