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Surya Namaskar for Christmas

If you’re new to the wonders of Jyotish, the Sun provides a simple but powerful practice where all can begin. Right now—with the Winter Solstice upon us—is the perfect time to begin. On the darkest day of the year, Sun reaches the most southernly point in his annual journey (from a Northern Hemisphere perspective). But also, in mid-December Sun transits one of the most sensitive points of the zodiac, a psychic gateway into what could be a whole new way of life.  

Sun entered the constellation of Sagittarius on December 16th. If that confuses you, remember: Jyotish uses the sidereal zodiac, which aligns the planets with the actual star constellations.  Unlike Western Astrology, which follows the tropical zodiac—where 0° Aries always coincides with the vernal equinox and right now falls in the actual star constellation of Pisces—Vedic Astrology is astronomically accurate. Because of a complex astronomical phenomenon called the “Precession of the Equinoxes”, the equinoxes move slowly but incrementally each year as measured against a specific star. The so-called “fixed stars” aren’t really fixed at all. Around the year 285 A.D. the two zodiacs coincided. Now they’re about 24 degrees apart.

You can follow Sun’s ingress into a new constellation each month. It happens around mid-month and heralds a shift in the energetic quality of Surya. As the centre of our solar system, Sun governs all life forms, all energy on our planet. All food ultimately comes from the Sun. In Jyotish, Sun indicates the self—on a mundane level the ego, on a spiritual level the atman or soul. How we absorb, utilise and transmute prana from the Sun reveals the level of our spiritual evolution. In each of the twelve constellations, Sun manifests through a different medium, which alters its qualities. Just as white light passing through a prism radiates a rainbow of colour, so do the distinct features of each sign colour Surya differently. In nature, in your life, in your consciousness, you can observe this phenomenon and contemplate its significance—a beautiful practice in itself. 

If you practise yoga, you will know the classic asana sequence called Surya Namaskar, which is so much more than the physical “warm-up” that it’s often misunderstood to be. The twelve positions of the sun-salutations each correspond to the twelve constellations of the zodiac and twelve principal names of the Sun deity (out of his more than a thousand names and faces). Traditionally, mantras to the sun deities accompanied each sun salutation. The practice of Surya Namaskar involves intense focus, breath and movement. It aims to raise the frequency of the life force within your body and energy field—as prana from the Sun is imbibed directly as food. Even if you don’t know the mantras, you can bring this quality to your practice by slowing down and sharpening your awareness upon the subtleties of each present moment. In this way, your asana practice itself can teach you something about Surya—as it was intended originally. 

Sagittarius is a dual fire sign, the fire that inspires the mind. Ruled by Jupiter, it governs higher knowledge—religion, philosophy, law, ethics and natural science. It is those disciplines as applied to the world of manifested form. So in all institutions—of government, education, health, politics, charity, everything—it fosters justice and an optimistic spirit that comes from righteous action. It promotes generosity and benevolence towards all, as a natural expression of the universal fellowship so dear to the heart of Jupiter. It expands our faith and trust that despite the horrific problems humanity faces, that goodness will prevail in the end. Surya radiates through this medium until mid-January. It’s a beautiful energy that nourishes us every year at this season, tempered of course by other planetary alignments. And as always, every detail of your individual birth chart modifies how this energy manifests for you personally. (To communicate truthfully, I have to add that qualification. But no matter what, please know that everyone can partake of Surya’s grace through devoted sadhana.) 

As Sun leaves Scorpio and enters Sagittarius, he crosses over a turbulent point of the zodiac. The last degrees of water (Scorpio) and the first of fire (Sagittarius) mark a transition point where the elements of the signs and the lordships of the lunar constellations (nakshatras) coincide, completing one cycle and beginning another. Called gandanta, planets here are precarious. You can think of these degrees as a bridge linking omega to alpha. “In my end is my beginning”. . . . (Ponder those lines from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets to understand more about gandanta). All crossings imply risk— the danger being a fall into the abyss below. Yet that danger averted, gandanta points initiate transformation, rebirth, profound healing and spiritual evolution, with the possibility of a whole new way of life blossoming. Though gandanta points also occur between Pisces and Aries and Cancer and Leo, the one between Scorpio and Sagittarius is both the most dangerous and the most powerful for transformation. The nakshatra (lunar constellation) Mula resides at the beginning of Sagittarius. As the name implies, Mula indicates roots, whose hidden tendrils anchor deeply into the murky regions of earth but out of which new life grows and blossoms. Niritti, goddess of decay, death, destruction, transformation and rebirth, presides over Mula. She carries an energy very similar to Lord Shiva. Think over the last few days and consider how this energy might have affected you. 

Astronomically, the first few degrees of Sagittarius correspond to the Galactic Centre, the “Galactic Sun” at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy around which our Sun orbits. That mysterious star has an unfathomably immense power, a gravitational force that holds over one hundred billion Suns in orbit. Everything in the universe is spinning, cycles within cycles, all belonging to a vast energetic web stretching infinitely in multiple dimensions through space. The Galactic Centre lines up with Sagittarius at around three to four degrees, and Surya transits that point this December 19th and 20th, within days of our Winter Solstice and celebration of Christmas. 

Bring this awareness into your yoga practice, my friends, into your meditation, into every possible moment of your life as you prepare for the winter festivities. The cosmic alignments right now point to the possibility of profound transformation. Christmas celebrates the birth of the Son of God, the eternal Light that shines in the darkness, beaming Divine Love. At the same time, Surya enters the fullness of Sagittarius, having passed over the treacherous gandanta bridge and aligned briefly with the colossal power of the Galactic Sun. Use this time to recalibrate your life. Go into the stillness of this midwinter pause with faith and trust. It can be SO beautiful! Know that cosmic tailwinds will sustain your journey out of any darkness and prepare yourself to emerge anew with the New Year. 

May your heart expand freely with the simple faith this season fosters. That is my prayer for you, wherever you may be in your journey through life. The Light of the Christ Child and the light of Surya both teach us Love, the Love that binds us all as One. 

Om shanti ❤️