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‘In the Bleak Midwinter’: Community celebrates winter solstice together

By Staff | Dec 27, 2019

One of the ways people celebrate the winter solstice, is by viewing sunrise at Stonehenge. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Whether its called midwinter, the winter solstice, Yule, the Longest Night, the hiemal solstice, Jl, Alban Arthan or the hibernal solstice, the shortest day of the year holds a lot of meaning for many people around the globe.

The shortest day of the year took place in the northern hemisphere on Saturday. For Jala Yoga owner and instructor Christa Mastrangelo Joyce, the day was an opportunity to celebrate community and yoga.

“The word ‘yoga’ means unity,” Joyce said, mentioning that this year’s Annual Candelit Winter Solstice once again featured a time for socialization, following 90 minutes of yoga in the War Memorial Building.

“Every year, there’s live music from Laura First and Don Oehser, and my brothers caters the food,” Joyce said, mentioning the wine at the event was donated by her husband, who is a wine representative. “It’s my favorite event of the entire year, because it reminds me of the goodness of human beings.”

After welcoming attendees to the event, Joyce stepped back and let some of the other yoga instructors in her studio take the lead in moving the yoga practitioners through 108 sun salutations by candlelight.

While many of the community members joining in the event had studied at Jala Yoga, some were new to the yoga studio. But regardless of their experience and level of training, Joyce said what mattered was that all of the participants felt comfortable joining together to celebrate the winter solstice.

“There is still a stereotype of what you have to look like or be like to do yoga. None of those things are true — we’re all dealing with our brokenness,” Joyce said, mentioning her yoga studio is evidence of the diversity among yoga practitioners. “We have people of all walks here.”

Although the celebration of the winter solstice is often connected with paganism, Joyce believes that anyone should feel free to practice yoga and commemorate important days in the yoga calendar.

“I actually attend the Presbyterian church here in town. In fact, probably the majority of our practitioners are practicing Christianity,” Joyce said, mentioning yoga has no religious ties, although it incorporates one particular element of Buddhism in its practices.

“There are some influences in yoga of Buddhism, in the form of mindfulness. But one of the best gifts that yoga gives us is making us aware of how our bodies feel when we are doing poses. It makes us more aware during the rest of the day, to realize what is best for our bodies,” Joyce said. “That slant of mindfulness is becoming more mainstream and accepted by the scientific community.”

Event attendees were asked to donate $15 to $25 at the event, which was given to a local family in need.