Winter and Me

I used to think that I was like a bear in the winter, that all I wanted was a warm cave and a pile of leaves to snuggle up in, so that I might hunker down and sleep until the daffodils push their optimistic little selves up through the ground.

I struggled with the dark months.  I railed against the slowing down of my body, I became angry with my low energy levels, I fought the inertia I felt.  It will be no surprise to you to know that this only made things worse.  In the end I would fall into a depression (and I mean that in the true sense of the word) and would sit in that dark place until something shifted and I was able to move out from underneath that black umbrella of solitude.

It took a long time and my commitment to yoga practice to understand more about myself and the things I said and did to myself that took me away from peace and towards sadness and tiredness.  I noticed, for example, that I am very sensitive to light, that when the sun shines in the winter I must get out and turn my face to it and that even when the sun is not shining, the light is out there and I need to be in it.  I have my dog to thank for that realisation.  I take the right vitamins (which I discovered through trial and error).  I understand now that when I have done something that exhausts me, I can counterpose and replenish myself with rest and quiet, and I give myself that time.  Latterly I have even begun taking a nap in the afternoon when/if I can:- miracle!  Far from making me feel like a slacker, it rejuvenates me and I have some energy with which to proceed with my day, freed from that fug of tiredness. 

I credit yoga with this insight because it teaches us how to notice.  To notice what brings us health and peace, what brings us discontent and illness.  And if the first step is noticing, then the next step is doing something about it, because we all want to be well and we all know what happens when we are not (we are cross, we are short-tempered, we have no time for anyone). 

Thus yoga provides us with both the context for understanding ourselves and the cure for what ails us - it gives us the silence in which to observe our habits and tendencies; it gives us healthful movement; it reminds us that we are connected, that we each have a place in the world.

So now I think I might be less of a hibernating bear (battling against my desire to shut down completely) and more like the daffodil. 

All winter I have been like a buried daffodil bulb, silent, dry, seemingly inert, and yet all winter I have been quietly alive, living simply and quietly, saving my energy and storing it up for when the sun starts shining again.  I have filled myself with food, books, yoga and being with friends.  I have nurtured that quiet sap that pulses deep in the heart of myself.  And now that Spring has begun in earnest I find myself reaching up, moving out and looking for the sun in which to bloom.  I baked a cake last weekend and I have started pulling the recipe books down from the shelves, my asana practice has become more expansive, and here I am writing again.  I feel like the head of a daffodil, bobbing in the sunshine, alert to the possibility and promise of life. 

I can congratulate myself on my third winter without depression.  I am grateful for my yoga practice for giving me the patience to understand what lead me there, the fortitude to do the things that keep me well and the patience to move compassionately through the tough days.  We all have tough days.

However you find the winter months, whatever you feel about the arrival of Spring, I hope that yoga brings you the space in which to watch yourself closely, to allow yourself the times when you need to move slowly, to embrace the times when your creative juices flow and your energy rises and everything in between.  Truly this is how you learn to swim in the river of life, instead of wasting your time and energy fighting against the flow of who and what you are.

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