Winter has come in strong and fast. The winter solstice has just passed. The mornings are cold and dark. My body is slow and less willing. In the early morning it becomes a real show of strength to get up and practice Yoga.
That maybe the case for you too. But one of the ways I have created a sense of willingness in my body and in my psyche is NOT to push my body into something that might look more like a summer practice. That is, fast and strong.
We have to remember we are children of the Earth. Just because we have evolved to have light all through the night, heat in winter, cool in summer and many other ways of protecting (and disconnecting) ourselves from the elements, doesn’t mean that we are not still effected by them.
We are like bears. When it is winter and its cold, we want to hibernate (or practice a different type of Yoga!). Maybe its not so obvious now, because in our world ‘the show must got on’. And instead we wonder at our lack of enthusiasm and energy and our desire to eat and sleep more – like its a bad thing! These are all just natural tendencies of winter.
So if you were to wipe your mind clear of what you think you Yoga practice should look like, how would you like to practice in winter? Think about it next time you pull out your mat.
Of course, when it is cold we want to move to keep warm. But strong physical practices may leave us feeling dried up and flat. So we need to get smart about how we warm the body and contain our energy.
There are a few suggestions I have for this. Everyone is different, so you do have to go with what works for you. But sometimes we don’t know something isn’t working for us until we try something else that does!
Warm ups – your main meal!
Warm ups are essential in winter. Sometimes, it’s pretty much as far as I get!
Warm ups in the warmer weather might only take 10 mins but in winter you might like to extend that to about 30mins (if you’re doing over an hour). Your practice can actually comprise mostly of warm ups! As the muscles tend to be cold and contracted do lots of juicy movements like rotations, sways, rolls ups, flowing movements. And one of my favourites, gigging.
Try it just now, at your desk, chair or wherever you are. Release your arms down and just begin to gig the shoulders up and down, for about a minute. You can mix it up by shaking them side to side and the back to gigging up and down, then shaking again.
One minute later: How do you feel. Better? Warmer? Looser? Feel like smiling?
Probably you have answered yes to all those questions. Now, try it through your hips and legs. Get crazy, have fun and shake it all out! (Yes, it is a little like the Hokey Pokey!!) Shake your hands, the flesh on your bum and legs, roll your hips, roll your feet and now add the rolling of your shoulders again too.
Now how do you feel? Warmer, alive, tingling, happier? Probably Yes to all those questions too!
NOW, I want to to put it into your practice. When you come into Downward facing dog, what gig, shake, sway or rock would you like to add to it?
When you come into Cat, what gig, rock, shake or sway would you like to add? When you forward fold, or stand in Mountain Pose, what would you like to move to stay warm and alive? What needs attention and shaking out?
Lastly when you come to lay down in Savasana (Corpse pose) place your feet on the floor about hip distance and about 1 – 2 feet away from your buttocks. Press the feet into the floor and quickly release them to create a gigging action through the whole body. This is not a hip action, it comes from the feet. Let the whole body gig back and forth for about 2 minutes. Then let it go. Feel the amazing energy move through the body and relax warmly and deeply into your final pose of rest. Ahhhhh……
These are pranic practices that keep the circulation of energy and warmth through the body, without using any real energy. You can use these anytime, but are especially good during times of fatigue, stress – and of course, Winter.
Would love to hear how you got on.