Using your yoga practice to harmonize with the contracting season.
By Jillian Pransky
Winter is nature’s time of hibernation, retreat, and contraction. As winter’s cold, wet, dark, and heavy qualities increase around us, they grow within us as well. Nature demands that we insulate more as winter encourages us to wear more layers, stay inside, and do fewer activities outdoors.
We are urged to move inward for rest and replenishment, just as the earth stops producing in order to build a new reserve and be bountiful again in the spring. While we slow down and preserve the precious reserves which are essential for replenishment at this time, we also need to keep winter’s heavier qualities in balance.
A basic tenet of yoga and Ayurveda is “like increases like.” So to ensure that winter’s contracting elements do not weigh down our body and mind, we need to equalize by creating warmth, lightness and openness. Our yoga practice, spiritual practice, and life style should also keep things bright, fluid and moving inside.
To help keep up our spirits and health, it is no coincidence that this time of year offers many festivals that celebrate light, warmth, and communing with others. Keep in mind, as we are offered these historic seasonal traditions, not to pack yourself with stress, overstimulation, and heavy foods. For you will pay for it as you settle more into the deepness of winter and come out in spring with more colds, allergies, and mucus to rid yourself of.
How you move through winter of course, affects your blooming in spring. Slow flow yoga and restoratives are a great way to warm the body, create circulation, encourage elimination, and cultivate inward awareness and receptivity without expending unnecessary energy or depleting ourselves. We can work deeply and mindfully with minimum effort. The Restorative pose, Goddess, is a great option to balance winter’s heaviness. Goddess allows us to stay grounded and move inward, while relaxing into a more expansive state. The practice will help you melt solidity, rigidity and unnecessary holding while you release and expand your chest and abdomen. This pose can help lift your overall mood and energy, deepen your breathing, promote digestion, and increase elimination. This is a great way to harmonize with the heart of winter while expanding into your own body and mind.
[See below for a 10 minute guided Goddess practice]
It is important to remember not to burn out this season in a frenzy to get rid of holiday calories or cabin fever … sleep, rest, and meditation are important for your well being and metabolism as well. Research shows that restorative yoga can help people lose fat, according to a study from the National Institute of Health.
Remember — as you take care of yourself this winter know that you are nourishing yourself for more than the present moment. For how you nurture yourself throughout winter, will dictate how you bloom up in spring.