I love winter. Good thing, because I live in the Northeast. As I write this, there is a storm pounding down on the Berkshires, our first of the season. I love the stillness of winter. How clean it all looks when it snows. Being outside in the snow, with the dogs, running, romping and reveling in our mutual and unabashed joy. The kids ski, make snowmen and gather the freshly fallen snow, drizzle it with maple syrup and eat several bowls. (This is always a delight for any city dweller who may be visiting us.) We have both fireplaces going and it is truly a winter wonderland. The earth is quiet, blanketed. We are cozy and warm, together, inside, just like the season itself. Winter is about “being”. It is a time of more rest, going within, and being still.
With the start of the new school year, I began the practice of waking extra early every day. I love the quiet hour, before the children needed to wake and the hustle and bustle of getting three kids ready, fed, with lunches and backpacks and gear, out the door and off to school. I was rising around 5:45 and fitting in my practice BEFORE anyone else was awake. I loved it. It made my “non- negotiable” of maintaining a yoga and meditation practice, truly non-negotiable as it was already done before anything else pulled my attention away. It was true self-care and set the stage of calm for me, my family, and my life.
As the days grew shorter, the habit was already established, but I started having a really hard time come mid-December. It was SO DARK. I seemed more tired. I hit the snooze. I adjusted my wake up time to 6, then 6:15. As the solstice approached, I was barely getting out of bed much before my husband. Practice would have to happen later. My quiet morning practice was reduced to 10 minutes and a cup of warm water with lemon.
I may have given myself a hard time once or twice, but it truly felt like I was listening to my body, and I allowed myself to sleep later. Then, one day, when studying Ayurveda, an old and new passion of mine, I came across an article that said one should arise later (around 7am) in the winter. It was a revelation for me. What I had instinctively known and craved, was actually in tune with the natural world. And I had given myself permission to listen to what my body was telling me, and not beating myself up for “slacking”. When we are quiet and still, we can truly listen. What is your body telling you?
Winter’s power is deep and yin. It is a time to conserve your energy and resources. It is a building time, where you need special care in the form of nutrition, warmth and rest.
Being poses, rather than doing poses. For many of us, these are harder. Think human being, rather than human doing. 😉 It is a good time for yin yoga and restoratives. Paschimottanasana and Plow are good asanas to practice daily. Winter is Vata season, and the seat of Vata is the low back, so stimulating the organs of the kidneys and bladder is important.
We need more rest in the winter. A daily yoga nidra practice can go a long way in nourishing you and conserving your energy. My favorite time of day to do this practice is at 2pm, before I have to go and get the kids from school and take them to their various, games, lessons, and horses.
With the cold temperatures outside, our diet should be warming and substantial. This is the time to eat foods that are building in nature; more whole grains and proteins, root vegetables, nutritious soups and stews. I love my “Insta Pot” and my slow cooker and use them daily this time of year. Warming spices like ginger, cinnamon and cayenne are good to add now to help feed your digestive fire (agni). Fruit is less available in winter, but it is the season of citrus. Loaded with Vitamin C, they possess immune boosting power and cold and flu fighting properties. Make sure you are eating the whole fruit and not juicing them, so you get the fiber. I like to cut up a few oranges in the morning and have them ready when the kids come downstairs. They eat them while waiting for breakfast to be ready. Oranges are an easy thing to toss in their lunches or as a quick grab and go after school snack. It’s like a little bit of sunshine in the palm of your hand and a much wiser choice than a packaged or processed treat.
Nature is hiding down below the surface, gathering her energy for the coming Spring. For us as well, it is a time to turn inward. The season is a wonderful time to go within and reevaluate things in your life. To see what it is that you would like to birth in the coming Spring.
Wishing you much joy this Winter, with love,