Winter

I'm usually ok in the run up to Christmas - it's my birthday and then the Christmas holiday, which I love.  There's something about everyone getting together and staying in the warm, decorating the house and bringing lights into your house that makes me very happy.  It doesn't seem to matter that it's dark, because there's no work to be done and we're all together and with the fire lit, the darkness just makes everything seem more cosy.

It's January and February that I find difficult.  The days are so short that sometimes I feel like I've only just got going and it's already dark again.  The weather is cold and my body never seems to warm up and that makes my yoga practice feel creaky and I have to work hard not to find that frustrating.  I find myself daydreaming of warm, sunny beaches and of lying in the heat, just soaking up sunshine.

But we live and learn and I have (gradually but inevitably) found ways to move positively through January and February, if not with the lightness of spring and summer, then at least without the dread heaviness that I used to suffer from.

It starts with feeling yourself as part of something bigger than you are and aligning yourself with the rhythms of nature: it's winter; it's cold and dark; it's time to slow down, conserve your energy and embrace a slower pace of life.  That's ok, we don't have to do everything at break-neck speed all the time.  Everything that needs doing still needs to be done, but at this time of year we can look at leaving aside the extra stuff - the dinner dates and trips to the theatre, the childrens' play-dates and day trips. Those things can wait until the Spring.  In terms of yoga practice, this might mean concentrating more on restorative poses, meditation and pranayama than on vigorous asana practice.

Being content with what is and not wishing it were otherwise is one of the basic teachings of yoga and it's true that we miss much by longing for the Spring to arrive... winter sunshine feels like such a gift and there is something dramatic and invigorating about winter weather: the rain, the wind and the snow.  Putting on the right clothes and getting out into it can be a joy.  And the countryside is beautiful now: amazing skies, stunning sunsets, skeleton trees brooding against the horizon, clear nights full of stars and beautiful seed-heads in the hedgerows.

Practising yoga in the cold of winter is a practice of acceptance: I am not going to crack any tricky postures in the winter, so I'll wait until the Spring before I try the splits again!  Part of my practice in winter is accepting my body as it is in this climate and tailoring my practice to suit it.  I don't know why I spent so much time fighting against this and pushing myself to carry on with challenging asana regardless of the season, but I do know that it left me feeling depleted of energy - the exact opposite of what my yoga practice should give me, so (eventually) I stopped pushing myself like that.  My yoga practice just now is full of deep breathwork and the standard poses that form the backbone of any asana practice.  I can stay strong and open without pushing myself too hard. 

Yoga in the winter is also about patience: there's a season for everything and for me, winter is the season for moving slowly and working deeply, but not too vigorously; keeping my energy moving without expending too much of it. 

It could be that we all need periods when we withdraw a bit from the world, take stock and nurture ourselves.  It's often from these quiet times that periods of great creativity grow.  Like a bulb in the soil, I'm going to try to accept the limitations of my winter self and be patient, knowing that the more expansive, creative days will come.

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