Welcoming Winter with Open Arms
For many, heading into winter can be a daunting affair. The temperatures are dropping quickly and the holidays are racing toward us. Between shopping for gifts, decorating, getting the kids ready for school events, and coordinating holiday plans with the family, the list of things to do seems to be without end. The shorter days of winter and the race to get everything done make the weeks rush by. When compounded with the way in which the cold saps your energy, staying on top of everything can seem to be impossible. Many of us simply feel tired during the winter, and crave the quiet nights that seem so rare amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
That’s why one of the key lessons of yoga is so important: listen to your body. When your body is telling you that you need to rest and slow down, you should listen. Here’s why.
Moving with the Seasons
As we’ve written about before, living in harmony with the seasons, rather than struggling against their flow, can help you make the most of your time, and can lend itself to living more peacefully.
With this in mind, when we think about winter, we should be considering what winter means for the natural world around us. During winter, temperatures drop and the air tends to become damper. Many plants and animals go into a period of hibernation, resting and preparing for the awakening vigor of spring. Depending upon the region, snow, ice, or rain tends to settle where it can, and living things not already hibernating scurry away for warmth and shelter.
For some, the scene can be bleak. For others, it’s peaceful and merry. However it’s perceived, though, the season of winter serves an important purpose: it helps maintain balance.
The colder, damper weather allows the ground to hold onto moisture so that as the world begins to thaw, it is refreshed and ready to nourish the plants that depend upon it. Winter helps to clear out the old, refresh the land, and make room for the new to grow.
It’s true for nature, and it’s true for humans.
Having a period of rest is necessary for us to be able to keep going. Otherwise, we’re burning our candle from both ends, and we’ll eventually burn out.
Think of the times in which winters have been mild and dry. While it hasn’t caused drastic problems in the Ohio River Valley (yet), consider what it means for the western United States, and many other countries, when winters are neither cool nor wet. For these parts of the world, having snow in the winter means that there will be water in the spring and summer. Without it, there’s nothing to melt and flow downstream. Forest floors become cluttered with dead, dry plants, which turn into fuel for fires in the hotter months. As we saw this past year, when forest fires consumed vast swaths of land throughout the western United States, lacking a true winter can cause devastation and destruction.
While we as humans aren’t likely to burst into flames without a period of rest, we will still eventually burn out. Our bodies require time to recover and refresh between periods of activity. Working a stressful job without taking vacations will make you start to resent your workplace or employer. Engaging in strenuous exercise without taking breaks or adding variety to your routine will expose your joints to strain and injury. Cleaning, cooking, and preparing for holiday party after holiday party without taking the time to enjoy the moment and simply be amongst friends and family will make even a time as merry as the holidays feel tiring and stressful.
It is our periods of rest—the periods of winter within our lives—that make it possible to enjoy the moments of activity. They cool us down and refresh us so that we don’t combust with the heat of our periods of summer.
Cultivating Restfulness During the Holidays
Since rest is vital to our well-being, but can be difficult to find during the holidays, consider these tips for finding the time to slow down and restore your body, mind, and spirit.
Sleep is the most basic, and most important, form of rest that we have. Ensuring that you get enough sleep each night is key for preventing burnout and staying healthy. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule that allows you to get plenty of sleep each night is the best way to ensure that you’re getting the quality and quantity that you need. Set yourself a bedtime, and stick to it. The more consistent you are about getting in bed at a specific time, the easier it will be to train your brain to slow down and rest.
Indulge in Savasana
At the end of a great yoga class at Your Yoga Louisville, lying down in Savasana is a welcome time of rest. Whether your legs are burning from holding a warrior pose or your shoulders are sore from dolphin pushups, moving into Savasana gives you the chance to let it all go. But, if you’re simply lying and waiting for instructions to return to a seated position, you’re not going to reap the full benefits of your final resting pose. Instead, be intentional with Savasana. Allow yourself to enjoy the serenity of the sounds and scents of the studio, and use it as a time to be present and at ease. Following your breath or repeating a mantra can make this even easier to do. I personally recommend a mantra of, “I breathe in peace” on each inhale, and “I breathe out fear/stress/anxiety” on each exhale, picking whichever negative quality you want to remove from your life. In this way, you’ll slow down your breathing, inviting positive energy into your life and removing emotional clutter from it with each breath.
Start a Yin or Restorative Yoga Practice
Yin and Restorative yoga classes are always a great counterbalance to high-intensity exercise and more Yang-focused yoga, such as the Hatha Flow classes. By its nature, Yin requires you to slow down since you’re holding each pose for several minutes at a time. Not only does this allow your body to enjoy the benefits of giving a deep stretch to your connective tissues, it also causes you to be more intentional with your thoughts and your breathing. Restorative yoga takes this even further. If you don’t already, consider attending some of the several Yin or Restorative classes offered here at the studio. We have Restorative yoga classes the first Saturday of each month, and Yin classes Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday evenings– find the times and register for classes here!. maybe even extending the practice into your daily routine. Ending each day with time in Child’s Pose, Savasana, or supported Supta Baddha Konasana can have a powerful impact on helping you to slow down and sleep well.