Nature is replete with various rhythms and cycles—day follows night, night follows day, seasons come and go. Similarly, there are biological rhythms to our bodies, minds, and emotions. When our inner world is in sync with the natural cycles around us, we feel a sense of harmony and well-being. When we are disconnected in this way, our stress and discomfort increases, we grow discontent, and our vitality diminishes. Yoga and Ayurveda offer us an array of simple tools to help keep us healthy and at peace through honoring and connecting us with the wisdom of the season.
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.
Winter demands that we move inward for rest and replenishment, just as the earth stops producing in order to build a new reserve and be bountiful again in spring.
However, balancing with the winter cycle is an art that usually requires some extra loving care as these shorter darker days can leave us feeling a little "heavier." Even the most stable of us can experience the winter doldrums or the all-out blues. Many healing systems look at this normal reaction to the season as helpful and healthy, as it helps us stay put long enough to more deeply recuperate all of our systems. However, while honoring this down time, we need to ensure we don't grow listless in our body or mind. A main tenet of yoga and Ayurveda is that "like increases like.” Therefore, to prevent winter’s contracting elements from "weighing us down," we need to equalize by creating warmth, lightness, and openness in our yoga practice and lifestyle.
Slow-flow yoga and expanding restorative postures (think goddess pose) 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 while not "spending" precious energy reserves. Personally, at this time of year, while keeping up with a morning mindful movement practice and evening restorative, I also draw a bit more on my Metta practices to create a feeling of emotional warmth and wellness.
Lastly, while most of us are experiencing less movement "out and about" in general during these current pandemic conditions—and even while we may be feeling a bit of cabin fever—keep in mind that overexerting, overstimulating, or any kind of over-effort in a yoga practice or physical exercise is not in harmony with a winter healing routine. Think more like the qualities of cinnamon rather than hot sauce right now—keep things steadily warm rather than kicking up temporary spikes of fiery hot. When you take good care of yourself in the cold season, you’re creating benefits for both present and future. How you nurture yourself throughout the winter will dictate how you bloom in the spring.
Winter is a slow, inward, quiet season, not a time of expansion or energy spending.
Chogyam Trungpa reminds that this cycle of down-time is essential:
There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally of course, there are times that are cold, and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. Those rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are.
Register for Jillian's December 12 workshop here.