No need to hibernate, simply adjust your practice for the winter season, says Victoria Jackson
I’m a bit like a bear in the winter months. I’m sleepy and slow-moving. I feel the urge to hunker down and hibernate, waiting patiently for the lighter days and warmer weather of springtime. Christmas comes as something of a mixed blessing. I love the family time, the excuse to put fairy-lights anywhere and everywhere, and taking the time to write Christmas cards to old friends feels so much nicer than relying lazily on social media updates. But as well as these more nourishing aspects of the holiday season, there’s also the social round that almost inevitably involves too much to eat or to drink (or both!) and this can leave me feeling more like a bear with a sore head.
So where does yoga fit into my winter hibernation? Or into my Christmas partying? On the face of it, it’s not very compatible with either. But maybe that’s the magic of yoga – that it acts as a balancing force in various ways; it evens out excesses and shows me what I really need.
Just as we tend to eat differently in the winter, turning from summery salads to hearty soups, maybe our winter yoga practice needs to look a bit different. For me, I become more yin than yang, moving more deliberately and holding stretches longer. I do still practice Surya Namaskar, Sun Salutations, but now in my slower movements and longer breaths there’s almost a hint of yearning for the warmth and ease of the summer months. Sometimes it even feels as though I’m beseeching the sun to come back and brighten the skies rather than saluting its constant presence. After that I’m usually in the mood to linger in restorative poses, using bolsters for supported backbends and twists and finally tucking up under a blanket for Savasana. Maybe I’ll burn incense as I turn my practice from summertime sweaty to winter cosy.
But it’s not all woollen socks and candles. Remember those Christmas parties? I’d never get through those if I didn’t keep moving between times to boost my energy. So I balance out my hibernating tendencies at home with some more dynamic vinyasa practices or maybe a hot yoga class to warm up my lethargic body. Even hibernating bears need a good stretch to stay in condition!
I hope 2016 has been a wonderful year-in-yoga for you! Now where are those fairy lights…?
Victoria Jackson lives and practices (not always like a bear!) in Oxford.