Wet weather leaving you sluggish? A little flat? Show some trust in the sun and you'll be amazed by the energy and vibrancy that's beamed your way (bonus points if you can hold your faith when you've just been caught in a freak April hailstorm).
Paying respect to the star at the centre of our solar system is no novelty to yogis - most morning yoga sessions seem to start with a sun salutation (or ten). And for good reason - the practice has a profoundly invigorating effect, as though our primary source of light thanks us for our attention by beaming solar vitality directly into our bodies and souls.
But why does the sun invite such god-like worship when in reality it's little more than a sphere of hot gas? Yogi scholars warn against too literal an interpretation of the word 'sun'. It's not the glowing star we honour through yoga, they say, but the sparkle of divine light that resides within each of us. So the gesture of saluting the sun is tantamount to paying homage to the brightest part of ourselves - the part that's infinite in its wisdom and boundless in its potential. With every yogic salute, we're both acknowledging this part of ourselves and fuelling it. I, for one, can think of nothing more deserving of my attention first thing in the morning.
There are almost as many sun salutation sequences in the world as there are stars in the sky, but you don't need to put yourself through the paces of a dynamic sequence to enjoy the benefits of a solar practice - there's a whole raft of standalone poses that can stoke your inner fire and give you a golden glow. Here are some yoga techniques to provide your day with that much needed shot of sunshine.
Sit comfortably and inhale halfway. With a sharp exhale, use a muscular action to draw back your navel, expelling the breath sharply from your body. Repeat for 25-100 rounds of breath. With each round, pump out the breath with a snapping contraction of the belly and then allow a natural rebound inhalation. Pick up speed as you gain confidence. You'll feel heat generating and a sense that your body is getting lighter and clearer. After your last explosive breath (known as Kapalabhati Pranayama), rest the hands on the abdomen and breathe deeply tuning inwards.
Sit cross-legged or kneeling. On an inhale, interlace your fingers and reach your arms above your head, palms pressing up. Gently hold your breath and lower your chin. This activates the chin lock, sealing energy and collecting it. With an exhale, release the lock, bend your elbows and lower your arms to the top of your head. Repeat for a cycle of three. After the final exhale, rest your hands on your lap and breathe deeply. Spend a moment noticing how you feel.
Alternate nostril breathing
This breathing practice energizes the Pingala nadi which is associated with the sun, the energizing force of nature. Close the eyes and imagine your whole being filled with radiant light from the sun's rays as you sit tall. A feeling of inner vibrancy through every part of you. Breathe deeply. Place your left hand on your left thigh and lift your right hand with the second and third fingers tucked in towards the palm. Breathe out through the mouth and in through the right side as you close the left nostril with the ring finger, now breathe out through the left nostril as you close the right nostril with the thumb. Repeating, breathing in through the right, closing the left and breathe out through the left, closing the right. Keep going with this pattern and if you want to you can establish a 1 to 2 ratio, so you breathe in for 4 and out for 8. Breathing in through the right and out through the left each time. Continue for a minute or so. Finish off exhaling through the left and lower the hand down.
Sit tall with the hands resting on the knees. Bathe in this feeling, sense warm, golden sunlight. Feel the qualities of the sun's energy soothing and uplifting you. Retain this feeling of lightness, radiant and shining as you move back into your day. Feeling calm and vibrant.
These exercises are from 'Solar Yoga, Energise and Inspire with Tara Lee'
Tara Lee has been practicing yoga for over 20 years and teaching for 14 years. Tara teaches at The Life Centre in London.