by Nicole Shields
One of the principles of Yoga practice is that of connecting to nature and the Cosmos. It is important that we honour and change with the seasons, just as nature does by adapting our daily habits, Yoga practice & food choices.
During winter the energy of the Earth & its creatures is drawn inward. We too can use this time for introspection & restoration, just as the animals use it for hibernation – it is a time for slowing down & rejuvenating.
At this time of year we are susceptible to respiratory illnesses, poorer circulation, joint pain and often more negative emotions which plague us. We are more likely to experience feelings of heaviness in mind, body & spirit, sluggishness, lower energy levels and depression.
By practising Yoga postures which open the chest, throat & sinuses we can aid in eliminating congestion (phlegm) and support the respiratory system. Other benefits of Yoga during the Winter months include – warming the kidneys and other internal organs of the body as well as the joints & muscles, improvement of circulation, lymphatic system support which builds immunity, increasing flexibility, reducing the risk of falls & other injuries & awakening our inner fire (Agni) which helps to improve digestion & burn away toxicity & emotional gripping.
There are other useful practices we can adhere to during the winter months which can help support & nurture our minds, bodies & spirits. The foods we eat at this time need to be warm & hearty, filled with nutrition giving ingredients which strengthen our systems.
You may find the desire to eat more during winter. In response to the colder weather, the body constricts the pores of the skin & the superficial connective tissue to prevent heat loss, which in turn directs heat away from the peripheral tissues & into the body’s core, leading to a stronger appetite.
Choose foods which nourish the body & mind, encourage the body’s immunity & minimize congestion. Try to wake by 7am and start the day upon waking with a warm lemon water to aid in detoxification and liver support, then be sure to eat a hearty, warm breakfast.
Eat nourishing soups & stews, grains such as oatmeal, barley, rice & quinoa, healthy oils like avocado, coconut, olive & ghee, cooked root vegetables, warming spices of cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, cardamom, fennel, cumin, coriander & nutmeg and end the day with a comforting cup of herbal tea and some meditation before hitting the hay by 10pm.
Try to get some sunshine during the day onto your bare skin for at least 10 minutes to avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder – a disorder due to lack of light which saps your energy, leaving you feeling moody & depressed.
Receive a regular massage which can also contribute to better health by encouraging the natural drainage of the lymph, which carries waste products away from the tissues back toward the heart improving our body’s immunity.
So let’s make this Winter an opportunity to dive more deeply into our Yoga practice, exploring the inner realms, making peace with ourselves & our bodies, letting go of long-buried, negative, self-defeating emotions and behaviours & clearing the slate so that we may live more fully with an abundance of health, happiness & well-being.