As we honour the summer solstice with global festivals of light, along with International Yoga Day and yoga celebrations throughout the world, we should remember the importance of the sun in India’s yogic traditions.
Yoga itself is said to be a gift of the sun to human beings, from whose power our inner consciousness and intelligence arises. The original founder of Yoga Darshana among the Vedic schools of philosophy is Hiranyagarbha, the golden embryo, which represents the sun, who passes on his teachings to the Rishi Vasishta. The sun represents the prana, not simply as the breath, but as the immortal cosmic life force. The Upanishads tell us that our own prana is our inner sun and the movements of our individual prana are measured by the movements of the outer sun in the sky.
Yet how many of us are aware of the yogic power of the sun? Yoga’s sun salutation helps us recognise it, but it is part of the whole of yoga. We should honour the sun each day, not only as it rises at dawn, but its presence within us reflects the boundless light and life of our true self.
The sun we see in the sky is the same light of consciousness and immortal life that dwells within our own hearts. This Vedic vision is reflected in the solar religions that permeated the ancient world. We find similar solar symbols in the Mayas and Incas of the Americas, in the ancient Greeks and Romans and Celts of Europe, in the Egyptians and Babylonians, extending to the Persians, Chinese, Japanese and Pacific Islanders.
The sun reflects our natural and eternal religion of light. It shows us that inner light is supreme over all. Yoga teaches us how to use solar energy outwardly and inwardly, through prana and consciousness, to create healing for body and mind, and to discover the universal presence, power and peace within us.
We certainly need more light in the world today. That universal light is always there, rising and setting every day, but also vibrating in every movement of our thought and breath. We must be accepting in order to allow the higher light to enter into us and remove the darkness inherent in our human limitations. What better time than now!