A Yogic Winter Guide
Wrap up for winter
Winter is approaching and the natural world is withdrawing, becoming dormant and preparing to embrace the long, dark, cold season of slumber. There is a particular softness and stillness characteristic of winter, and with it comes an opportunity to redirect our energies. The winter season is the time to balance out the dynamic and outward focused activities of summer and the slower yet still busy season of autumn. Winter is our time to rest, reflect, hold space, hibernate and redirect our energy inwards.
Each season ushers in a unique set of qualities that can either pacify or aggravate the inner workings of each individual. Further, the same season can affect two different people in dramatically different ways, depending on their unique nature. This explains why some people love the heat of the summer while others enjoy the coldness of winter and would rather play in cold snow. Your local climate is a key player in your overall state of balance and an understanding of your natural seasonal preferences. This is precisely why a seasonal routine is so important and so helpful. By adapting your diet and lifestyle to better accommodate the changing seasons, you can dramatically reduce the likelihood of any seasonally-induced imbalances and, should they arise, the same strategies will gently bring your body back toward its natural state of equilibrium.
Winter: A Kapha Season with Strong Vata Undertones
Winter is characterized by cold weather, increased moisture usually in the form of rain or snow, cloud-covered days. This season has a sense of heaviness, with a grounded, slow feeling that are all qualities shared by kapha dosha and this is why winter is generally considered a Kapha season. However, if your climate is exceptionally cold and dry, or if you tend to feel more isolated during the winter month then vata will also be a strong component of your winter season, and you will want to actively keep vata stable as well.
Suggestions for a Delightful and Invigorating Winter
The information that follows is a general guide for your winter routine that of course you will need to adjust to suit your individual constitution. It may well be useful for you to find out about your Ayurvedic body type as well as the common signs of kapha or vata imbalance so you can address them as they arise. Ayurveda teaches us that like increases like and that opposites balance.
A Supportive Winter Lifestyle
Overall, cultivate a light the heart with a sharp sense of purpose to counter the cold, grey weather and the seasonal inclination towards melancholy and loneliness. Invite warmth into your mind, body and spirit by creating frequent opportunities to have fun, laugh, socialise and engage in meaningful relationships. Remember though to balance your outward focused activities with some quiet time, reflection, and stillness. Retreat and check in with yourself.
Maintain your dinacharya or natural routine with a predictable daily schedule. Routine helps keep vata in balance, whereas kapha benefits from keeping things fresh and a little unpredictable – strike an appropriate balance for you.
· Start your day with a short but invigorating morning routine.
· It is generally appropriate to sleep a little later in the winter, but be up by about 7 a.m.
· Brush your teeth, scrape your tongue, swish warm sesame (vata) or coconut (kapha) in your mouth and massage it into your gums.
· Treat your skin to an almond or sesame oil massage, and either leave the oil or rinse it off with a warm shower.
· Drink some warm water to cleanse and awaken the digestive system.
· Apply sesame oil to the nasal passages and ears.
· Shake off any sluggishness with some morning exercise or yo
Dress in bright, warm colours like reds and oranges and always cover your ears, neck, and head with a scarf or hat, if you are outside in the cold.
· Plan on retiring around 10 p.m. and, before bed, apply some sesame oil your scalp and to the soles of your feet to facilitate restful sleep.
Exercise is one of the best ways to support optimal physical and mental health through the winter months. If vata is predominant in the atmosphere—with dry, cold weather, and increased isolation—you will want to favuor a slow, gentle, and strengthening exercise routine.
If on the other hand, kapha is the more influential force at any given time—with heavy, cloudy weather, and rain or snow—you will want to push yourself physically, increasing both the duration and intensity of your work-out. It’s important to listen to your body this winter.
If you’re feeling overextended and stretched, favour vata-pacifying types of exercise like walking, tai chi, or gentle yoga. If you’re feeling sluggish and heavy, give kapha a bit of a push with a more vigorous workout—perhaps a bike ride, a jog, or a challenging hike, snowshoe, or ski.
An expansive and invigorating yoga practice in winter can really support your well-being. Suggested yoga practice: start with sun or moon salutes or the golden seed to warm up, include the warrior pose and finish with the sequence below. If you are short of time just do the practice below. Enjoy!