With mass hysteria having hit my local shopping centre in the form of a prepubescent Canadian teenager turning on seasonal lights last week, The so called 'Bieber fever' that swept through West London served as a timely reminder of how most of us end up feeling more frazzled than peaceful during the build up to what was once a time of contemplative anticipation.
Despite the undoubtable cheer of Christmas lights in our high streets and sitting rooms it is the time of year when most of begin to neglect our health and sanity as we succumb to the mad round of socialising and shopping that has come to define these dark winter months. According to yogic philosophy, and its sister science of Ayurveda everything else in nature is resting and regrouping, conserving energy for the winter months ahead, while we humans ignore our primal instincts and begin our seasonal downward spiral into ill health and choose instead to crank up our already hectic lives.
Winter, should be the time for us to immerse ourselves in the glow an open-fire, with a glass of mulled wine and a thick blanket. During this time, it surely makes far more sense to pursue activities that encourage us to delve inwards rather than keep rushing madly about to the point of burn out or at least to try and seek out a balance where we can help our bodies and minds to cope better.
Yoga, with its emphasis on internal observation, slow and dynamic movement, as well as relaxed breathing and an accepting attitude, may be the near-perfect activity for dark winter days and keeping the blues away.. Establishing a winter yoga practice is a way of going inward, aligning yourself with the slower cycles of nature, as well as detoxifying the mind and body from the stresses that the end of the year can so often bring. This winter, try to dedicate a few hours a week to a yoga class that restores you back to your glowing self, and you will maybe find that you can get through the party season and into the New Year without all the ailments and gloomy malaise of these dark winter months.. In winter try a more dynamic style of yoga however winter is also a time for resting and preparing for the year ahead so leave time for quiet restorative poses which promote a sense of inner stillness.
Yogic practices for winter include:
Start each day with several flowing rounds of Sun Salutations. This helps to keep us warm flexible and increases our energy as well as keep our body stretched and oil all those creaky joints.
Gentle backbends like salabasana, cobra and upward dog. This type of yoga allows us to move stagnated energy from our belly up into our hearts. It also helps to uplift our moods and energy levels.
Do less. Try to arrange your schedule to reflect the more internal nature of winter.
Read more books, invite friends over for lazy weekend lunches instead of late night boozy dinners, or just take a few days your daily schedule off to reflect and rest.
Go to bed earlier. The natural world is turning in earlier. Perhaps us humans should to.
Eat more warming, wet foods. Replace cold cereals for hot porridge fruit and honey.
Try out an Ayurvedic oleation. This is a practice of self-massage. Choose a warming winter oil such as sesame. Massage yourself from head to toe in the morning, wait 20-30 minutes and then shower.
Take baths with warming oils such as clove, amber or frankencense.
Practice some form of relaxation, meditation or pranayama.
Quite simply, winter is a time for rest. With that in mind, allow yourself to curl up with a good book and a blanket make some hot soup or a spicy cup of tea and let nature take over. Give yourself permission for a little hibernation, and by the spring you too will have begun to blossom with a real sense of mental and physical well-being.