Every day brings change and transformation. You can feel shifts begin most distinctively during the transitional times of dawn and dusk. As the sun prepares to rise for the day, the animals and plants prepare themselves as well. As it sets, many creatures awake while others prepare for rest. As a living creature on Earth, I can feel my life as a human being directly affected by the energy of the sun. I notice the way the periods around the sun’s transition affect my own personal state. The more that I intentionally take the time to connect with this transformative process that nature undergoes through daily practices, the more I seem to foster and deepen my connection to myself and to the Universe.
Here's why yoga practices are said to be best suited for these times of transformation (dawn and dusk) and how they may assist in your own personal transformation.
Meditation is a practice that you can work at all day, every day. Everything you do can become a meditation by working to quiet the mind and create a state of pure being. However, it is believed that some specific times of the day are more conducive to creating that space. Practicing meditation during these times can be monumental to develop our practice and be more effective in reaching those states of meditation.
The energetic pathways, or nadis, of the body are said to be connected to solar and lunar energy. The ida nadi is feminine energy, connected to the left nostril and the energy of the moon. The pingala nadi is masculine energy, connected to the right nostril and the energy of the sun. The sushumna nadi connects us from our root to our crown, and it is able to come alive to foster a sense of union and stillness when there is balance between the ida and pingala.
During sunrise and sunset, Earth is working in our favor as yogis attempting to create balance and meditate. There is a natural balance between lunar and solar energies in the transition taking place around us in nature, which allows us to feed off that existing external state of reality and mirror it inwardly.
(More on why yogis Wake Up and Salute the Sun.)
Historically, traditional yoga practice took place in India where it is extremely hot during the day. Asana practice can naturally produce heat within the body, so coupling it with hot weather could quickly create an imbalance. For this reason, asana practice was traditionally encouraged during the early morning and evenings. But, of course, this rationale goes beyond climate and our physical response, as we know asana practice effects us beyond the physical body.
A logical asana practice for sunrise and sunset is the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar). We salute the sun, bowing to its power and syncing our breath to produce this moving meditation or prayer. During sunrise, this practice can help to invigorate the body while waking our consciousness and surrendering to the forces at play much greater than us. Knowing what we know about the balancing energies of sunrise and sunset, we can gather that your asana practice also receives the benefit of this transition period by experiencing balance within the physical and astral bodies, which can lead to profound experiences of bliss, meditation and relaxation in asana practice.
At sunset, I personally enjoy Surya Namaskar practice even more so. It offers an opportunity to express gratitude and thank the sun for being able to experience another day, and the body is often more flexible and able to flow through the practice with deeper comfort and ease.
(To learn the Sun Salutation sequence, read Salute the Sun's Life-Giving Glory With This Surya Namaskara Series.)
We Are Always in Transition
“During the sandhya kalas, around sunrise and sunset, everything is in a state of flux. If you practice at that time, your ability to transcend limitations is better because your life energies are in a state of flux.”
A sandhya is a transition time. A literal translation gives us “good” (san) “to meditate” (dhya). These times that are good to meditate are chances to recreate harmony and balance. Yoga allows us to let go and find even a glimpse of our true nature in omnipresence, bathing in brightly illuminated stillness. As Earth goes through this significant process of change, we can piggyback on that vibration and change, too!
With everything in flux, we see that everything is impermanent and are reminded of our own state of impermanence. Our cells are always changing and as spiritual beings we are always in the process of changing and evolving. Sandhyas are great opportunities to accept and cultivate change, meditate on certain affirmations, ask the Universe for guidance, or create change that is necessary or desired in your life. We can use these periods of time to benefit us by letting go of what does not serve us and allowing ourselves to be reborn — at least twice a day, every single day.
(More on impermanence in The Main Message of the Gurus.)
You Can Feel the Difference
Making the transition to waking up before sunrise seems difficult for many of us (myself included!) who have traditionally boasted that we’re “not morning people.” While this practice remains a work-in-progress in my own life and closely dependent on what social constructs are at play in my daily life (work, school, amount of accessible sunlight in my sleeping space, involvement in organizations that do not also follow these yogic principles, etc.), I notice a significant difference between my practices during sunrise or sunset compared to all my other practices. I have already begun to naturally wake up around sunrise and notice a significant difference in when I choose to roll back over or not.
If sunrise isn’t your thing yet, sunset is just as powerful. Taking time to bask in the magnificence of a sunset can often create moments of stillness and reverence that otherwise seemed unattainable. When watching a sunset, every living being in our vicinity is simultaneously experiencing this incredibly powerful transformation. Through this shared experience, we can access the often evasive sensation of oneness with all Creation. Routinely fostering the relationship you have with the sun as it rises and sets allows us to become more connected to ourselves as the microcosms of the solar system and entire Universe that we are.
(Continue reading in Accompany the Divine Play of Nature and Connect With Nurturing Mother Earth.)