4 Ways Yoga Can Help You Through The Winter
Yoga Practices for Finding Balance Amidst Seasonal Changes - By Madeleine Arena
Reading time: 4 minutes
As the days grow shorter in the northern hemisphere, it’s easy to feel sluggish, dull and tired, maybe even a little demotivated – the temptation to hibernate until the spring is real. It can feel like a catch-22 where you want to combat that feeling and get active on the one hand, and curl up in a ball and just melt into it on the other.
So what can you do?! One of the greatest lessons yoga has taught me is that polarity doesn’t bring you into balance.
This may sound blatantly obvious, and yet we tend to forget it so quickly when we are wrapped up in the spectrum of human emotions. Plus, it’s a concept that tends to be far easier to understand cognitively than to actually implement in our lived experience.
So let’s take a look at four ways you can lean into the change of the seasons, embrace your inner landscape whatever it looks like, and find balance in the midst of it all.
1. Grounding Yoga Practice
As much as you might think that you just need a good sweat-inducing workout to shake off the heaviness, part of balance is embracing where you’re at. As the days grow shorter and we spend more time indoors, we often feel more disconnected from Earth and our natural rhythms than ever. This is the perfect time to integrate grounding practices that help you reconnect to the earth, and feel more calm, centered and present.
Rather than begrudgingly forcing yourself into high-intensity practices, embrace your own seasonality and allow yourself to slow down. You can try flowing through asanas such as Child’s Pose, Downward Facing Dog and Mountain Pose, bringing your attention to your feet and your connection to the ground beneath you. You can also do some deep, intentional breathing, or even just focus on your senses as you take a hot shower or cook a hearty meal. Let the earth nourish your being with its soothing, revitalizing energy.
2. Walking Meditations
In a way, this yoga practice is another form of grounding: as you walk, you are connecting to the earth and focusing on your senses, noticing the various sounds, sights and sensations that are present around you. However, rather than sitting still, the idea here is to get some gentle movement going and to get outside to breathe in the fresh winter air.
Don’t make it a marathon and tire yourself out – even a five-minute walk is perfectly enough. The intention is to find beauty and joy in your present season, remembering that you are a part of nature’s cycles, too.
3. Self-Study & Reflection
Feeling these pulls in different directions is a beautiful opportunity to go inward. Ask yourself why you feel the need to combat this slower energy. Reflect on how you feel when you honour your internal state versus when you challenge it. There are no right or wrong responses to these questions – sometimes you might find that you truly did feel better when you challenged yourself, and other times you will find that you ended up feeling worse. The point is to use this slower season to really listen.
To learn what nourishes you and what depletes you, and to honour that. To recognize and accept that what those things are at any given moment will fluctuate, because you are a living being. The better you know yourself, the easier is to respond to life in a way that will support your well-being, so use this time to practice setting boundaries, honouring your time and prioritizing your needs.
4. Daily Rituals & Routines
Engaging in consistent daily routines and rituals can help you feel more motivated, and help you to actually keep moving forward while you’re feeling heavy and dull. It’s the idea of placing one foot in front of the other, not thinking too much about whether or not you’re going to do something and instead simply doing it because you know it’s part of your regular routine.
It also helps to regulate the body, bringing our whole system into balance. Try to wake up and go to bed at a similar time each day, take your time to eat your meals, and don’t jam-pack your calendar. It’s not about creating a militant schedule, but rather about establishing consistent habits that allow the nervous system to relax and the body to ease into a feeling of security, regularity, and comfort.
Ultimately, there are no set rules for any season of nature, or of life. It’s up to each and every one of us to figure out what works for us and what doesn’t, and to adjust accordingly as we go. In that way, embracing winter and the changes it brings both within and without can become a practice in and of itself – an opportunity to live your yoga and find contentment in the present moment, just as it is.