Welcome to a new chance for a deep breath. There’s another new one, right there, just now, as you read this sentence. There’s a lot of conflicting mes- sages during the holidays. “Buy local” and “stop spending so much,” to “say no to things,”and“spend as much time with everyone as possible,” to “somehow manage to treasure the season, but only if your house looks like that Pinterest bomb of plaid and glitter you keep seeing.”
It’s all over now. That deep sigh of relief when you reach the mountaintop and simultaneously feel victorious and a little bit sad at it all being over. The crescendo has passed and as we take down the plaid and the glitter, throw out the trees and already begin forgetting what presents we received and what cards we read, we enter the denouement.
In this season, your yoga practice can provide a place for you to create a new rhythm. Let me borrow from one of my favorite authors, Shauna Nielquist, and explore life in The Bittersweet. This is the view of life that says the sweet is not as sweet without the bitter. I also sometimes like to think of this in Ayurvedic terms of The Six Tastes: Bitter, Sweet, Pungent, Salty, Astringent, & Sour. The best way to stay balanced is to have all of them in the right amount for your constitution, for the season that you’re in — physically, geographically, and emotionally.
So what should your winter yoga practice look like? I have no idea! Is this a particularly hard season for you? Are there more work projects than you can say no to? A grieving going on? Loneliness? Have you been traveling for the holidays and overwhelmed with family obligations?
Here are three things to help you adapt your practice to this fresh, cold, slow winter season:
1. I give you permission for your practice to change.
Putting down your practice that has been daily and disciplined for a while can help you remember how much you love and value it. Does it need to go from lots of classes to lots of home practice in small bite-sized yummy nuggets? Do you need to leave the house for the commitment of a class time to share the energy of a yoga community? Has your practice just become one more thing to do right now? Maybe it’s time to put it down in a safe spot for awhile. Sit and think, decide. And be okay. Reevaluate in a month for the second half of the winter season.
2. Consider immune boosting poses.
Stimulating your thymus, reversing lymph flow and increasing your circu- lation will not only help to keep your immune system strong, but also help you mentally and emotionally navigate whatever joys or challenges are on your plate this winter season. These poses include things like:
- Cobra, upward dog, or camel pose for stimulating thymus and opening up congested bronchial pathways.
- Shoulder stand or legs up the wall for reversing circulation and lymph flow and helping you literally gain new perspective.
- Sun salutations to warm you up on cold days, moon salutations to help you come down from busy ones.
3. Winter is introspective.
Perhaps you naturally fall into this rhythm by staying close to home and writing in your journal, or perhaps this goes against your nature and this shift is hard for you. Everyone knows by New Year’s Eve we’re supposed to have taken stock of our lives and figured out all of our mistakes from the previous year (of course) and committed to be better human beings in the coming 12 months.
I invite you to use this time to be introspective: let the adventure begin internally, and instead of planning the next 12 months of your life just plan the next few weeks. Many of my clients (and myself) fall into the trap of trying to “get things done” and in the name of efficiency and accomplishment lose touch with the softer (but equally as valuable) virtues of life — like patience, consistency, and tenderness. Consider using your yoga practice as a tool to help connect with these virtues and with your inner journey by jotting down a few words or images after your practice for the next few weeks. Or at least taking mental note of them. How does your practice make you feel right now? How is it working or not working for you? It can also be a signal to practice more introspective poses. Maybe switch to a more yin practice if you typically don’t practice slowly. Maybe use props or maybe you add in more mediation time to your practice.
Slow down and enjoy your winter. Namaste.