Therefore, it's not surprising that the earliest recorded cultures, many of them exceptionally sophisticated, all worshipped the sun. The Egyptians had Ra, their Sun God, who was the supreme ruler over all. The Sumerians believed in Shamesh, and built temples to him all over present day Iran and Iraq. The Mayans, Aztecs and Incans all had complicated divinity systems based on their worship of their Sun God. In Asia, Tian Shu Zhu was the primary deity in the Ancient world, whose images were then blended and transformed into more contemporary Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism. The Ancient Maori people in Australia called their own Sun God Tane. The most extraorindary aspect of all of these belief systems is how strikingly similar they are. It strikes me as quite remarkable that ancient peoples, years and miles apart, would create such vivid images and beliefs, without contact with one another. Literally every ancient people, on every continent had beliefs that were remarkably alike. While their rituals differed greatly, the underlying message of the Sun's importance to their very survival was key.
In Yoga, we practice a series of poses called Sun Salutations. While some groups have tried to label these asanas as sun worship, this simply isn't true. Sun Salutations are a physical manifestation of the sun's progress across the sky. They were developed in India to mimic the power, grace and movement of the sun, but not to deify it. Religious ideals aside, Sun Salutations are the backbone asanas of any Yoga practice, regardless of style. More restorative classes create gentle, peaceful arcs of movement, slowly working through the progression. Power Yoga classes will hold each pose for much longer and or will increase their speed to maximize the cardio benefit. Regardless of the tone of the Yoga class, the series of asanas remains constant, and a complete series can bring a sense of strength, flexibility, toning and focus to the practitioner. They are a wonderful way to begin a practice, or to simply begin one's day. While each asana on its own can offer tremendous benefits, it's both the complete series and sequence that can lead to overall good health and wellness.
If you live in a climate, as I do, in which the sun is often stealth, I recommend doing whatever you can to enjoy the sunshine when it's available. On cold days, put a comfortable chair near a sunny window and close your eyes to soak up the gentle rays. Even in chilly weather, bundle up and head out for a short walk. I'm not a believer in tanning beds, due to the skin damage. I believe that natural sun is much healthier, even if it's in small doses. So, find what you need to do, during the long, dark months, to get what little sunshine you can. Remember to exercise in ways that help boost your endorphins, and always appreciate the sun when you do have it.
Although we're into "Mud Season" right now (Maine's euphemism for Spring), just being outside and getting a little bit of early yard clean up down can feel magnificent. Just remember to wear both sunscreen and Wellies. Even mud can be a great reminder that the sun is melting away the snow!