Here is Sharyn’s wonderful advice for starting the year off right. xo, r
Happy New Year! This is time of the year when everyone tends to make resolutions, determined to become the best they can be. Ironically, it also the time of year when it is the coldest and darkest for most places in our hemisphere, which leads to lowered energy, the craving for rich foods, and a desire to stay home under a blanket reading or watching television instead of moving our bodies. January is called “the dead of winter.” It is the most difficult time to begin new routines. However, you can take steps to find balance this season and feel better so that you can begin to make some small changes and plan for the bigger ones. Self-care in winter is an important part of Ayurveda, which can complement and support your yoga practice.
Instead of focusing on the cold, dry, and dark aspects of this time of the year, I invite you to use it as a time to contemplate how the universe is calling you to set intentions and plant the seeds of new beginnings. If you are feeling down, surround yourself with uplifting scents, comforting food, and soft layers of clothing. A light that compensates for the reduced sunlight is also very helpful to have in your favorite room.
Winter becomes a time for delicate balance requiring that we pay close attention to our inner and outer environments. It is the time to build and restore. Balance is the goal both when we practice asanas (the physical poses of yoga) and when we nourish our body and our spirit. We need to bring energy levels up, eat warming foods that are easy to digest, and get plenty of sleep to counteract our temptation to curl up in a ball, move less, and eat heavier foods. Staying hydrated both inside and out is also very important. Drink warm and cool liquids throughout the day, and massage oils into your skin in the morning and/or at night. Infuse your environment with hydrating mist. You can add essential oils to add another layer of uplifting energy. I shared a bergamot essential oil with my yoga classes and it is delicious to inhale!
Take extra care of your skin in the winter. The low temperatures, wind, and bitter cold can leave skin feeling dull and especially dry. Ayurveda, which promotes balance above all else, encourages dealing with the cold, dry, windy winter with a daily oil massage (Abhyanga). Right after you shower, apply 1 ounce of warm organic oil to your skin. Rub in well like a moisturizer, making circles over joints and long strokes over long bones.
“Daily massage not only leaves skin radiant and supple but helps enhance circulation (great for cold hands and feet!), settles the nerves, and calms the mind. It’s the perfect body-mind remedy for the cold, stressful winter months, and it supports good sleep and reduces tension.”
You can go to your local health food store for organic, cold-pressed oil. Try naturally warming sesame seed oil or a neutral-temperature oil, such as almond or sunflower seed. (However, if you have a fever, cold, flu, or are pregnant, avoid this practice). Look for an organic sesame or sunflower oil base, infused with stimulating herbs to energize and refresh the mind, such as eucalyptus, peppermint, or lemon. For more mental relaxation, try oils with calming herbs like lavender, sandalwood, or rose.
Coconut Oil is another versatile product to use, especially on your hair! You can nourish your hair during the winter with a weekly coconut oil head massage. Put a bit of organic coconut oil onto fingertips and massage the scalp to enhance circulation and nourish the roots. Then, apply a bit more oil and massage a light coating through the hair all the way to the ends. This will result in a silky shine.
To get a complete picture of what we need to balance in winter, let’s turn to Shiva Rea’s tips posted on Omega. Rea describes the qualities this way:
“• Cold with warmth
• Heaviness with lightness of spirit
• Static energy with circulation
• Dullness with inspiration
• Excess dampness with dryness”
Rea goes on to tell us that balancing these qualities can make winter into a healing and strengthening season. If they’re out of balance, “kapha qualities accumulate within body and mind, creating heaviness of spirit, weight gain, poor digestion, depression, lethargy, and weakness in the immune system that leads to colds and flus.”
In addition to following these self-care practices, maintaining a morning meditation and yoga flow practice will support your mind and body so that you will face your days with balance and energy.
Do three warrior poses: Warrior I, Warrior II, Peaceful Warrior. Hold each for 5 breaths.
Move into the Chair Pose. Hold for 5 breaths.
Stand in a balancing pose of your choice (Tree Pose or Warrior III, for example.)
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) for 5 breaths.
End with ten minutes of your mantra recitation (I am…on the inhale/mantra of your choice: strength/love/gratitude. etc. on the exhale) as you sit comfortably.
This is a restorative time to allow your body to rest and renew itself. Set intentions and begin to plan how you will manifest them as the days get longer and eventually warmer. Plant the seeds and get them ready to germinate so that you will be ready to act on them; now is the time to dream. Namaste.